My family say that I lack confidence. This is upsetting because by always saying it to me, they make me less confident. I do not feel like I can stand up for myself. How can I become confident?

On the surface this issue boils down to the age-old question of ‘who knows what’s best for you?’ Is it you, with 
your own ambitions and dreams, or is it them, with their own responsibilities to do the right thing by you?

Like many things in life, I’m afraid the answer is never quite as simple as the question. What I am sure of though is that your family really does have your best interests at heart, even if they can’t see that they possibly need to let go of the reins slightly and let you find your feet a little more.

I’m pleased you’ve acknowledged that you’d like to become more confident. Unfortunately, conflict and confidence often go hand in glove, frequently with one undermining the other. Therefore, this is a bit of tightrope for you as confidence will need to come from assertiveness. And, becoming more assertive when you feel you lack a voice is not an easy thing to undertake. Please do not mistake assertiveness for aggressiveness – many do, and this can lead to more animosity and stress, which is the polar opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here.

You can hone your assertive skills by clearly voicing your opinion on a topic you are comfortable with – always stay calm and make your point clearly and concisely. You can build on this technique by increasing your frequency and range, whilst continuing to remain calm, be clear, knowledgeable and above all assertive. Your family will begin to understand that you’re slowly becoming more confident and will begin to relinquish their opinion that you are not.

Always manage conversations with your family by acknowledging you understand their opinion, but finish with how you feel and what your own opinion is. Be aware that your stress levels may rise, but once you have explained your viewpoint these will lessen.

How can you do this successfully and maintain a positive relationship with them? Well, when you’re being assertive (not aggressive, remember) you use language, both body and the spoken word, in a confident and positive manner. Try to identify a small thing that your family says you lack confidence in. Define in your own mind what you want to say and what you want to achieve and make it non-negotiable.

You need to be confident you are not going to back down, because if you capitulate that will send out a message of submissiveness and lack of confidence. Plan for when it arises again and even visualise and rehearse what you will say.

Try standing confidently with your head held high, your shoulders back, making enough eye contact to show you’re serious about what you’re saying and keeping your tone of voice strong, but upbeat.

By being assertive and confident you’ll soon discover others will naturally start to see you in a different light – as a confident person, who can take advice but who can make their own choices.

Russell Hemmings is a life coach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting. Contact Russell on 055 286 7275 or russellhemmings.co.uk