On Confidence (and the lack thereof)

Very little  (practically nothing) about writing in this post and more of an emotional offload. Thus, I provide a cut and invite those of you who aren’t interested to move down the bus.

All the way down.

No, really. This is all inner whinging of the worst order. You can really choose to leave now.

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Last chance.

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Fine.

I have an evil inner voice. Well, voices really. And oddly, they sound very much like the girls who bullied me at school. They made themselves known last week and my psyche still doesn’t do a very good job of fighting them off. I think I’m out the other side of it now, but as always, I find that write-venting the feelings helps enormously.

I tracked back the sad mood in a moment of self-analysis and it left me feeling sort of… well, angry. It all came about because I bought a pretty dress for Aaron and Katie’s wedding. Now, those of you who know me will also know that I’ve never been a girly-girl. But I really want to make the effort for this wedding. So the dress arrived and I tried it on. I looked in the mirror and was really rather pleased at how it looked. I put it on with the shoes I plan to wear and I was even more pleased.

Gosh, I thought. I look nice.

And that was that.

About three days later, I was minding my own business when all of a sudden, there they were. Those voices who have lived with me for years. The voices that speak in bitchy tones. The voices that are exceptional at suddenly turning me from a grown woman into a sixteen year old.

That dress? One of them whispered so suddenly that I almost jumped. It makes you look stupid. You’re just kidding yourself that it looks nice.

And that was it. That was all it was. I glanced up, but of course there was nobody there. Just her. Just that whisper in the back of my mind. But it planted a tiny seed of doubt. And over the next couple of days, that seed sprouted and grew like there was no stopping it until it was no longer a slight niggle but a scream telling me that I was short, fat, ugly, stupid… and all the other negative issues that most people have with themselves. So many other people, however, are fantastic at coming to terms with their perceived shortcomings. Me? Not so much. I hide. I hide in a lot of ways.

By the end of the third day, those words had dragged me down into depression. I’ve been there before and although it was different reasons, I recognised it for what it was. The hardest part was knowing that it was a stupid thing to be getting depressed about. I have no right to be depressed. In my day job, I have to listen to the most horrible stories about cancer patients and it puts my life into sharp perspective. I have no right to get unhappy about how I look. And knowing it doesn’t make it any easier.

Having no self-confidence is a difficult thing. People have said to me ‘wow, you don’t seem as if you lack confidence’. No? It’s called an act. The Sarah that most people know isn’t the Sarah I really want to be. I’ve spent most of my adult life living up to a certain expectation. LRP helped a little with the problem because it granted me the opportunity to be someone else (indeed, over the ten years I went, I was SEVERAL other people). Was this the solution, I asked myself? Was this all I needed? Adult ‘let’s pretend’?

No. Why?

Because I failed people. I entirely failed to keep a faction full of people content and even though I knew it was irrational, I took all the blame of that on myself. I was getting phone calls late at night for hours and trying to soothe people’s damaged egos and settle their concerns. But they either wouldn’t believe me or wouldn’t listen to me and it all went rather pear shaped. And even though I knew it wasn’t my fault, it still felt like it was my fault. And then people actually started being unbelievably childish and horrible to one another and I honestly don’t think they could see that it was like being in a playground. And so I walked away from a hobby that I once loved because I couldn’t sit by and watch the bullying any more. These were adults.

So I took the decision to take a year out. So far, it’s been wonderful. Of course, the writing schedule has largely eaten into my spare time so that keeps my mind busy… but also presents a whole new range of options to expose my lack of confidence.

Let’s review, shall we?

* I have no confidence in how I look. I look in the mirror and see someone who apparently doesn’t exist.
* I have no confidence in my ability to keep people happy or to provide something that they enjoy and want to be a part of (see: LRP/the Bolthole)
* I am hyper-critical of my own writing – although feel reassured that this is fairly normal for authors. I’m slowly dealing with this one so it’s not so much of an issue.

And the killer. The thing about myself I realised last week that actually quite startled me.

I cannot accept a compliment without assuming it’s just someone ‘being nice’.

I have a very tentative plan to start dealing with this problem and it starts tomorrow. There are a variety of different aspects to it, but one of the ones I’m most excited (but terrified) about is that of speaking to a professional photographer. One of my very dear friends has a pal who does photoshoots and his work is beautiful.

So here’s how it works. I have this sense that if someone can show me a photograph of myself and I go ‘my goodness, I look nice’ – then I might just about be able to start believing it. There are other steps to this plan as well, but they are almost peripheral to the need to actually stop seeing someone I don’t like in the mirror. I know I need to do that. For the first time in my life, I’m actually taking proactive steps to do something about it.

Do I dare suggest that I’m confident about it?

Maybe.

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4 thoughts on “On Confidence (and the lack thereof)

  1. Lee says:

    You are a wonderful invididual – exceptional, even. You will see that one day, but hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.

    You are a wonderful mother, devoted wife, caring friend. You have a talent for writing that I would kill to possess. Beyond that you are a beautiful woman. You may not believe me, but you are. And I’m not the only one to think so – when we were talking about the photo shoot Jenny was singing your praises, telling Brian how beautiful you are. And that was when you weren’t around, without any need for you to ever hear – it wasn’t Jenny being nice, it was someone telling the truth.

    You should be proud of who you are. I know that I’m proud to be in the position to say ‘she’s my friend’.

    • riocaz says:

      Lee, you put it all so well there is little more I can say other than to wholeheartedly concur with your comments and in particular the last paragraph.

      Sarah,

      I’ve thought you were beautiful since you were 16, and that was a good 10 years before I met you in person.

      When I did you were as beautiful in body are you are in spirit. I’m sorry if there is a part of you that cant see that and I wish you could see yourself as everyone else does.

  2. Tim Kenyon says:

    You, my friend, suffer from an all too common an affliction, followed by all too common a disease. I am similarly inflicted and so is my other half. You are not alone. Despite the steps that I’ve taken to combat this affliction, I’m afraid the act is too deep seated in me to do anything else. The closest I got to being real was at BL Live where I just couldn’t help be anything but miserable, angry, and depressed. If I didn’t seem it, that I have the act down far too well for my own good.

    Ms. Sarah, you are a talented writer, a wonderful mother, and with so many people of the Twitterati and Facebookers who love you – you must be doing something right.

    You, like all women, are beautiful. You have a look that is entirely your own and personal to you, and when you do want to do the pretty; you’ll knock people’s socks off.

    This, remember, is coming from the dude that even on his wedding day was still talking himself into standing at the altar even when the homily was in full flow.

    Have a massive hug from me. May all your self-doubt sooner or later be silenced by smothering it with marmalade and leaving it for the fire ants.

  3. AJ says:

    Having never met you, I can’t really comment, but going from the pics I have seen on FB, I would disagree with you. And I agree with Tim, it is a pretty common affliction. Cliched it may be but I suffer from the same, albeit in a slightly different department. It does get disheartening after a while, but I try not to think much about it.

    Just continue as normal, focus on the things I like and try to be as content as possible. Easier said then done I know, but it helps in keeping myself sane.

    And its an easy trap to fall into: “I cannot accept a compliment without assuming it’s just someone ‘being nice’.” Taking everything as a whole, this can get really poisonous really fast. I have gone through it as well and seen others go through it. Just try to maintain a positive outlook is all I can say 🙂

    /cheers
    Hopefully when I finally get to GD it will be a grand time and we can look back at this post and laugh at these worries.

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