Building Confidence, Relieving Stress

I may as well own up, I don’t suffer from self-esteem issues, which is of course why I consider myself the ideal person to lecture others on the matter.

People often ask me, ‘How come you’re so confident?’

‘Good question,’ I say, smiling gently and running my fingers through my mind.

‘I mean, look at you,’ they go on, unbidden, ‘You’re overweight, penniless, incoherent, terrible in bed…’

‘If I could just stop you there for a moment,’ I say, and I go and talk to someone else.

It really can be as simple as that.

It’s my firm belief that if you lacking in confidence you are hanging out with the wrong people. There’s no point hanging out with CEOs, TV stars or brain surgeons if they get on your subconscious tits, with all their charisma and success. No, you need to find some new friends – a nice gang of idiots; mouthbreathers and drunks, ready to laugh at your pathetic jokes. People who make you look good.

Stressed is ‘desserts’ backwards. Better now?

If you put up with low self-esteem long enough, eventually you will be introduced to its annoying BFF, stress, which will tire you out, nagging at you day and night, forcing you into bad decisions, giving you sleepless nights and generally further reducing your confidence.

Difficult as it may be to comprehend, I am not a qualified doctor, but I am nevertheless compelled to pass on what I know of combating stress and building confidence.

It’s time to stop the rot.


The truth is, if you’re stressed you are probably giving too much of a shit about something. Humans are not designed to be stressed, we’re designed to lie about, eating crumpets and stimulating each other’s mucus membranes in a polymorphously perverse free-for-all. ‘Fight or flight’ alarums should be sparse, one-off events, not how we feel whenever the phone rings.

One way of tackling general stress can be to work backwards from your fears, to ask yoourself more about your concerns in an effort to understand them. For example:

– What am I afraid of?

– What people will think of me.

– Why am I afraid of what people think of me?

– Because it may reduce my social standing, my ability to get a job or to find a partner.

– And what if these things happen?

– I get depressed. Stressed out.

– Right.

– Occasionally suicidal.

– Yeah. OK, have you considered telling this to someone who knows what they’re talking about?

– Pardon?

– I mean, I’d love to stay and talk some more but I’ve been invited to a party.

– But, aren’t you me?

– Sort of. Not really… Ta-ta!


Public speaking

Conventional wisdom has it that if you have to give a speech in public it can help to imagine the audience naked. I prefer to imagine them dead, and that I’ve been living alone on a dying planet for millennia, which gives me great comfort.


Gardening is a good way of reducing stress, of regaining control. And while you’re at it, you can eliminate a summer chore.

Explain to your other half how you’ve gone right off the ‘bourgeois manicured look’ and would prefer something a bit more expressive, a little more free. Next time you mow the lawn leave the far corner untouched and put a lounger in it. This should be known as your ‘wilderness area’.

Then, each time you mow the lawn ensure your wilderness area becomes a little bigger, until it stretches all the way to the kitchen door. Job done. No more lawn mowing and a place to call your own. Now for that annual leave.



Positively everything about work could have been designed specifically to cause stress, from interviews and first days, to email, colleagues and commuting. Click here for our collection of work-related deserting advice.


Nothing screams ‘at ease’ like having a partner draped round your shoulders, right? But if you’re single, how do you go about getting one without inducing more stress?

Easy. Invent one. I had an imaginary girlfriend for most of my first year of college, until she dumped me for being too needy – a low point, admittedly. Splendidly, girls then took pity on me and jumped my bones all summer.


Money problems are renowned for being one of the biggest causes of anxiety.

Deserter brother Ivan Osman’s solution, when faced with sinking slowly into the financial mire, was to rebrand life’s money matters as a complex real-world MMORG. Being a keen gamer, he was soon flipping credit cards, redeeming vouchers, optimising savings accounts and asking for rises until he got where he is today (an 8-bed waterfront mansion in Auckland).

Faced with insurmountable debts, another solution – though not perhaps appropriate for everybody – is to move house without leaving a forwarding address, then move again, and then leave the country. Almost everyone you know who has left the country did so for this reason. Which, now I mention it, does make me wonder about Osman…


They say laughter is a great antidote to stressful situations, so have a couple of light-hearted jokes up your sleeve, especially if you’re giving a speech at a wedding or a funeral:

– Doctor, doctor, I keep thinking I’m a pair of curtains!

– Pull yourself together, you have cancer.



Your confidence can be undermined by many things, even if, like me, your sense of superiority is innate, deep-seated and borderline lunatic. Take care to nurture it as it’s your most important asset, after your credit card.

Physical appearance

Physical appearance can be a crucial factor in one’s self-esteem. At Deserter we have no truck with body-fascism. If you want to be fat, be fat. If, on the other hand, being fat is stressing you out and making you unhappy, lose some weight, you fat bastard.

Of course this is more easily said than done as dieting is a crashing bore. It is no coincidence that ‘Weightwatchers’ contains the word ‘twat’.

I tried the 5:2 diet for while, on which you ‘fast’ for two days a week. I liked it because whenever I felt hungry I could say to myself (usually out loud), ‘I shall have chips tomorrow’, which I found very helpful. I did lose weight on it but by month four I contracted shingles (and lost a load more weight). All I can say is that the 5:2 diet does work, but the health consequences are severe.

I currently practice HIT, in which you exercise for seven interminable minutes per day, and I have had some success taking the same principle into dieting: I regularly go seven minutes without eating a single thing.

The pep talk

Bigging yourself up can work wonders. Each morning I stand in front of my mirror and repeat, ‘I am the Earl of Wessex, 9th in line to the British throne and I am hung like a horse’ before going back to bed for an hour, mumbling something about chips.

Pepping yourself up is fine, but resist the temptation to pep up others – everyone will think you’re a freak. As our old friend Half-life says, ‘By all means reach for the stars, because if you miss, at least you’ll be fucking miles away from me with your motivational bollocks.’

Hung like a horse
Hung like a horse


Sex builds your self-esteem. People who’ve just had sex exude confidence, along with various fluids. (There’s surely a gap in the market for a fragrance called Sex! – ‘Get that freshly fucked feeling’.)

Consider the tale of Half-life’s ex, Penelope Pin-drop. When he first met her she would barely say a word. Two months later she was a proper life and souler – chatty, funny and prone to dancing on tables with her knickers on her head – and we had to change her nickname.

‘How come she’s changed so much?’ I recall asking him at the time.

‘Simple,’ he said, gurning to himself. ‘I filled her full of my self-confidence.’


If all else fails, let’s not forget drugs and booze. Treat yourself. By the second glass of merlot you will feel nicely refreshed; by the second bottle, you’ll be positively imperial, and ready to get up for work.

In conclusion, let us recall the accepted wisdom that everyone needs to be liked. Well, the hard truth is, hardly anyone likes you. Even your mother said she could use a break.

Once you realise this, you can relax and stop trying to please everyone. The irony is, people will then like you more. Funny old world.


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Image credits: Main image by disenoterapia and Gardening by Katchooo used under this licence. Hung like a horse by Allen Skyy and Bang Head Here by Eamon Curry used under this licence