Picture a ginger kid with glasses, slightly goofy teeth, a big fringe that stuck to her forehead, better at spelling than many of her peers. Changing into a pre-teen then teen with spots, warts on her knuckles, who preferred reading and sports to boys and fashion.
Picture bullies, picture that girl going bright red and shaking the moment any attention was on her, picture her not holding her hand up in class because she was too nervous to be clever, picture her knowingly getting answers wrong in an attempt to fit in.
Now picture a young adult: no fringe sticking to her forehead, spots covered with make up, still terrified of attention. Being early to social events because the very idea of having to walk into a bar or restaurant and seek people out is enough to induce a cold sweat. Picture a reasonably attractive young woman being told by a friend that she glares at blokes with a “Don’t f-ing bother” scowl because she’s so scared of being hurt. Again.
You guessed it, it’s me
Now don’t get me wrong, I had friends and a fantastic home life. I had hobbies, I did well at school. But it was often hideously painful for me and I never felt like I belonged.
Now? Well I’m far more confident – more so than my younger self would have ever believed possible. I still go red (wish I could do something about that because it reveals any falsities in my portrayal of ‘togetherness’), I still get very nervous in a huge variety of social situations, my default assumption is that nobody actually wants to be my friend, they are so out of some weird duty or something. I know, I’m ridiculous, but that’s my brain for you!
So how then, am I also the woman who’s appeared on live national TV and radio without so much as a jitter? How do I frequently travel around the country to attend events in venues I’ve never been to before, without knowing who’s even going to be there? How do I do live videos of myself out jogging, or with Carol Smilie sat next to me on my sofa? How do I lay myself (metaphorically) bare through my blogs and social media, to thousands of people?
Force yourself to face your fears
My first blogging event was in Birmingham, and Aby from You Baby Me Mummy kindly offered to meet me at the train station. I’d never met her before, but she was familiar to me and I clung to the knowledge that I wouldn’t be totally alone.
I actually walked up to bloggers I recognised and said hi, knowing full well they probably didn’t have a clue who the hell I was.
I was bricking it, I was a mess and had to reapply make up and deodorant multiple times. But I survived it and since that October in 2014, I’ve attended countless events and even been that person to support others who are feeling scared.
Accept that sometimes you’ll cock up
I freeze when I’m nervous, I get names wrong, I babble, I talk absolute crap if I’m honest – my wedding video is proof of that because I was so relieved to have survived the ceremony with 40-odd people watching me, that I blurted out some crap about getting drunk as I walked back up the aisle with my husband. Classy.
Do I still recoil in horror at the memory, 4 years on? You bet I do! Did anyone seem to give a damn? Nah, to my knowledge it’s not been mentioned since.
Confidence isn’t never being wrong or always being perfect, it’s laughing off the times you’re inadvertently a complete muppet, or get something wrong.
Be an amazing performer
Yes, you’re terrified, but the world doesn’t need to know that. I can’t begin the count the number of times I’ve had to escape somewhere quiet to take some deep breaths and wipe a few tears away, but then I stick a smile on my face and get back out there!
You will get there
Nowadays I fake it less and less, because as time passes and I’m not publicly denounced as a completely socially inept weirdo, the more I realise that the only thing holding me back, has been me.
Now, I still get nervous and I sometimes feel sick to the pit of my stomach before a new venture, but I feel confident that the moment I’m facing my fear the sickness will disappear. Unless it’s a huge spider (or even a fairly small one) – that fear refuses to leave me.
Thanks to Mark from The Honest Father for inspiring this post with his own post about confidence. Pop over and give it a read!
How do you deal with insecurities and lack of confidence? Any top tips to share?
I shall end with the words of the incredible Elizabeth Gilbert, from her amazing book Big Magic, with her speech to Fear:
Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting – and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and be focused. And creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognise and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still – your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.
– Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic, 2015.