I’m a single working woman in my late 20s. I mostly feel confident and independent, except when it comes to my relationship with my mother. She constantly criticises me. I feel so angry inside, but rarely have the guts to stand up to her and I feel guilty if I eventually do snap.

Unfortunately, the only way to deal with bullying behaviour is to stand up to it. Be the adult in the situation and take control of it and leave the childish behaviour to your mum. One of the best things you can do is turn this into a positive and learn from it. If, at some point in the future, you have children of your own, then use this experience to inform your own parenting. It might be that your mother’s mother was just as critical of her – this can be learned behaviour, but that doesn’t mean you can’t break the pattern. Take what you’ve learned and feed it forward. Not criticising your own children in a way that demolishes their self-esteem will inevitably create a new chain of positivity and ensure that your kids want to spend time with you rather than feeling duty bound to do so.

My family says that I lack confidence. This is upsetting because by always saying it to me, they make me less confident. I do not feel like I can stand up for myself. How can I become confident?

We are pleased you’ve acknowledged that you’d like to become more confident. You need to become more assertive when you feel you lack a voice. You can hone your assertive skills by clearly voicing your opinion on a topic you are comfortable with – always stay calm and make your point clearly and concisely. Your family will begin to understand that you’re slowly becoming more confident and will begin to relinquish their opinion that you are not. Try standing confidently with your head held high, your shoulders back, making enough eye contact to show you’re serious about what you’re saying and keeping your tone of voice strong, but upbeat. By being assertive and confident you’ll soon discover others will naturally start to see you in a different light – as a confident person, who can take advice but who can make their own choices.