I've been inspired to write about confidence this week. following a long conversation with a good friend about it.
- Even when I was a kid I'd chat to strangers in the supermarket
- I enjoy traveling alone, including as far-flung places as New Zealand
- In social situations I am chatty, energetic, and I enjoy meeting new people
- I've done several things a lot of people have commented that they'd be petrified of doing (e.g. chopping off my long hair, caving, a trapeze swing)
But what does all this matter if one day you suddenly lose your confidence? Perhaps you're going through a relationship breakdown. Perhaps you had a fender-bender recently and are more cautious behind the wheel. Perhaps some feedback at work has left you feeling deflated and useless. It could happen.
Today I'm going to compare my confidence from three years ago to today.
Three years ago I lost my job. I was already on mild-ish medication for low mood and anxiety, and having counselling once a week (both of which were helping), but this really took my last ounce of confidence away. I remember having my final counselling session two days after I became unemployed. What timing! I was quick to book in some more sessions, let me tell you! That week I had lost more than my income; I lost my circle of work 'mates' (the ' marks are telling, but that's another story!), my routine, my ability to share financial burdens at home, and I realised having never not worked since I was 21, working had become part of my identity. I was also extremely worried how the rest of my life would work out after this sudden blank space appeared on my previously full and interesting CV, and quickly felt like I was turning into a distrusting recluse, unsure how I'd ever get back to work.
Fast forward to now, and I'm on maternity leave - again, not in work (I'm a week from my due date when the 'real' work begins!), but it feels totally different. I have learned so much about myself in the past three years, my life has grown, and I'm back to my normal confident self. I'm fully aware I'm not 'normal me' at the moment with hormones, sleep patterns, and a changed physical state, but it makes an interesting snapshot.
(Totally stole this chart idea from Paul, who writes a fantastic blog on mental health. Keep it up, bud! Check out his post about confidence here.)
The chart below is indicative of how I felt three years ago in relation to things which can affect your confidence (can you tell I'm missing work a little, hello Excel!).
And the following chart is how I am feeling now...
These tables were more of an exercise for me to compare 2016 to 2019 personally, but I thought it may be useful to include. What a difference a couple of years makes. I can see some significant changes straight away, the impact of me losing my job and becoming more confident again in a temporary but positive pause in a working life. The biggest changes have been my use of voice and my growth in personal emotional awareness. Financially, again, it's tight, but for a positive reason this time, and being reminded I'm doing a good, responsible job of being pregnant by friends and family, midwives, my husband, is an incredible boost. Sometimes it can be hard to see or remember. I am learning to avoid comparisons with others - who knows how confident they feel themselves? Who knows what their real story is?
This has also reminded me of one of my favourite mantras. It may take some work but
Missing confidence for me more recently has been more around feeling like I'm not good enough at work, no matter how many times I'm thanked or told I'm doing great. I am sure this feeling will be something I'll experience as a first-time mum, so it's great to be aware that I can have a tendency to feel like that.
Right now, confidence-wise it's mainly wonderingments. If that's a word. Will I be a good mum, that's the crux. It's all new to me (us), and many, if not most, new parents will not be able to avoid thinking or worrying about what the future holds for their new arrival.
The second point I want to highlight is that some of these factors affecting confidence are controllable. Recording your achievements (however small) can help. Keeping on top of weight gain and some new clothes can do wonders for your self-esteem. Others are less in your field of control, like your upbringing, but simple awareness of the factors can make a little difference.
I've also been lucky to be friends with and work with people don't make me feel like I need to be anyone but myself.
Remind yourself of and keep doing things that make you feel confident. Stand tall and know you are a capable person worthy of love!
I guess it would be interesting to see how confident I feel going back to work in a year's time...
This blog didn't go the way I was planning, so I'm sorry if it's a bit rambly. My brain is clearly out of practice with thinking through big ideas and constructing coherent text at the moment!
Hopefully next time we speak I'll be a mum. One week to go!
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Born to be a Tourist