People often wonder where my self-confidence comes from. It wasn’t always there, mind you. I remember being unsure of myself and always concerned what others thought of me and consistently rejecting myself before anyone else had a chance to. I remember in my NLP Practitioner Certification course doing an exercise where I had to get up and present something to a small group. Any type of feedback I got meant they didn’t like me. I was looking to others to build up my confidence. It didn’t work like that.
5. Frame of Reference
For me self-confidence has a lot to do with having an internal frame of reference. In NLP, an internal frame of reference means that you have standards of knowing what is right for you in a variety of contexts. Having an external frame of reference means that you look to others for their opinions and instruction rather than judging for yourself what is best. Think of your internal frame of reference as an actual frame – a border that goes around what standards you believe are acceptable and what aren’t.
If a coaching client comes to me with the complaint, “I feel like a doormat”, I know the problem is about self-confidence and the first thing I look at is the frame of reference. Feeling like you are being walked on or feeling like you are being used by others is just a sign that you either don’t know your own border line or you are not enforcing the consequences of people crossing that line.
Let me give you an example. A mother comes to me and says that she would like me to help her daughter stop swearing. When I ask for more information, I learn that in disagreements, the teen often uses swear words in the argument and the mother gets even more angry. I then ask the key question, “What is your daughter’s consequence for using the swear word?” When she replies, “What do you mean by consequence?” I know there isn’t a cause and effect occurring when it comes to swearing. I check my conclusion by saying things like, “Do you send her to her room?” “Do you take her phone away?” “Do you have her come straight home from school without interacting with friends?” Usually, the answer is no or there’s some vague description of a variety of methods of punishment. The boundary or internal standard of “not swearing” is there but it isn’t enforced. It’s like saying to a terrorist, I don’t want you here but I’m not going to stop you if you come in.
Having self-confidence means that you know what the frame is, you communicate that with others, and you and other people know the consequence of crossing the line. For most people the tough part is telling someone about their boundary and then enforcing it.
I communicated and enforced my border lines with three people this past year. In all three cases the other person reached and crossed my internal standard for respect and fairness. When someone crosses the bounds of what I deem is respectful and fair, I let them know. I tell them I have an issue with a certain behavior and what will happen if that behavior continues. These three people chose to either ignore my warnings or did not believe I would carry out the repercussion. Some of them are still don’t believe it months after the consequence.
Here’s another example. Along time ago when I first started setting up my boundaries, my husband used to swear at me. It was fine until the swearing got personal. If he called me names, insinuated that I was dumb, stupid or lacking in some way, I put a stop to it – abruptly. I was swift and merciless when establishing my “respect” boundary with him. I told him what the specific behavior was and what would happen if that behavior continued. It didn’t take long before he changed his approach completely. The boundary is clear and now he never gets close to it.
Our internal frame of reference doesn’t need to be “on” all the time. There is nothing wrong with seeking assistance and guidance from others. Creating rapport relies on our ability to be able to use our external frame of reference. Both are equally important. And if you find yourself struggling with self-confidence, turn your focus on establishing your own internal standards in a few different situations in your life. You don’t need to have dramatic change. Try practicing setting up and enforcing just one new internal standard every few months. Consistency is better than quantity.
Next week, in tip #6, I’m going to chat about rejection and how I used NLP to change the way I handle think of it.