Confidence is one of those qualities than can be hard won but easily lost or never attained in the first place. It can grow or diminish, get knocked or soar and the craziest thing I have found about confidence is that after having babies – the most life affirming, positive and amazing thing that anyone can ever do – many of us (myself included) can lose our confidence and struggle to get it back.
Isn’t that staggering? We have literally created a new life – brought a whole human being into the world and yet our confidence drops to rock bottom?! But I don’t want this post to just be aimed at mothers, it is about confidence in general and ways I’ve found to develop and keep it.
As a kid I was always seen as confident – probably because I would be the chatty, sociable one at school, always told off for talking and sure-enough I didn’t mind being in the limelight so I was seen as confident but in truth, not always feeling secure.
As I hit puberty and entered into that stage where you go from being a carefree kid into a more self conscious pre-teen, my parents split up and my homelife became uncertain. At this time my ‘confidence’ became my armor, I knew how people would relate to confident Nadine, it became something I could count on in a little life where suddenly nothing was predictable, so I held onto that persona with both white-knuckled hands.
Did I ever feel wobbly or insecure – yes! Did I ever let it show? Hell, no!
People around me were used to confident Nadine – I couldn’t risk having the one thing that was mine, taken away from me by showing vulnerability.
I met my husband at school aged 16 and the last 26 years with him have given me my stability and security. He is my rock and my soulmate. The life that we have created together has given me the confidence I now have. I’m safe with him – I can count on him and through his love I’ve learned to be able to count on myself. He’s the yin to my yang. He’s the safe haven, the restorative place where I find my energy. I’m the bustling, go-getting do-er. I bring the excitement, he brings the calm. We need both.
However in all the years of outwardly showing confidence, even if I didn’t feel it inside, I learned a few things. By reframing the way I looked at a situation or by using a few techniques to make me feel better, I found that I could grow an inner confidence and people seemed to respond to this. As people reacted positively to me, I could see that what I was putting out there was good and true. I could count on it. This helped my actual confidence to grow.
These days I do feel confident, but more importantly to me – self assured. I have moments where I quake inside if I’m about to do something nerve wracking (talking to camera, talking to an audience, negotiating a contract, asking for money) but I now know how to handle myself to just do it, and not let the nerves show. It’s a learnable skill, so don’t think you could never do (**insert whatever your heart desires**), you can and you will, if you use a few tricks to get you there.
So let me start by saying, that’s all it is. No-one – absolutely NO-ONE has gone through life without a battle-scar or two. We all have wobbles. We all doubt ourselves from time to time. Even if you doubt yourself all of the time, you can turn that around. Slowly. Baby steps. That’s what it takes. Here’s how.
What make you so interesting? Nothing? Good!
The line above sounds so negative, but really it is liberating and this is how I started my baby steps to real confidence. As an awkward teenager, I was self conscious and would always think that other people at school or out socially were talking about me. I’d be darting my eyes about looking for the ‘evidence’ that I was being gossiped about, and if someone met my eye, I’d be convinced that they were laughing about me behind my back. Maybe the way I was dressed or my acne ridden skin. When you look for evidence of ‘bad’ you find it and imagine how crippling it is to feel that you are being constantly judged and ridiculed.
But I didn’t want to feel this way so I’d ask myself, “What exactly is so interesting about you that ‘they’ are going to want to gossip about you?” (The answer: “Nothing”!) “Are you saying something so interesting that others are going to want to listen in to your conversation over their own?” (“Ummm – no!”)
By being perfectly ordinary and no more interesting than anyone else, I found freedom. I’d tell myself, no-one cares what you are doing, saying, what you look like, they are all more interested in themselves! And it’s true! The funny thing is that by using this technique to build your confidence, you start to become more confident in yourself then people do very much care what you think and say – you radiate an aura of confidence and that can be very attractive to others. But by the time you get to this stage, your inner reserves are built and you can handle the attention!
Beware of too much glorification!
However it is wise to be self-aware and humble. You may appear more attractive to others (I don’t mean physically, I’m talking about personality) but there’s nothing more unattractive than ignorance. Someone who cannot see their own flaws or relate to another person on a sincere level becomes superficial. It may take confidence to ‘put yourself out there’ in front of people, but it takes even more confidence to ‘reach out’ and interact with people, and reaching out is more real. People like and respond to ‘real’ in others more than they do to confidence.
Take a risk… Be vulnerable
It can be super scary to show who you really are, or speak your truth. By putting ourselves ‘out there’ we risk rejection. But when you actually do it, you find that the sky doesn’t fall down, the world keeps on turning, and it doesn’t often make that much difference to anyone else, but it can make a world of difference to you. Just knowing that you were real and honest gives you a grounding that you don’t get if you are in hiding. We’ve all heard of ‘imposter syndrome’, where people are scared of being found out, well there is no imposter syndrome if you are being who you are. You are who you are – end of. You are not trying to be someone who you are not, you are being you and you are the expert in being you, so how can there possibly be any imposter syndrome when you are 100% being you?!
I’ve hesitated and been nervous a few times before hitting ‘publish’ on a blog post where I have shared something that was momentous to me, and whilst the comments I received were supportive and often sharing of their own experiences, there was no feedback from the comments that this big revelation of mine was anything weird or unusual. In all honesty, it was more of a big deal to me than it was to anyone else, and now it has been said, it’s out there. Once something is on the internet, we all know it can’t be taken back, and that’s where the scare is. By being strong and saying what you need to say, you build up your ‘brave muscle’. That makes it easier to share again next time! But often it isn’t really about sharing a piece of information with others, it is about accepting something about yourself and this is where the real treasure lies. You can find some solid inner strength by daring to be vulnerable. But this may need building up to, so start small and go from there. Know that you are always doing the best you can in the situation you are in and give yourself a break.
Being good enough
If I ever start to second guess myself or check and double check that I’ve done something, I forcibly stop myself. This sort of procrastination or worrying round in circles achieves nothing other than diminishing the confidence I already have. Confidence levels can differ from day to day. Just because I feel like I can take on the world and everyone in it one day, doesn’t mean I’ll be able to do anything other than make it from one end of the day to the other the next. I have learned to trust myself by being thorough first time. With whatever I am up to – from reading and replying to email to creating a new blog post, I try to do the best , most thorough job I can do first time round then trust myself that I did it right. If I start to think I should have done this better, it is a waste of time so I make sure that I don’t hit ‘send’ on that email or blog post until I am happy that it is the best it can be, because if it’s the best then there’s no second guessing. This isn’t to say I believe that everything I do in real life or on the internet is perfect, I don’t. I make spelling and grammatical errors from time to time, I fail to acknowledge pertinent information from time to time and I screw up from time to time, but in any situation with the energy levels I have at that time and the circumstances I am in at that time, I am doing my best. Good enough doesn’t mean perfect, it just means good enough. When you know better – you do better.
Accepting what is
I could literally write all day on this subject, I feel so passionate about it but I’m aware that you have lives to lead and this is already a long blog post! So let me end by sharing one last thing that really helped me as an overweight teenager who loved fashion, to start to accept her body. Body issues are one of the biggest drains on self confidence for women, and of all the beautiful, strong, vibrant women I am blessed to know in my life, I’m saddened that a few of them don’t seem to realise how Goddamn beautiful they are! They talk about how fat they are (when there is nothing there!) or their muffin top, bingo wings or (insert body part of your choice!) They need to find something outer to criticise as an outlet for their inner dissatisfaction and body weight is unfortunately a socially acceptable way to gain empathy or support for each other. Women connect through sharing and I ‘get’ the whole body shaming exercise – I have done it myself, and when you are feeling lost and alone and you just want a connection, it is a fast track way to get the smidgen of approval that will get you through the next hour or so until you need your next fix. But it doesn’t have to become a daily habit. We all do this occasionally it is human nature, but please don’t let it become ingrained. I read a magazine article back in the early 1990s where a larger lady who I think was an accessories designer by trade, quoted “No amount of wearing black or small accessories is going to stop people noticing that I’m fat, so I dress how I want”. I found this incredibly empowering and I wish I could remember who she was and tell her how her words changed my life. I have been carrying this quote round in my head for more than 20 years and it is as true today as it was then.
I am currently a size 16 UK dress size. At my largest I was a size 24 – even at that size, I loved colour, fashion, texture and shape. I couldn’t always wear the clothing I wanted to wear due to my size limitations, but I dressed the best I could given the weight I was. It was the fact that as you start to creep up higher than a size 24 that your fashion choices become limited that halted me in my tracks and made me face the music that I needed to get my weight under control. It was my wake up call. But I still live by the fact that no amount of posing in a different way, or wearing black clothes from head to toe will stop people noticing my size. I am clearly not a size 10 – and even if I hold my breath in really tight, I still won’t be a size 10 today, so why not just breathe out, wear your best accessory – your smile and show the world how beautiful you are inside and out. I’m sure there are some people in the world who would look at me and say that I’m ugly or fat or how they would never in a million years want to look like me and that’s ok! I would never in a million years want to be the sort of person who spreads negativity or hate as that to me is far uglier than any rolls of fat, but I accept that they have their own opinion and I hope that they find their own form of inner peace soon, because those that need to criticise are the ones who don’t have it.
So that is me, laid bare, warts and all. I am confident about pressing ‘publish’ on this post because you know what? I’m doing the best I can today given the circumstances that I have and when I know better I will do better.
Do you have any learnings or sayings that help you boost your confidence? Share them in the comments and thank you for reading, this post was really important to me.