Where does the confidence go?

You know what’s pushing my buttons at the moment?  Me.  I am.  There I go again, winding myself up and annoying myself royally.  So I stopped and asked myself, how, and why?

I started writing this post back in September 2015.  That’s a year ago.  A whole 12 months of occasionally dipping into it and not quite being able to write it or finish it.  And I think it’s because of the very reason I started writing the piece in the first place: my confidence is shot.  Gone.  Kaput.  It abandoned me: confidence don’t live here anymore.*

Last summer, I took my little Button-Pusher to a birthday party.  Mr B and I knew only the birthday boys’ parents, and as I walked into a crowded room of strangers, I realised that I was suddenly struck by a somewhat paralysing shyness.  I didn’t want to speak to anyone.  I tried not to make eye contact, I stayed close to where the children where playing, and I felt like I couldn’t chat to anyone in the room.  And it struck that my confidence had gone.

I did eventually chat to people of course, and those who I met were friendly and lovely, and we chatted with relative ease, mostly about that great common-denominator:  our kids.  But I think that may have been part of the initial issue:  other than talking about my daughter and children in general, I was worried that I had nothing else of interest to say.  That for some reason, now that I was a stay-at-home-mum, that I had nothing more to contribute to the conversation.  Somewhere along the way, some self-esteem had been killed off, like some red-shirted character in Star Trek, who joins the mission only to find themselves in potentially perilous and frequently fatal situations

I’m not alone in suffering this loss of confidence, and it always provides some comfort to learn that it’s a common new mum phenomenon.  And new mums often operate at 50%, and much of the time their buckets are empty.  But I did start to wonder: what is it doing to B-P?  She’s a little sponge right now, and is taking everything in.  Everything (note to self: mind your language mama!).  So that means not just things I say, but how I behave.  She’ll learn by example, she’ll watch how Mr B and I behave and act, how we talk to our friends and each other.  We’re the example.  So I realised that this mama needs to think about where that confidence has gone, get it back, and be more aware of what I’m teaching her in those moments.  

I made a start last month, when I went along to a Yes Mum Moon Club supper on my own.  I rarely do anything like that flying solo, and the thought of walking into a room full of strangers and have dinner with them, filled me with terror!  And wonder: how do those other mums do it?  How do they appear so confident and comfortable, and capable?!  It took me about a month and a half to book a ticket!  But I did it.  I went along, and I drank a glass (or two…) of fizz (thanks be for fizz!), and spent an evening meeting lovely new people, eating delicious food and chatting with relative ease.  And you know what:  I didn’t die of embarrassment and I had a really lovely time.  And that event led me to opening an email I’d been avoiding, that contained some constructive advice about my writing.  I had to remind myself that it wasn’t criticism, it was advice, and it was constructive.  It was there to help me.  And once again I didn’t die: I learned something.  Something useful.  It just took a bit of confidence to open the email.

I’m not “cured”.  I wasn’t an introvert yesterday and an extrovert today.  I don’t think life works like that does it?  It’s about the journey and how we navigate it.  It’s about small steps, and having the confidence to take them, the self-belief to think you’re doing ok, and the awareness to not compare yourself (unfavourably) to other people.  I read a quote last week, often attributed to Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”  Oscar, my dear, I couldn’t agree more.

*anyone spot the 80s song reference?  Having recently watched Stranger Things, and having been transported back to the decade of my formative youth, I am all about the 80s at the moment. 

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