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The first thing people notice about us is our posture and our body language. It's immediately clear whether a person is confident or not from how they are using their muscles. Confident people will seem upright, open and energetic - unconfident people will seem withdrawn and closed down.

I taught a 12 year old girl who had a mysterious and debilitating pain in her back. Doctors and physiotherapists had not been able to identify or treat the problem, so she began having lessons with me at Sherborne School for Girls.

In addition to the backache, I soon realised that she was extremely unconfident and shy. She was around 5'11'' and sturdily built. All the other girls her age were tiny by comparison, and to me it looked as though she was always trying to hide in the crowd, unsuccessfully.

She didn't want to be so conspicuous and was using her muscles to try to shrink herself. She stooped her head forward; she hunched her shoulders in; she had a sad expression on her face and mumbled quietly when she spoke - never initiating the conversation.

The lessons went well though. She gradually got used to me and opened up a bit. I gradually taught her to comfortably occupy the space she was designed to fit - to free up and breathe. I forget at what point the back pain vanished forever. Squeezing and pulling down in herself had either caused it, or contributed to it, and lightening up certainly took the pressure off.

What was really wonderful was witnessing her socio-emotional progress. Over the following 5 or 6 years, she blossomed, becoming a champion swimmer, public speaker and leader. I suppose her friends caught up with her, developmentally, so she no longer dwarfed them all, but it was very striking how 'good use' enabled her to convey real self-confidence.


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