Honest to blog: Losing confidence

Prior to moving to my current workplace, which was back in 2006, I was a very different person to the one I am now.  I had almost no confidence, had frequent anxiety attacks and was a bag of nerves and worries.  The way I overcame my lack of confidence in new or uncomfortable situations was to plan things to the tiniest degree, anticipating every detail so that nothing was unexpected.  I remember losing sleep one night because I had to go to Boots the next day to buy make-up and camera film and they were on two different floors and I didn't know if I would have to buy them separately or if I could go up to the first floor and pay all together.  These were the sorts of challenges that would lead to crises of confidence and my mind running in circles.  I remember being at the till in Topshop once and knocking a cardboard sign over with my handbag - I can still remember the disparaging look the uber-cool shop assistant gave me.  She probably forgot the incident almost immediately, but I had to go home I was so mortified, seeing it only as confirmation  that I was somehow not built to do all the every day things that most people found simple and I found petrifying.  At the time I had a cocky, confident boyfriend and I leaned on him for everything - he would be the one to make phonecalls, ask for things in shops, find the way if we were going somewhere, and generally take charge of situations.  We broke up because when we were on holidays from University (e.g. in the long break between May and October) I was too nervous to get the train from Southampton to Hemel Hempstead (where he lived) to see him.  It seemed like a huge, unconquerable task, akin to travelling to the other side of the world for me.  Losing out of things because of a lack of confidence was a frequent theme for me.  When I was hunting for my first flat my Mum told me that if I was old enough to buy a property I was old enough to go into the estate agents and ask what they had available, and I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  I was convinced everyone was constantly looking at me and thinking I was an idiot and so I minimised contact with strangers in case I didn't say, or do the right thing.  I always felt a little bit like there was this 'normal' way to behave that I'd somehow missed the memo on, like maybe I was off sick on the day they taught that in school.  I'd constantly overanalyse my thoughts and actions, with my most common thought being "Am I being weird?" or "Does everyone think I'm an idiot?"
img credit: gemma correll
Moving to my currently workplace in 2006 transformed me because it put me in situations I was uncomfortable with, or scared of, so frequently that they became second nature to me.  It gave me that positive reinforcement that I could do things, and the outcome was fine, or successful even.  Even being in an Admin role (my first job) put me in lots of situations I hadn't been in before and built my confidence in meeting new people, being assertive, networking and selling myself.  When I moved to the Press Office it was huge challenges all over again - being sent on trains and planes to meetings all around the country, representing our organisation at exercises, groups and meetings and having to deliver presentations.  Not to mention talking to journalists and TV companies and having to single-handedly deal with major incidents in the middle of the night whilst in my PJs.  I learned a million things during this time but the biggest lesson I learned is that with a bit of practice and a lot of exposure to it, you are capable of doing almost anything.

I've moved jobs twice since then and I stopped doing out-of-hours Press Office work last September.  My job now is much more routine and anticipatable, albeit I now have new challenges like I have to design and deliver training and faciliate workshops.  But for the most part, I've allowed myself to move back into a comfortable space.  90% of the time I can hide in my cosy office and my calendar is free of meetings and weeks away.  My capabilities in unknown situations are not being used.  They are gathering dust.

I noticed this with great clarity a couple of weeks ago when I had to travel to London for a two-day course and then go on to the AX Paris event afterwards.  I began going back into my old ways of meticulous planning to avoid awkward or uncomfortable situations.  I declined to do something on the Sunday before I was leaving because I felt like I needed to dedicate time to packing and making sure I had everything ready. The old me would have just done it the night before.  No biggie.  I got myself worked up about where I'd get changed and where I'd leave my suitcase.  Arriving in London on the Monday afternoon I mentally chastised myself for not pressing the 'doors open' button immediately when the train arrived at the station (what an amateur faux-Londoner - someone else had to do it for me) and then got all worked up, gripping my paper Google Maps printout in my sweaty palm and negotiating through crowds trying to find my hotel.  When I closed the hotel room door behind me I literally collapsed into a heap and wanted to hide there forever.  

img credit: anxiety cat
Part of the training I do where I work is in self-awareness - i.e. becoming more aware of your behaviours, values, personality, strengths, weaknesses and so on, and how you're perceived by others.  I guess I try and practice what I preach and tend to try and be self-aware, as well as being quite an analytical person, so this regression into some of my old ways hasn't slipped under my personal radar unnoticed.  

I think that part of the reason is that my priorities and goals have changed.  A few years ago when I was working in the Press Office my aim was to move to London, work in Press/PR and be one of those people who goes to art galleries, drinks wine al fresco on summer evenings and knows when to press the 'doors open' button.  Then I met Tom, for whom the idea of being in London for longer than a day is his worst nightmare, and we made the decision eventually to live by the sea (and the forest), get a little dog and continue working for the same organisation.  And so, when I'm sent away for events or training these days it's not a taste of what I want my life to be, it's time away from my lovely home, boyfriend and woofer.  Life has become easy and comfortable, and challenges and unexpected events seem larger by comparison.

I don't quite know how to finish this post because I don't know what the answer is.  Do I push myself into unfamiliar situations to train myself back to being uber-confident, or do I enjoy the solace of the space I've created for myself?  Do I recognise that what I like is the 'simple things' in life, or am I just copping out and convincing myself of that so I don't have to do the tough stuff?

For now I am going to be grateful for the achievements I have made and for the person I have turned into.  And also grateful that I have found something so special to me that it is now hard and out-of-sorts to leave it behind.  I recently found a list of aids for building self-esteem when I was doing some research on assertiveness for work and it really resonated with me so I'm going to end by sharing that.  I'm not sure I necessarily agree with 1 unless that's the source of your anxiety, but I like the others.

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  1. This is just lovely. Well, not lovely - but so honest and well written, well done!

    I don't think I've ever actually suffered from anxiety, but just confusion. I so know what you mean about picturing your life as something different and better. I stress myself out so often about not being "there" yet. Is so nice to see you happy. :)

  2. Anxiety does make you feel abnormal, I feel I get it worse as I get older! I get it when I have to go away for long periods, such as a long day out or holidays. I worry about the house, our cat, if I've turned things off, if I've locked everything, etc etc etc! x

  3. I completely empathise with this, although I'm finding that I get more anxious these days. When I was a footloose, fancy-free 18 year old (and older, admittedly) I was up for all sorts of spontaneity, meeting all sorts of people and coming home at all sorts of hours. In 2011, I met my (now ex) boyfriend and settled down a lot (and got my job in London) - having more structure meant my spontaneity decreased and I became a different person. Now I'm a singleton again, I've noticed that I relied on being in a relationship a little too much and I find some of the most banal situations a little disconcerting - I'm working on getting back to being that fancy-free, confident person but I think it is something that's never really talked about, as if it's deemed a weakness, you know?

    Glad things are great for you!

  4. I completely get this. I used to get so panicked. My big thing was talking on the phone (I can stutter and stumble alot when nervous) and going to places with new people, and like you, it was my first job that really gave me no choice but to get on with it. And, like you, my current job doesnt use the 'go into a room of people you dont know and talk properly with confidence' skills as much. Its so easy to slip back into the panicks again isn't it? But reading this I'd say don't be too hard on yourself- by doing those events and meet ups, by saying yes to the things that make you feel scared, you're still working on it. You're not letting it overcome you and taking advantage of opportunities coming your way. And don't feel guilty for enjoying the comforts of your life either- you don't have to push the boundaries all the time! It sounds like you're doing all you need :)

  5. What an interesting post,rosie.I'm the same as you in that I work on assertiveness and self awareness with clients so it makes me aware of when mine slips.I've recently had a slight shift in opinion re outside comfort zones,I've started to recognize when it is good to step out of it and when it isn't,by quickly analysing what the activity is,why I'm thinking of doing it and weighing up the benefits of doing it,it helps me choose when it's right for me to and when it isn't.for example,going to a conference on a topic I have an interest/could further my career is worth the uncertainty.going on a social event with people who make me feel unhappy,not worth it.this then allows me to use the right strategies to get through the tough things,because the outcome is worth it.I hope you find your happy place,that feels right for you.xxx

  6. I have some of the very same issues. I never thought of them as anxiety before, how silly is that! I have a silly phone phobia. Have never really got over that one. And the whole which till should I pay at in Boots thing would have totally happened to me. When Ben is away with work I obviously do everything myself, but I revert a little when he is around as he automatically does stuff. I try and make an effort to book a taxi etc. just so I don't lose that confidence.

    You're dealing with it in the right way, so don't worry too much. I bet loads more people than you would expect can relate to you.

    Jen | sunny sweet pea xx

  7. Great post Rosie. I have very similar problems though not quite to that extreme.
    Give me familiar surroundings and my friends I'm the most outgoing person who oozes confidence. Give me strangers and unfamiliar surroundings and I'm a wreck and think everyone is judging me, even babies in pushchairs!
    Forcing myself to go to blogger meets has helped me, I'm still nervous around new people but I will go in the shop on my own without whinging. Only certain shops though, for example I still think they judge me in clothes shops! Xx

  8. Oh Rosie,
    I want to give you the biggest hug ever you little softie you. I think the thing with life is, is that we get too comfortable in what we are capable of. It happens not only for jobs, or routine, but also relationships. I don't feel that we do always push ourselves... but then why should we? We're always fairly happy with day to day right? But then sometimes we're not, yet everyday is still the same as every other day, so it's like, well what's the difference?!
    I think that everyone has this kinda 'fear' around people, because we're always so critical about ourself, and always so ready to put ourselves down thinking that they won't like us for whatever reason, when actually, they're probably thinking the same too.. I know I do this, yet still can't get my head around it!
    I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, but Rosiebumbum remember that you're not alone, everybody feels like this, but maybe they're just not showing it?! Most importantly (I feel I've gone way off topic!) if you're happy with your life, then why not just embrace it and enjoy it.. Because you certainly have a scrummy dog, a cute boyfriend, a pretty nice house and a good job, and a cracking wardrobe and face and figure, so if you're happy, then that's all that matters. And if you want to change things, then only you can.. And regardless of that, we'll all still be here waiting for you if ever you need someone to give you that extra push, or support you with things, or even just tell you that you've got a pretty good life :)
    much love my beautiful little peaaa xxx

  9. Thank you for the post, Rosie. It's great to think that other people suffer from anxiety to the extent of worrying about seemingly pointless things. Like you, I feel I have regressed in my confidence issues. I was painfully shy and anxious back when I was a teenager, but being flung into a demanding job after uni meant I gained lots of confidence and found myself less anxious about things. However, since leaving my job in December to run my own business, I've gone back to the reclusive, shy person I once was. Having no human interaction during the day has been really detrimental to my anxiety issue and I find myself worrying about silly things again (going to the Post Office, supermarket etc!). I'm questioning whether I should put myself in uncomfortable situations to build up my confidence again but I'm not sure what to do either! Thank you for sharing your experiences :) x

  10. I've always felt like this! I used to assume that it was because I'm young and if I ever made a mistake at work I used to tell myself that it was okay because I was only 19. Now that I'm 25, the feelings haven't disappeared and I'm not sure they ever will. Going to blogger meets is one of my worst nightmares - but I can't stop myself from saying yes. It's literally one of the only things I get super stressed about these days. In a way, being a freelancer has made it worse because it means I can sit happily at home on my computer and not see anyone but my husband for days on end - which is actually quite nice but not very challenging. The thought of going to a 'Women in Business' meeting or some other kind of business networking event makes me break out in a sweat just thinking about it - which is really damaging to my income stream! Some days I'm fine and I just tell myself I need to 'man up' but other days I just want to lay on the sofa staring out the window at the trees.
    I think a lot of people probably feel like this and I agree with Laura above that we shouldn't too hard on ourselves. No one really knows the right answers and no one is perfect. And I'm pretty sure that reading blogs is making me worse. Everyone seems so in control of their lives and going in the right direction and doing all the things they love and I'm always surprised when bloggers suddenly write posts declaring that they suffer from severe anxiety etc because it seems so unfathomable from how they come across on their blog. And Facebook doesn't help with people editing their lives to only show the good.
    Oh I don't know. I don't know the answer either I'm afraid. But if I find it, I'll let you know!

  11. Rosie this is so brilliant. I can recognise myself SO much in this. I'm definitely a lot better than I used to be- I remember at 15 when I was asked to make a phone call, I literally sat, frozen, completely unable to do anything, for about 30 minutes with tears rolling down my face. I think being with my now-ex helped a lot- I had to fly between the UK and France/ the Channel Islands alone a LOT and it made me feel great knowing how to cope with that situation. And changing jobs has also helped. I still panic when I have to make phone calls, and I still fret hugely about what people think of me, and am terrified of making a mistake, but I am so much better than I used to be. I think it is all about balance- definitely do what makes you happy, but sometimes I find pushing myself outside of my comfort zone makes me feel AMAZING. xxx

  12. That was such a great post to read. I think having the confidence to write something so personal - and on a subject like anxiety which a lot of people still don't really talk about - is absolutely amazing. I can be quite bad with anxiety and, to this day, having a panic attack is the worst experience I've ever had. I'd never wish that on anyone. You should definitely be proud of everything you've achieved because it sounds like you've come a really long way xx


  13. This is a great post and I see where you're coming from. It's amazing how far you've come and how your job changed you, I really admire your courage and openness. I don't think there's something wrong with admitting you like a quieter life, it's not copping out and by the sounds of it you've gone through your share of tough stuff! I think through social media we are mislead with how we should be leading our lives, no one is perfect and there aren't any right answers or rule for this sort of thing, do what feels good and right for you and the rest will follow!
    Nina from little nomad

  14. Rosie, this is such an honest post. I wanna hug you! Anxiety is such a huge issue, it's reason I have failed to attend any blogger meets since starting my blog. I just don't want to disappoint anyone with my actual face. I lived the London life, and then opted for the man, dog and country side option too. It has meant I have become less spontaneous, but I feel so much better than I did. I was not nice person in London. Well done with pushing yourself. I am going to start saying yes this year. Yes to blogger events...if anyone will have me!

  15. So much love for this post; and I can relate so much of it to myself too <3 xx

  16. Lovely post Rosie - I find almost every situation awkward, and while I used to get really embarassed my way of dealing with it now is just to laugh. So true though, exercise is really important!

    Trisha x

  17. It seems to me like you have achieved a lot and you have managed to cope well with your anxiety issues. I also suffer from anxiety and it manifests itself in teeth grinding and jaw clenching (to the point that I have to wear an attractive mouth guard to bed).I live in Glasgow and there is only so much of London that I can take as well. As long as you continue not to let your worries hold you back then you're doing great!

  18. Thank you for sharing this. I go through similar situations. I have anxiety issues & when it gets really bad - I cannot leave my house otherwise I'm paranoid. When shopping I always felt like people were staring or judging. And then a good friend said that is what every woman is thinking .. And that helped me a bit! I hope it helps you. Always do what's comfortable but in your gut if you know you might be comfortable by the change - that's good too! Good luck! And remember to breathe!

  19. Hi Rosie,

    Particularly related to the self awareness part of this, 'Part of the training I do where I work is in self-awareness - i.e. becoming more aware of your behaviours, values, personality, strengths, weaknesses and so on, and how you're perceived by others. I guess I try and practice what I preach and tend to try and be self-aware, as well as being quite an analytical person, so this regression into some of my old ways hasn't slipped under my personal radar unnoticed.'

    I'm really self analytical but i think being self aware is a good thing too and your training sounds great.
    You've clearly come a long way too and achieved a lot, I wouldn't worry about being comfortable and happy,- at least you know you can deal with anything that might come your way and going through those kind of intense experiences means you can help others get through the same. (from the looks of these comments, just writing about it and sharing your experiences is helping others)

    Pleasure to read something so honest.

    April x

  20. I really related to this too Rosie. I don't think that my nerves and worries extend to anxiety, but I am very much a nervous person when in public. Sometimes it gets worse when I'm around groups of people because I worry that people are judging me - probably from years of bullying, etc. But I do agree that there's an odd pressure on twenty somethings to 'be in London' and to be doing all of these amazing things, and I often find myself questioning it all. My best friends and boyfriend often comment on my double life, because once the work day is over, I adore nothing more than sitting with my book on the train, settling with a cup of tea and enjoying my own company all evening! (That sounds... dodgy...!) Especially with blogging and the events spectrum, I often feel overwhelmed by everything and wonder why it is seen as odd that you wouldn't grab every chance. I think it's really lovely that you've come such a long way, balanced out your 'situation' and have reached a comfortable in-between. I'm still battling out with my wanderlust tendencies whilst knowing that city life just isn't for me. xx

  21. What a lovely and honest post. I think we all have our own issues that creep up and try and combat us!! I like to re-read the Dalai Lama's 18 rules for living when I'm feeling lost or stressed, they really help me to get my focus back:
    The Dalai Lama’s 18 Rules for Living

    1.Take into account that great love & great achievements involve great risk.
    2.When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
    3.Follow the three Rs: -Respect for self -Respect for others -Responsibility for all your actions.
    4.Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
    5.Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
    6.Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
    7.When you realize you have made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
    8.Spend some time alone every day.
    9.Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
    10.Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
    11.Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older & think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
    12.A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
    13.In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
    14.Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
    15.Be gentle with the earth.
    16.Once a year, go someplace you have never been before.
    17.Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
    18.Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

  22. Thank you for sharing this! I can very much relate to a lot of the things you mentioned, I put most of my social situation niggles down to being shy. I'm no where near as bad as I used to be, I remember refusing to even answer my name on the register in Primary School because I didn't want to be the only one talking haha. This got better as I got older but I still got that nervous feeling when I knew my name was going to be called, even when I got to senior school. I still struggle with phone calls, I have to really prepare everything and think about all the questions they may ask me ahead of time and if they ask something unexpected I get flustered really easily and just want to put the phone down. I've tried SO hard not to be so shy, but in recent months I've accepted that it's part of who I am. I'll never be the person that speaks up, preferring to listen instead. And I'm okay with that, as long as it doesn't stop me doing the things I really want to do.

    I enjoy spending time at home. I don't really have anyone I would consider a friend here, and although sometimes I wish I did have someone to go out for a coffee or something with, I'm mostly okay. If I find someone I really click with then great, but if not, it's not the end of the world. I have my family, Mark and his family so I'm never lonely. I've also had time to really think though what I would like to do and I'm finally brave enough to give this photography thing a real go. I'm setting up a little (sort of) studio at home and I'm going to see what happens.

    I think as long as you're happy, that's all that matters. If you want to push yourself then that's no bad thing, if you want to enjoy time in your safe place, that's okay too. <3

    Jennie xo | sailorjennie.com

  23. I feel like I can relate so much. I'm 20 yet I still get my mum to make important phone calls for me because I'm too scared to actually talk to someone. I see myself working in London in some fancy job, but then I find myself too scared and anxious to actually put myself up for opportunities etc etc. Only yesterday I found myself panicking over how I was going to have time to get home from work, go out for dinner, and then make it to somewhere else straight after. It's silly because it's little things that make me worry, yet I find myself doing it a lot. Like you said, I don't really know what the answer is, but this post was great and so honest :) x

  24. I have no words to do this post justice, I relate a LOT though x

  25. I can relate to this post so much. I have always had major confidence issues and ever since I was a little girl I have been painfully shy. So much so that I would refuse to speak to anyone who I didn't know. This lasted most of my childhood, and as a teenager I went through a lot of upset and depression, so my confidence suffered again.

    Normal everyday life does throw up problems for me - though I have got better, I still find it dificult to strike up a conversation with strangers (postman, hairdresser, dentist etc). I struggle with job interviews and any nerve-wracking situation, because I simply cannot speak without some sort of pre-conversation planned in my mind.

    At Norbury Manor I was quiet in the group situations, I remember sitting round the table at dinner and wanting to speak up - but not being able to (which I know is really silly), but I do have a huge part of confidence missing.

    One day, I hope something pushes me to really speak up and not have so many woes and doubts. This has inspired me that it is possible to achieve - and do the things that everybody else seems to find easy. xxx

  26. Very interesting Rosie. Well done for being so honest.

    It's very difficult for any manager to completely understand both how to get the best out of their (new) employee by providing them with the space to bloom and progress, and conversely actively encouraging them to try new things, new spaces, new challenges in order to broaden their horizons.

    The problem with management today is that its (mostly) still self taught and certainly in England, but with notable exceptions, completely rubbish. You can either manage or you can't.

    I think the art of encouraging someone to do well is to try and encourage them to be as open and as honest as you have been and see where your strengths will take you, both in work and life. Nothing has pleased me more that to see people I have managed leave. To go on to other successful challenges and jobs knowing they are having fun and learning all the while.

    We all lead long lives generally these days and what might suit you now, may become predictable in a few years time and you may seek further challenges.

    As that 1927 poem says.."Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time..."

    Stay well


    Mark C

  27. You are very brave to write this post, I've always had similar problems to you, I hate talking on the phone, even to people that I know, I never would've gone on a train or anything longer than a small bus journey by myself, the train button thing is something I've done! But as I've got older I've got a lot better and more confident, I've always just put it down to being shy so I think I'll look into anxiety more.

    I've saved that list and I'm going to print it out and stick it up somewhere :)

    Thank you for this :) xx

    Lucy Loves To Blog

  28. Thank you so much for posting this, it's just what I needed to read. I've suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember and a lot of the time I can't leave the house alone. I've just got back from a holiday with my boyfriend and while I was there something just clicked that my behaviour isn't normal and that I really need to do something about it. I find it really inspiring to hear how much your anxiety has improved and those self-esteem boosters seem like great ideas!

  29. How refreshing to know that so many people out there share such similarities with myself. People who don't suffer with any forms of anxiety find it very difficult to even try to understand these difficulties, and at times express anxieties such as these as being ridiculous. Well that doesn't help us does it?!?!
    Thanks for your honesty on this very personal subject. It is posts like these that encourages me and others to continue battling on and conquering those mini meltdown demons!

    Faye x


  30. I really empathise with this as I currently live abroad with my husband, and when I arrived here things really started off on the wrong foot, knocking my confidence and making me want to hide away. I had difficulty forging genuine friendships and was treated unfairly and hurtfully by the people I'd assumed would be my support network, and it really tore me down. I think the fact that I'm in a foreign country and have to communicate in a foreign language doesn't help, but I avoid speaking to anyone in public if I'm out on my own, and always turn down any invitations I might receive. I go into full-on panic mode whenever there is mention of seeing my husband's family (my biggest trigger, as this is where the problems began) and pretty much stay at home on my own all the time. I've always felt that I'm perceived as a bit of an alien here, as being a foreigner in a small town in the middle of nowhere means you get a lot of stares and questions, when sometimes you just want to blend in. I've also felt that I've been constantly seen to be 'in the wrong' about countless issues, when really it's just because of the massive cultural difference. To be honest though, I still think of the real me as being the person I was back home, where I was fun, outgoing and highly sociable, with lots of friends and a fun schedule - I like to think that it's just situational, and after nearly five years I'm finally moving home this summer, so I can't wait to hopefully reclaim the old me. I hope you get to reclaim the old you, too, as any kind of anxiety can be quite debilitating in one way or another.
    Mel xx


  31. I can really relate to this post, I am MASSIVELY shy until I know people (then you can't shut me up!) and my confidence is still quite low. I am trying to push myself with work but social situations still make me very nervous.

    When I met you, I was amazed at how cool, calm and collected you were, you seem very confident so maybe it is only you who notices?

    Maria xxx


Thank you in advance for your lovely comments, they mean the world to me! If you have a question or want to get in touch, tweet me at @rosieoutlook.