Self-confidence - one’s attitude towards one’s own skills and abilities. Where you accept and trust yourself with the control over your life. You feel positive about yourself and know where your strengths and weaknesses lie. You welcome criticism and have a realistic view of who and where you are. Sound like you? Awesome. I applaud and admire you for genuinely knowing yourself. However, many of us struggle with this. Easy to say, but ever harder to do.
Growing up, I struggled a lot with my self-confidence. I was constantly told that I was not good enough regardless of what I did, constantly berated for my weaknesses, and told that I would never be as good as others. I was always being compared to my siblings or peers, and never really given the chance to demonstrate where my strengths were. This ultimately led me to distrust myself and my own abilities; never really knowing if I could do anything right. I always had to ask someone else’s opinions and trusted them more than I did myself.
It slowly affected the way I saw myself in the mirror; the way I presented myself, the way I walked and the way I talked. I felt like I had to somehow compensate for my supposed weaknesses and be someone I was not; be that perfect character that everyone told me I should be. As one could imagine, I didn’t feel like I had control over my life, my conscience or who I was as a person. Like a Build-A-Bear, it felt like I was a creation out of someone’s imagination, but that someone was not me.
In turn, it affected my grades at school, the relationships I had with my family, friends and most importantly the relationship I had with myself. I withdrew into my own head, lost motivation for the things that made me happy, and genuinely hated myself. I hated who I was, hated how I looked and hated who I had become. I was so unhappy, all I could see was grey.
I would be lying if I said that it no longer affects me today as a person and as a working professional. It still does to a good extent. I’ve just learned to manage it better, and realise that I don’t have to be perfect. All I have to do is to give and do the best I can with the resources I have, and know that nobody can knock me for giving it my all. Holding oneself to a high standard is good - it means that you are pushing yourself to be better than you were yesterday. But holding oneself to an unrealistically high standard is damaging, both physically and mentally. Although I still have days where all I want to do is curl up into a ball in bed and be a puddle of sad, I can say that I am better. Over the years, my journey to finding self love, confidence and patience hasn’t been easy; it never has and it never will be a smooth journey, but I’ve learned a lot along the way.
You’re not perfect. No one is.
Self-love and confidence starts with the realisation that you are not perfect. No one is, and no one will ever be. Screw what everyone else thinks. Only you have control over your life and how you live it, so put your own opinions first. The only opinion that matters is your own. That self-respect builds confidence within, and over time reflects outwards.
Your circle matters.
Surround yourself with people who build you up. These people will encourage you, push you and guide you along the way, but they will also not be afraid to tell you when you mess up. Like an anchor to a ship, these people keep you grounded and will always be there for you. That honesty from the outside, helps you develop honesty with yourself. You hold yourself accountable for the things you do, and you can set realistic goals for yourself to achieve. You know that only you can determine what your life is like, and that control is solely for you to keep. Finding these people in my life was hard, but when I did find them, they were there to stay. At work, I’m lucky to have a team at work that pushes me hard, and a supervisor who encourages me to trust myself. That encouragement helped me be a lot more confident in myself as a professional and as a person in general.
Trust yourself - you didn’t come this far just to come this far. Somewhere along the line, you did something right and you are here right now because of it. Once you believe that you are capable of great things and can be bigger than yourself, that trust will come naturally. Do I still struggle with this? Yes. Does it get better? Also yes. Consult with others if you have to, but go with what you feel is right and what your innate feelings are. Oftentimes, your instincts are right the first time around. At the end of the day, only you have control over where your life goes. Be the driver, not the passenger.
Patience is a virtue.
Finally, learn to be patient with yourself. Everyone moves at different paces and life is no race. It's okay to be at different points of life compared to your peers and it’s also okay to have different milestones altogether. But there is no reason not to celebrate them. Finished your degree? Celebrate. Managed to lead a whole project on your own with success? Celebrate. Starting college/university late but still doing great? Celebrate. Stop comparing yourself to others; no two people are truly alike. (If you have to compare, compare yourself with the person you were yesterday) It doesn’t matter if you take a while to get there, the journey is yours and yours only. Be patient with yourself and you will get there.
I still live with an anxiety disorder and some anxiety and panic attacks here and there. Do I still have a lot to learn? Yes. Life is a learning journey. But I am blessed, happy, healthy and have a roof over my head. I have a lot to be grateful for, and I know that it gets better.