I have a confession; I love Julie Andrews. This largely stems from watching her in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, but was probably cemented when I was a young teen and the film of The Princess Diaries was released. I wanted Julie to by my nanny or grandma, like the children in the films. She always seemed so plucky, smart and organised; she was my idol. Asking “what would Julie do?” in difficult situations became a long-standing joke between me and my best friend as she already thought I was a mini Julie in the making. When I was feeling sad in the rain or anxious I would sing ‘These Are a Few of my Favourite Things’ to myself under my breath. When walking to a job interview I would sing ‘I Have Confidence’ from The Sound of Music in a similar private whisper. I know that sounds ridiculously sad but it helped. In those films Julie was always thrown in at the deep end but she gritted her teeth and got on with it, faking her confidence until she felt it for real.
Confidence is something I’ve been lacking in life, always the worrier, the pleaser, the doormat. Anxiety type is one of the psychological subtypes that are often prevalent in people who develop M.E. because high levels of anxiety for a prolonged period of time will eventually cause your body to crash. I’ve managed to work on my confidence over the past 5 years since going into the world of work as a secretary. I started out being sat in my office terrified to make a phone call, but over time I found my fear melt away and I was able to talk to people more easily. A lack of confidence affects every aspect of your life from work to relationships (I’ve never managed to make the first move!). The more you let it control you the more frustrated at yourself you get, it gets depressing and you get tired of pushing yourself. At the clinic we learnt how to stop unhelpful thoughts. One way is just to shout “f*** off” at them, don’t engage just rage. Another is called The Stop Process where you tell yourself to stop, take a few deep breaths and ground yourself, then reflect on what would happen if you carried on thinking in that negative way. Next you decide on a more helpful path i.e. “If I believe that person is ignoring me then I’m going to feel terrible, instead I could choose to believe that there is no reason why they should be ignoring me and I should distract myself by doing something nice instead.” At this point you can also think about how a confident person walks, talks and stands. Fake it until you make it like Julie. Then you praise yourself (very important, we don’t praise ourselves enough) and check back in to see how you’re feeling after doing the process.
Whilst the techniques I’ve learned at the clinic have helped me to become more confident and less anxious, there are still days when I don’t feel like this at all. Days where I can’t make any decisions, where I want to hide in bed watching Netflix until a better day comes along. Days where I can’t even bring myself to do the techniques that’d help. In my last blog post I wrote about being crippled by fear of failure, this is very similar although the focus is not so much on failure but on low self-esteem. On these days everything seems pointless because I don’t feel I am good enough to do anything or be anything to anyone. I had been stuck in this rut for the past three days, struggling to even do my Stop Process, only able to write incoherent thoughts down to help myself. My best friend checked in on me and I explained how I’d been feeling. She told me to imagine putting my nasty feelings in a box and placing an elephant on top so they can’t get out, which I liked. I told her that I have confident thoughts all the time but that I decide I’m too scared to do them. I’m constantly imaging scenarios in which I’m confident and amazing but I never enact them in real life. She said that I will become confident by doing those confident things, ‘a fisherman isn’t a fisherman until he catches a fish’. She said I just have to face my fear and do it anyway because it’s a shame to live half a life. She said ‘if it goes wrong you will do a sad and after that you will stop doing a sad and return to being a bomb-ass biatch and an excellent human being’ (yes, she is amazing and I’m pretty sure that’s what Julie would have advised). I half did the thing I was scared of doing, but I’m going to keep working on it, keep experimenting with facing my fears and being the confident person that’s been trying to get out for years. I’m certain that giving myself permission to be more authentic is one of the keys to my recovery from M.E.
Do you find a lack of confidence holding you back from being your authentic self?
What one fear could you try and face this week?
Imagine a confident person, how do they stand, walk and talk? Try acting this out in front of a mirror.
You can listen to the magnificent Julie sing about confidence here…
Picture credit: http://unaffiliatedcritic.com/2011/08/the-sound-of-music-1965-2/