LIZ JONES FASHION THERAPY: A confidence coach is the latest A-list accessory. So what happened when our eternally angst-ridden columnist met one?


LIZ JONES FASHION THERAPYA confidence coach is the latest A-list accessory. So what happened when our eternally angst-ridden columnist met one

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 26 August 2012

Over the years I’ve written about my lack of confidence. I’ve seen numerous psychotherapists and hypnotherapists, but I’m still not cured.

What most tell me is that, just as athletes have to train every day to be fit, I must also practise being mentally well — every day. Which I don’t.

We don’t realise we need help until something happens.

Confidence coach Paul McGee with tricky customer Liz Jones

Helping hand: Confidence coach Paul McGee with tricky customer Liz Jones

For me, this was a day a few weeks
ago. I was so nervous about something — suffice to say it involved
removing all my clothes — I threw up. Everything seemed dark, as though I
was about to pass out.

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While I believe a little self-doubt
is necessary to prevent us from being arrogant and complacent, too much
can be crippling.

A study published in the Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology last week said that ‘having an unshakeable self-belief
is more important than skill, hard work or education’ when climbing the
career ladder.

While I can’t stand over-confident people, I admit my
lack of self-belief has cost me dearly, at work and in relationships.

But we have to move on and stop being bitter about the past, don’t we Which is perhaps why Katie Holmes, in the aftermath of her split from Tom Cruise, is reported to be seeing a ‘confidence coach’. And so who better to help me than Paul McGee, author of Self-Confidence, and his latest book, How Not To Worry.

I meet him at his clinic in Warrington, near Manchester. He is 48, tanned, and the sort of no- nonsense Northerner I know won’t start waving crystals in front of me.

He became a counsellor after having suffered from ME for many years because he wanted to show others how he overcame the debilitating disease, and found confidence and energy.
As well as writing books and running seminars, he is also a sports performance coach, and so we start by talking about how the Olympic competitors coped.
‘First, you have to change your language,’ he says. ‘You say you are nervous; I prefer to say you are “adrenalised”.

‘If you are about to perform a task, you need to be a little psyched otherwise you will not perform — but you need to learn to control your nerves. What athletes have is a support system.’

We then do a test. Paul recites a list
of 20 objects and asks me to remember as many as possible. I recite back
seven. ‘Do you think you could remember all 20 and recite them in order
in less than six minutes’

Paul McGee books How not to worry

Paul McGee books self confidence.jpg

Self-esteem guru Counsellor Paul McGee is the author of Self-Confidence (right) and his latest book (left) How Not To Worry

I shake my head. ‘That’s impossible.’ Paul then asks me to shut my eyes as he recites the list and to visualise each one. I say them back to him. I get all 20 correct in less than four minutes.
‘You can do a task. You just have to change your attitude,’ he says.

HOW NOT TO WORRY

Ask yourself…

Where is this issue on a scale of one to ten, where ten is deathHow important will this be in six months' timeIS MY response appropriateHOW can I influence or improve the situationWHAT can I learn from thisWHAT will I do differently next time this happensWHAT can I find that is positive in this situationHOW Not To Worry by Paul McGee (Capstone, 10.99). See the SUMOguy.com

I then tell Paul I wake up in the early hours, sweating with worry.

‘There are worth-it worries and worthless ones. You need to say “Cut!” when you run disaster movies in your head.’

He then asks what I fear, and I say being sacked. ‘Have you been sacked before’ Yes, I say. ‘But you survived’ Yes, I say, but it was hard. To crawl back up I had to work 80 hours a week, with no time off, no privacy, no social life.

‘Why don’t you take a holiday’ I’m too scared. Which brings us back to square one: how to change Paul then tells me that to outside eyes I seem successful, but what I consider true success would be to sit in the garden not worrying about tomorrow. But I have to do some homework.

I need support: a cheerleader to encourage me; a challenger to explore in depth what I’m trying to achieve and to point out the pitfalls; a confidant to confide in; and a coach with a plan of action.

I tell Paul I don’t have any of these people. He says the first three can be friends, but I tell him I don’t have any friends because I’m too nervous to call them. He says a coach is a professional, which I can’t afford. He says perhaps I need medication, something I’ve shied away from. I fear my personality will change, perhaps I’d be unable to function. I feel I’m not worth changing.

I am my own worst enemy, beating myself about the head with a figurative boxing glove.
Here are Paul’s tips for acquiring self-confidence. I will try them. Then I might see my GP. To do so is not failing. It’s surviving.

LIZ JONES SPIES… ON MARY PORTAS AT HOUSE OF FRASER

I’m not a fan of Mary Portas’s venture into fashion design: everything is too batwing, fussy and expensive for a High Street brand. But would I find the shop, a concession on the third floor of a department store on Oxford Street, London, with its own express lift, a pleasant experience and, more importantly, would her famous promise of good service pass muster

Well, I remain unconvinced by the clothes: Mary’s designs are too shiny, too overdone. The shoes and boots, a collaboration with Clarks, are awful.

Liz thinks Mary Portas's fashion design is too 'bat wing'

The only clothes I liked were Mary’s pick of other labels, such as a black biker jacket from Whistles and the eclectic selection of non-fashion products, such as bath unguents.

Kinky knickers

The shop feels like an oasis: well laid out, airy and upmarket. I was immediately offered an espresso, which began to dispel my foul mood.

And then I met the wonder that is
Lorraine. She was helpful, without being pushy. When I asked about the
biker jacket, saying I’d prefer one in faux leather, she suggested I try
Zara. I said I wanted a pair of denim shorts, and she tactfully said
‘Are you sure It’s nearly autumn’, though when I insisted, she offered
to look in the younger department.

When
I said I would try on the biker, Lorraine guessed my size correctly and
showed me to the changing room. Before I had time to wail ‘But there is
no chair!’ she brought one and when I emerged in the jacket, she said I
‘rocked’.

I then said I
wanted a good bath oil, and she recommended Green & Spring, rubbing
a sample on my hand, and telling me this organic brand is just as good
but cheaper than Cowshed.

My
only disappointments were that the Made in Britain Kinky Knickers had
sold out in all sizes but large, and I wasn’t given a ‘Mary’ carrier
bag, only a standard issue House of Fraser one.

When
I got home I found I’d been given a body cream, not the exfoliating rub
I’d asked for, but when I rang to complain, someone called Maureen said
she would run to the Post Office with the correct one and I could keep
the cream. Wonderful! And you know I never say that.