Lack of confidence. Low self-esteem. Feelings of insecurity. These affect us all. A recent YouGov for Sky Academy study found that a huge 33% of young people said that they were unconfident. Clearly there is a real issue here.
We asked psychologist Anette De Bois why she thinks there is this huge lack of self-belief in our generation. Here she tells us how to beat the bullies, keep focussed and battle destructive self-doubt.
1. How did you get into psychology?
I was badly bullied so I pushed myself and had an inner drive to do well. I became a team manager for a very busy call centre and I had a continuous drive to improve myself. I wanted approval from others. Then I got made redundant and that changed the whole dynamic of everything. It really gave me the chance to seriously think about if it was that that I wanted to do. It made me question what I personally wanted to achieve rather than what I thought other people would want me to achieve, in terms of my friends and peers. That is when I started on my journey of self-discovery and overcoming the bullies in my head. I realised that some of the techniques I had used on myself could help other young people overcome their problems. I don’t mean just bullying but the challenges in life, whether that is communication, failure, rejection or anything like that. That is how CHAMPS Academy was born.
2. What would your advice be to young people who may not know what they want to do with their careers?
See everything as an adventure. Take the pressure off trying to achieve too much and don’t think about people’s expectations. Treat everything as a new experience and when you do, it means that you can really figure out what you would like to do, rather than perhaps being driven by other people’s expectations.
3. Do you think that there are things that women could do to feel equal to men, if they don’t already?
Yes it’s interesting. It comes back to the fact that from an earlier age girls are expected to sit back and be led and not be leaders. Therefore it is important to encourage young women to speak out. It is ok to be assertive and not take the stigma or the label of ‘bossiness’. Bossiness is often seen as aggression. This could help a lot with debates and encouraging young women to really talk about their feelings. I think this will level out between boys and girls over time, so that girls will actually feel that they have a voice earlier on in their lives. Then when it comes to them going to university or into work that they are on an equal in terms of their careers.
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4. What do you think about the saying ‘fake it until you make it’?
I always say to act as if. Act as if you are more confident and imagine a beautiful swan on a lake. You think it is just gliding along but underneath it’s legs are moving like mad. Sometimes that is what we feel inside but if we act as if we are more confident then it can change our physiology. It begins to change the way we appear and our body and mind work together. If we stand up straight for example then our minds will believe that we are feeling confident. If you are down or unhappy it can really change the dynamic of our bodies. Putting your shoulders back and your head up can change the way that we feel and we can move with more purpose. This will change what we give out to others.
5. Have you ever experienced bullying in the office?
People will never stop bullying, that’s what I realised early on. It’s more important to empower the individual so that they can tackle it head-on. Protecting yourself is important and then the hurtful comments can’t get in and have any power over you. It’s the other person’s issue and you need to realise that. If women felt they could be more assertive then when it comes to their careers and employment, then they wouldn’t accept being treated a certain way. They’d speak up. After all the person that is doing the bullying has their own issues and in my experience they need as much help as those who are taking the full brunt of it. We need to empower everyone so that they feel less angry inside.
6. Do you think it is harder nowadays for young people to get on the career ladder than it used to be?
I think it’s a perception but it’s also a lack of self-belief and self-worth in the individual. They don’t believe that they have the skills or the ability to go for it. Opening up lines of communication, feeling you can be creative and being able to be resilient when things don’t go right is important. It’s not always about IF bad things happen, because they do don’t they? It’s all about how you deal with them.
Annette Du Bois is helping Sky Academy to raise awareness of their Confidence Month. Find out more information and how Sky can help you on their website.