Losing confidence to me is like losing a sock – it’s possible with a bit of hard work and soul searching to find the original one, but often the case you find a similar one that doesn’t quite look or feel the same, or you make do with any old one until you’re ready. If for whatever reason you’ve ever experienced a major loss of confidence and had to try and build that confidence up again, you’ll probably know what i mean. It takes time, it fluctuates and is often a work in progress.
So i’ve just started reading Katie Piper’s critically acclaimed book, ‘Confidence: The Secret’ and even though I’ve only read the first chapter (which is brilliant and really hard-hitting by the way), it got me thinking about my own experiences with confidence. If you don’t know, Katie was left severely burned after a vicious acid attack and talks about her confidence journey in her road to recovery.
To some extent, I’ve always felt like a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to confidence. Growing up, in some situations, I could be the loudest person in the room. Usually with just one or two close friends. In others, I would feel myself fade away into the background of shy oblivion. A true wallflower. For me, this was anything that involved big groups, giving presentations or acting in drama class at school, and scariest of all, socialising with boys. I was a late-bloomer in many areas of my life.
However, this didn’t stop me from going from strength to strength in other areas. Grammar school drove me towards becoming a grade-A student, and the same drive and determination did me well at University where I graduated with a First Class Honours in English Language. I didnt just stop there. Out if academia, I was involved in societies, taught English abroad for a month when I was just 18 (to this day im still extremely proud that I flew abroad there and back by myself) and after university, I filled my hours beyond work with all shapes of volunteering and learning.
I think this is why mental illness hit me so hard – going from being so independent and yes, to blow my own trumpet as we are all entitled to do, successful to (a long time ago) barely not being able to leave the house shook my confidence and in turn my self-esteem to the core. Another point when I was at my worst I could easily spend 10 minutes washing my hands until i felt ‘right’ when this should have taken seconds, and then having the repeat the process over and over drained me. I was unknowingly withering away nearly all of the hard work, acheivement and sense of self that had got me to where I wanted to be because of my only priority at the time was relief my short term pain with my anxious behaviour. But as anyone who has experienced a mental health problem will know, it is often the case of short term ‘gain’ and long term pain.
How could I build myself up when I felt like I had to relearn nearly all the stuff I had done for years with such ease, and really, had taken for granted? At one point I couldnt even have walked to the corner shop 50 yards around the corner without feeling anxious and worried about having a panic attack. But I did it. Bit by bit, moment by moment, I forced myself to push myself out if this terrible comfort zone – believe me, sitting on the fence for such a long time gets awfully uncomfortable that sometimes you just have to move.
And so where am I now? Well, i’m a homeowner and have a lovely home, I have a full time job, a loving partner, family and friends who support me (albeit one or two inevitably lost friendships along the way – we all have our own path to follow). At times, I have to pinch myself at how far I have come since falling in the mud. I do get moments of self-doubt sometimes, and there are still some things that I am still working on confidence wise, but I know that as much as my confidence was shaken I still did spring back, and that in itself gives me confidence and self-esteem. What some people don’t always necessarily understand is how much a role self-esteem and confidence play in the road to recovery, and really, in everyones journey, and that is something that is very individual and unique to everyone. Katie Piper’s first chaper highlights that pefectly and I sincerely am excited to read the rest of the book and to find out what else I might learn to help me in my own journey. And I write this to share awareness of the significant things that are confidence and self-esteem. Thank you Katie 😊