We spoke to friend of Studio 3, life coach, and author, Raj Soren, about his book ‘Little Pocket of Confidence: Ten Golden Steps,’ and his upcoming publication, ‘Coping with Stress and Adversity: Inspirational Stories.’
Born in India, Raj moved to the United Kingdom in 1970 with his parents. As a GP and author himself, Raj’s father inspired him to start writing about his experiences as a life coach, Jiu Jitsu instructor and lifelong campaigner against bullying. Raj feels it is important to talk about mental health as a society, and to bring issues around stress and confidence to the fore. His own personal struggles with confidence and stress inspired him to share his own story in the hopes that he could help someone else and make a difference in their life.
As a Jiu Jitsu instructor of over 30 years, Raj has helped thousands to gain confidence through martial arts training. ‘Little Pocket of Confidence: Ten Golden Steps,’ is an attempt to help share his knowledge of looking and feeling more confident in our day to day lives.
Q: What led you to write a book about confidence?
In my early life, I lacked confidence. I was shy at school and struggled to pass my exams. The stress of trying to fit in and succeed knocked my confidence, and I struggled to communicate my needs. What really helped me was martial arts and starting to learn new things. With each new session, I became more confident and started to overcome my previous struggles. Throughout my life, I have faced and overcome a lot of stress and adversity, not without the help of others. I figured that if my experiences could help one person overcome their own lack of confidence then it was worth sharing my strategies to improve confidence and overall happiness. This book was my way of sharing small pieces of information that have helped me in order to help others improve their lives.
Q: How does this book help people who struggle with confidence?
The book is split into ten chapters which cover the letters in the word CONFIDENCE; Courage, Overcome, Negativity, Feelings, Inspiration, Determination, Esteem, Necessity, Communication and Enthusiasm. This book uses personal experiences to speak openly about overcoming fears and anxieties, and starting your journey towards being a more confident individual. By thinking about and working on key elements such as having courage or finding inspiration, you can start to apply this knowledge on a daily basis and become more confident over time. Consistence is key, and sometimes making a start to change your life is the hardest part. As the book will demonstrate, even making small changes can improve your life.
Q: Why is confidence so important?
Confidence drives all of our behaviour and decisions. To start a new job, a hobby, go somewhere new – all of this involves having the confidence to make the first step. Improving your confidence, even by a small amount, can open up your whole world. It’s important to constantly challenge ourselves and widen our comfort zones, which is why having small, achievable goals is key. Having a self-dialogue is so important to begin setting and achieving goals. We live in our own heads all day, and when that becomes a negative space filled with what we can’t do, it can really knock our confidence, and consequently our ability to set and achieve our goals.
Q: Do you believe there’s a difference between confidence and courage?
Yes and no. They certainly go hand in hand. You can be courageous in different ways, and part of being confident involves having courage. Having the courage to make the first step is important, and sometimes we can be courageous without being confident. You may not initially feel confident, but having the courage to change your circumstances and expand your world will eventually lead to more confidence.
Q: How have you challenged yourself to go outside of your comfort zone?
Every few years I try a new sport or activity – archery, a new martial art, writing a book. I have learned that it’s okay to not be very good at first, and that persistence and practice are key. Your skills aren’t going to improve overnight, but by persevering with one word at a time, one chapter at a time, eventually you will have an entire book.
Q: How important is confidence in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns over the course of the past 2 years has had a major impact on people’s self-esteem and confidence. Amidst fear and uncertainty, it has been difficult for many people to readjust to society, and to have confidence to plan ahead and make life decisions. Working from home has also been a challenge for many people who struggle without daily interaction. The lack of face-to-face communication has caused some people to struggle with anxiety, and to lose confidence in their communication and social skills. This has also been a highly stressful time during which many people were unable to do daily physical exercise, socialise with friends, and even have sufficient access to sunlight if they did not have a garden. All of these factors combine to make an individual very stressed and unhappy, which has an obvious effect on their confidence and ability to cope. Many of us use time with friends and family in public spaces as coping strategies, and lockdown took that away from us for a long time. Of course, on the flipside, some people’s confidence may have increased in other areas as they took the time to learn new skills and perhaps felt more comfortable working remotely. This depends on the individual, but I think it’s safe to say that as a society emerging from the post-Covid era, we may feel a little uncertain. Having an open dialogue about factors that affect our mental and physical health moving forward is the best way to ensure our loved ones do not suffer in silence.
Q: How are stress and confidence linked?
If you don’t have confidence in certain areas of your life then this will inevitably create stress and affect your behaviour and ability. On the other hand, the more stressed you are, the less confident you will be. This will create a vicious cycle where stress and confidence are constantly interacting and impact one another. Being able to handle your stress will make you a more confident individual, and vice versa. By finding coping strategies that work for you, relaxation methods, and implementing boundaries in your life around areas that make you feel stressed, you will increase your confidence to be able to deal with stressful situations.
Q: How important is open communication about mental health in modern society?
I think it is so important to speak openly about stress, confidence, and other key areas that affect our mental health. When we bottle things up, they only get worse, and can quickly become something unmanageable. That is why I have written these books on confidence and stress – we are all on the same human journey, trying to manage these things on a daily basis. When we come together to solve problems, share stories and find solutions, we are stronger. Mental health is a highly stigmatised topic that is often avoided or overlooked. I think that lockdown has increased mental health awareness for the better, and we are starting to create an environment online and in person where honest conversation is possible. There is nothing wrong with accepting that we all need a little help sometimes to be the best possible versions of ourselves.
Raj’s new book ‘Coping with Stress and Adversity: Inspirational Stories’ will be available shortly from Studio 3 Publishing. This book shares real life stories from over 50 people around the world who have struggled with stressful situations, and how they overcame them. Raj also has a children’s book available called ‘Penguin and the Bullies,’ written in collaboration with his wife for children who struggle with bullying.