I like to imagine that even the most brazen of celebrities have the occasional crisis of confidence. I bet you – hear me out here – that even Kimmy K occasionally has to drown out her inner mean girl voice. Granted, her mean girl voice is probably more of a whisper, but still.
It’s the tenacity and sheer unwillingness to accept life’s knocks that are often held up as attributes to aspire to – the kind of attributes that allow you to “follow your dreams” and “do what you love, love what you do” etc etc. But when you’re in the midst of a huge wobble, it’s easy to balk at those breezy Pinterest quotes and actually feel even more overwhelmed than you did before. There’s no How To guide for confidence, but as someone who regularly experiences mini – and sometimes maxi – crises of confidence, I thought I’d share the things that help me surf the sea of self-doubt and come out the other side smiling.
I’ll let you into a secret. I live with a really mean girl. She often yawns with boredom when I talk (or write), is the first to laugh at me for daring to put myself out there either in work or friendships and mocks me repeatedly for thinking myself interesting enough to post stuff on the internet. When I get offers of work she reacts with shock – who’d pay stupid old ME to write a piece for a magazine or make a video for a brand? What are these people THINKING?! She’s emotionally manipulative and queen of the bullies. I hate her. She is me.
Over the years I’ve learned to ignore my inner mean girl and to sweep the crises of confidence that she creates in me aside. From the first email I sent out to a prospective radio news editor asking for work experience, to my first blog post and, later, first trip to the school gates, I’ve become a pro at dodging the mean girl in me and reminding myself I’m as good as anyone else – even if the mean girl doesn’t agree.
The thing is, people who know me might be surprised to hear about this mean girl. I guess on the surface I come across as confident, outgoing and tenacious. And it’s not that I’m NOT these things. I’m not living a lie or pretending to be someone I’m not. But, underneath it all, is often a little voice telling me that I’m not as good as X, Y or Z, so why even bother.
There are times when the voice gets louder and I suffer a real confidence dilemma, wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life, if I shouldn’t just jack it all in and start afresh. It’s a properly hysterical reaction to a variety of causes – sometimes it’s tiredness, sometimes it’s comparison syndrome brought about by spending too much time on Instagram, sometimes it’s something as simple as an unanswered text from a friend who (in my irrational state) I’ll assume has blacklisted me as an acquaintance.
So what helps?
I’ve come to recognise that when I’m having one of these moments it’s often as a reaction to something external – perhaps a flippant comment from someone that I’ve thought too deeply on, for example – or something really simple, like being sleep-deprived or not having enough exercise. Knowing that the feeling stems from somewhere, and isn’t a rational indication of my own self-worth helps, even if I can’t always see it clearly straight away.
Another thing that helps is to find one aspect of my life that I can have control over, try to improve it, then see my confidence be boosted in other areas. This might be taking twenty minutes to do some exercise, or doing something really boring like going to bed earlier. If I feel better in one area of my life it often has a knock-on effect in others.
Finally – and this one might be a bit controversial, I know – when I’m having a really off day I tend to avoid certain types of people. Aggressively confident “go-getters” who are the living embodiment of inspirational Pinterest quotes are really not the type of people I need to be around when I’m having a wobble of my own. People like this have a draining effect on me when I’m having a confidence crisis; I can literally feel my self-esteem ebb away, sucked into a vortex of confidence shining around the other person.
With that in mind, Instagram is often a no-go for me on days like this, and I’ll try to limit the time I spend online at all to be honest. When I’m in that frame of mind I need to avoid the highlights reel of social media and hunker down, working on my own stuff without the temptation of comparison, you know? Instead, getting outside, losing myself to a creative project at home or simply distracting myself by cooking something tasty for tea – all of these things help to refocus and gain perspective. Failing that – wine and a good binge of Suits on Netflix.
Lastly, sometimes the melodramatic Imposter Syndrome lasts for more than a day, in which case I don’t have the luxury of downing tools and hiding away. In that instance it’s a case of plastering on my best fake smile, breezy voice and just cracking on. Because, if I try really hard, my happy girl voice will always drown out the mean girl one in the end.
Tell me, how do you deal with a confidence crisis?