Let's talk about confidence, shall we?
At the beginning of every year I like to sit down and do a bit of a 'year in review' - reflecting on the year just gone, and looking ahead to the coming 12 months. Setting goals, writing lists, that kind of thing. This year, after a ton of reflection (3 days' worth, in fact, talk about navel-gazing!) I decided that in 2018, my number one goal was to increase my confidence.
Fellow goal-setters will know that this is not a good achievement to strive for - "increase confidence" is such an ambiguous concept, there are no specific outcomes, no data you can measure, its not specific or time-bound or any of those other words that business gurus use when talking about SMART goals.
Yet, once I started thinking about it, I realised that a lack of confidence was at the root of a lot of the issues that I felt I had been struggling with in 2017. Once I drilled down further, I saw that there were in fact specific, tangible actions I could take, that were small enough to not feel terrifying, but when added all together, would hopefully result in my feeling just that little bit braver, and standing that little bit taller.
I thought of all the things that, if I did them, would make me feel that I was a more confident person - from small things like cooking something new, trying a reformer pilates class, or eating in a restaurant on my own, to bigger things that I felt carried more 'risk' for me like driving solo, presenting at work, or suggesting a meet-up with someone (does anyone else find this so difficult? The fear of rejection is real!!).
Tackling the small things first, and realising that any discomfort or humiliation I felt was all in my mind, made it easier to move on to the bigger tasks. The thing above all I wanted to do this year was to write more, write online (not just in a journal) and tell people about it.
It has been somewhat cringe-inducing (but also wonderful) to see my friends and family sharing my blog on social media and telling people about it; writing is such a personal thing for me that putting it online for anyone to read is still a terrifying prospect if I think about it too much. Nevertheless writing that first post and hitting "publish" has also been one of the best things I've done this year so far.
The ironic thing is that I feel so much more confident already, but that feeling has come about only from recognising that my low self-esteem is my biggest weakness and has, I feel, held me back in many ways in the past. It's only since I have started acknowledging my shit-talking "inner critic", and referring to it almost as a separate part of myself, that I'm becoming better at shutting the door on it when the negative self-talk starts. Professional counselling has been a life-saver in that regard - something I'll discuss more in a future post perhaps.
I know that building up my confidence is a lifelong skill and that yes, I'm never going to be the the person in the middle of the party with a circle of people hanging onto my every word - but thats ok, and in the meantime I can continue to deploy these little actions that push me out of my comfort zone and in some big or small way, make me feel more confident.
I'd love to know if anybody else out there struggles with confidence / low self-esteem. If you do, what things do you find particularly challenging? Are there any strategies that help to overcome those feelings of inadequacy? Or do we all just "fake it 'til we make it"?