It happens to us all sometimes. A knock or two to our personal selves can feel like a permanent state of despair. It could be a job loss, relationship troubles or feeling isolated that can shatter your confidence. When we lose our strength, we feel terrible and hopeless. To have lost your confidence is a terrible thing, but common.
People think of me as a confident person. A confident person speaks clearly, walks with shoulders back and smiles. A confident person seems like they have everything together and that they can be trusted to get things done. Sometimes, I do not feel confident. In fact, there have been times in my life that I feel so overwhelmed with my situation that it’s hard to get out of bed.
Life is hard, even at my age I don’t always feel confident
I have taken my fair share of knocks in my life. I am now 35 and this means that I have learned to cope with my emotions when times are tough, but every now and then, something happens that completely shatters my confidence and I find it very hard to dust myself and get back up.
By far the worst things that have happened to me in my life are breakups and job losses, in that order. I have had my fair share of both, as most of us have. Not everyone goes through these things, but I can say unequivocally that we all go through troubles and traumas. Some people have different types of traumas; they may have family troubles, money problems, addictions and health issues. I have had all those things too, but it’s work and love that gives me the most grief!
Pain in love. Pain in my career
I can also say that these are the two areas I focus most on in my life, the two areas that I care about the most. I love to work and I love to love but I have serious failings in both areas of my life – sometimes it can be a struggle. I have many flaws as an employee and as a lover – try as I might, sometimes I make terrible mistakes. I am human, I try to forgive.
I can be hard on myself too
I want to get things right and I hate it when I make mistakes. Being a copywriter, I took myself on a two day trip to shame town after missing a repeated word in a recent page of copy. It frustrated me so much that I was barely able to focus on the rest of my work for the next day and a half. I had effectively sabotaged myself over my sudden perceived flaw and it really shattered my confidence.
Relationship dramas cause my confidence to sink
Just over six months ago I had a really bad break up and it crushed me for many weeks. Being the age that I am I have had far too long to focus on what I think is wrong with me. It’s amazing how something like this can truly shatter someone’s confidence. What could be worse than losing something or someone you thought you loved? It can take a lot of self-determination to say to the self, “I can rise again. Just because this person does not love me does not mean that I am worthless.” Turns out it was the best thing for me. But it really hurt.
I do not need to be defined by someone else’s love and I am more than the work that I do. To regain my confidence it is imperative that I build up a strong picture of myself from an outside perspective and I celebrate the things about me which are good, which are not good and the things that are mediocre. I will never be perfect and there are no perfect jobs or lovers out there – I have to accept that and be as forgiving of myself as I am with others in my life.
So – I have been doing some research online and I have found some resources that have ways of building up my confidence again.
1. When you’ve lost your confidence: Know your weak spots
There are things I cannot handle people criticising. I am very sensitive about my weight, for example and I hate accidentally offending people, so if I get pulled up for that, it upsets me greatly. “Whatever is making you feel unworthy, ashamed, or inferior, identify it, give it a name, and write it down. You can also tear these written pieces to start feeling positive on those points.” (source)
2. Know your strengths when you’ve lost your confidence
Yup, I have lots of strengths too and one of the great things about getting older is that I am more confident with what I am good at and where my failings lie. For example (Alyce Vayle): grammar = good but attention to detail = bad. (Alyce Vayle) kindness and lovingness = good but temper = bad. (Alyce Vayle) walking and running = good but boxing and aerobics = bad.
3. Give thanks when you’ve lost your confidence
Yeah, yeah I here you say, I have heard this one before. It’s true that being grateful for what you have got is very important. There are things I have always been abundant in, for example friends and money, but there are things I have always been lacking in such as security and romantic love. I’m sure if you look at your life, you will find many things that are usually running smoothly, or where you have had lots of blessings.
4. Give compliments when you’ve lost your confidence
Other people feel bad too and most of us suffer from a lack of confidence. In my work in radio here in Australia I have met many famous people and worked alongside multi-millionaires and extremely successful people. You know what? They are all riddled and wracked with insecurities as much as we are. When someone does something worthy of complimenting – give them a compliment. It makes everybody feel good. Also – I have heard before (on Oprah of all places) that instead of giving a compliment as a value judgement on someone’s appearance, you should go deeper and refer to their personality or character, for example, don’t say, “You look so pretty in that green shirt,” say, “That green shirt is so pretty, you must have a bold streak in your personality to choose such an individual colour.”
5. Accept compliments when you’ve lost your confidence
Most of my readers are not Australian but there is a thing called Tall Poppy Syndrome here in Australia that is very well known. About the worst thing you can do here in Australia is to “have tickets on yourself” which translates to “having an overly high opinion of yourself.” I know that I often come across as arrogant and this has been a feature of my life since i was a child. I am precocious and I speak my mind and I often irritate people without realising it. As a kid I spent time in the American school system and it was more receptive to children like me. When someone gives you a compliment, say thank you, and take the compliment right into your heart.
6. Stick to your principles when you’ve lost your confidence
Again, this is very hard, for some of us. I am a people pleaser and I have lots of opinions that upset people, particularly on social issues and politics. I have to learn when to keep my mouth shut and when I need to speak up. I feel that in today’s’ world we are often too afraid to speak up about things that we feel are wrong. Because of this, I have had to learn when my opinions are needed and when they are not. I study a lot about the issues that I feel passionate about, most too controversial to mention here. My copy of 1984 by George Orwell has just arrived at the library and now I am revisiting this classic book, realising how much we are indeed cloistered and gagged in our modern world.
A passage from 1984
“Winston leads an austere existence, confined to a one-room apartment on a subsistence diet of black bread and synthetic meals washed down with Victory-brand gin. He begins retaining a journal criticising the Party and its enigmatic leader, Big Brother, which – if uncovered by the Thought Police – likely warrants certain death. The flat has an alcove, beside the telescreen, where Winston apparently cannot be seen, and thus believes he has some privacy, while writing in his journal: Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death.”