Most of the women at the shelter saw self-confidence as something you were born with. That's not the case.
Self-confidence is a skill that can be trained. It is like a muscle; in order for it to grow strong you need to practice and train it. However it involves both the mind and the body.
When it comes to the mind, you need to practice again, and again, and again ... Repetition is the first key in order to increase your confidence. Secondly it is persistence, to not accept failure. To simplify this I referred to their babies. When their babies was trying to learn how to walk and they fell, did any of them decide to give up trying? (Have you ever seen a grown-up still crawling around on all four because he or she gave up trying after falling?) No. The same mentality is to be used when it comes to one's confidence. Finally does our thoughts often wander away to question ourselves and we need to remember that our thoughts is not the same thing as who we are. I told them that when our thoughts become very negative towards ourselves, thoughts like "the whole world is against me", our emotions will respond and we will feel sad and depressed. However, if you are aware of that your thoughts are not the same thing as who you actually are, you will be able to see that the whole world is not actually against you, that it is just negative thoughts. By realizing and practicing your awareness of your thoughts and the difference between who you are and what your thoughts tell you from time to time, you will be able to strengthen your confidence.
As mentioned earlier, the body is a part of gaining confidence as well. It is scientifically proven that our bodies can change our minds.
Powerful human leaders, as well as the alpha leaders in the animal kingdom, have in common that they have high levels of testosteron (dominance hormone) and low levels of cortisol (stress hormone), which is correlated with that they also have an expansive body language.
Therefore I taught the women about power posing which is about opening up and expanding your body language in order to make ourselves feel more powerful. Because by using our body language in an expanding way, we can increase the levels of testosterone and lower the levels of cortisol, just by doing it for 2 minutes.
They had a hard time believing me at first, but after we practiced 2 minutes in silence a power pose, by standing with the hands on the hips, chest out, chin up and some space between the feet (like Superwomen) they realized the impact of it. I gave them pictures of different postures they could use sitting down as well in order to increase their confidence when needed.
Self-confidence is something that they are all lacking due to their difficulties in the past, which is why I really emphasize it during my lessons and often come back to it. They have told me about the nervousness, anxiety, stress and feelings of low confidence they experience during the processes of going through their cases, for example when they go to court to witness against their perpetrators. So I told them to use this new knowledge before those stressful situations by going somewhere where they can practice the poses for 2 minutes without being disturbed, as for example to the bathroom.
You need to practice and train the mind and the body in order to get a strong self-confidence. However, you can help your mind create it temporarily by doing a power pose with your body. It might sound silly, but as the women at the shelter realized - it does work.
Not allowed to post any pictures of the women at the shelter to ensure their safety, since they are hiding from their perpetrators and others that want to hurt them.
See Amy Cuddy's TED talks "Your body language shapes who you are" to learn more about power posing and how you can use it in your lives.