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Anchor Confidence and Build Self-Esteem

by Frances Coombes(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 180 - March 2011

Research in America indicates that 80 per cent of children enter school with high self-esteem, yet by the time they leave only 5 per cent still value themselves. Self-esteem, our opinion of ourselves, is what makes us feel good about ourselves, worthy of happiness, and capable of meeting life's challenges.

We learn about the world via feedback, and so we learn about ourselves, who we are, what we can do, by the feedback we get from parents and people close to us. From this feedback, combined with our own observations we perceive what we are capable of and develop, or don't develop, self-esteem.


Anchor Confidence and Build Self-Esteem


Peoples' confidence or lack of it, often develops in early childhood, so how can we best enable our colleagues, our clients, our loved-ones, to build good self-images? When we put some structure to our own experience we can apply it to helping others to grow and develop and build their sense of having high self-esteem.

So how do you give people feedback in a way that encourages self-esteem? If a person behaves badly, criticize the behaviour not the person. When they do something well, praise them unreservedly in a way that links their good behaviour to their identity and builds their confidence. Praise people in ways that make them think well about themselves.

Anchoring a Good Feeling

NLP coaches know that we all create and change our emotional states through conditioning processes, which we anchor. An anchor is any stimulus that changes your state. It can involve any kind of sensory input - visual, auditory, feelings, smells or tastes. Your state is created by your sensory experience, your memories and thoughts. Pavlov trained dogs to salivate when they heard bells ringing because he had conditioned them to think ringing bells meant they were about to be fed. Anchoring is a conditioned response and works just as well in human beings.

Everyday examples of anchors are: smelling a perfume and immediately thinking of a particular person, hearing a song that brings back memories, or makes you want to dance, seeing an old adversary and immediately feeling apprehensive.

What does an Anchor Do?

Anchors fire associations or memories in our neurology, and can put us into 'feeling good' or 'feeling bad' states.

Anchoring a Positive State

We can all anchor negatives states at will. Someone only has to say, 'remember that awful day when that terrible think happened...' and people do the rest with self-hypnosis. Their eyes will drop and glaze over as they imagine the event, their energy will drain, shoulders sag and they will sigh in a sorrowful way. Coaching can help a client to notice and respond differently to the triggers associated with negative anchors. (It is the reticular activating system, part of the central nervous system, that NLP techniques such as anchoring stimulate in order to facilitate state change.)

Model Positive Anchoring

One of Elvis Presley's roadies who watched him perform each night said: "When Elvis left the dressing room he was an ordinary person." Between the dressing room and the stage he underwent a transformation. "His stature and confidence appeared to grow as he came nearer to the crowd and by the time he stepped onto the stage he was 'the King'; he had become Elvis Presley." What the roadie is describing is the act of state management and we can all do it - provided we practise enough. If we can all anchor negative states at will, we can also anchor positive states with practice.

'How to' Anchor a Confident Feeling

  • Think of a personal moment of success, when you did something exceptional and felt really confident and good about yourself. Go back in time and relive that experience again: step into your body, and see what you see, feel what you feel, hear what you hear;
  • At the peak of that experience, anchor the feeling of excitement and joy with a small pat on your leg, or a gesture you can easily replicate;
  • Practise recalling and running your good feeling often, so that you can access it at will. Get into the habit of gathering good feelings and build up a store you can recall at will.

Practise so that in the future, by visualizing the scenes, and feeling the rush of success, then repeating the small pat gestures, you will be able to summon up your successful state and picture at any time you need to feel powerful, successful and in control.

Anchoring positive states is part of managing our emotions. It puts us in control of how we choose to feel.


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About Frances Coombes

Frances Coombes Advanced Dip CBT/REBT Dip CBT offers one-to-one therapeutic coaching in North West London and on Zoom.  She is a is a CBT/REBT psychotherapist in North West London, a NLP Master Practitioner and Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapist and runs life coaching groups in London and on Zoom.  She teaches NLP at The City Lit in Central London and tutors at the City Lit and Mary Ward Centre in central London on Using REBT for Managing Stress and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). She runs goal setting and REBT coaching groups for vulnerable people for inner London authorities and charities.  

Her most recent book is Motivate Yourself and Reach Your Goals, pub, November 2013, Hodder Headline. Available on and  For extract visit To inquire or book personal development courses contact Frances on Tel: 07818 896 795; 


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