I haven't worked in ten years, did you know that? I gave up my job as a supervisor in a bookstore in order to raise my eldest son. Which in time became my two boys. And for a million reasons, though it was always my intention to go back into paid employment, me going back to work never happened. There was a blip a couple years ago in which I thought it might happen ... but at the last hour everything fell apart with a shocking lack of childcare options available to me.
So... I kind of gave up. Figured that wasn't how my life was supposed to turn out just yet. I finished my university degree, I kept up with the blogging and booktubing. And I threw myself into the parts of my life that I could control. Me as a parent, me as a friend, me as a book blogger.
But you know, over time, being out of work, being a little ...isolated from that life, my confidence has seriously dwindled. When I did work, I was sure of myself. Of my abilities, of my strengths and weaknesses, the things I was good at, the things I could accomplish. I was a really good bookseller. Passionate, enthusiastic. And being a stay at home mother for so very long robbed me of those feelings.
And, actually, a lack of confidence is something I've struggled with my entire life. Events growing up, experiences that I had always made me feel this overwhelming lack of self-confidence. But I'm in my 30s now, and you know what? Things aren't the same anymore.
And this is what I realised. My confidence now? comes from many things. And I'm writing this post partially because I went for an interview this past week, thought I did really well in it and was emailed today to inform me that I hadn't made it to the next stage in the process. And that seriously bummed me out because I was so hopeful about it, so ready to get back into work. I wanted that job. I'd have been great at that job. But do you know what? I'll be just fine. Because little by little, my confidence grows. And I can take from this minor setback with more interview experience and also a little more hunger to change my life in this way. There will be other jobs that come my way, I'm sure of it.
So today, I thought I'd share some of the ways I've gotten to this point in terms of my self-confidence.
1) Surrounding myself with my people
This seems pretty obvious, but I've surrounded myself with great people. People who lift me up, who support me. Who help when things are tough and who celebrate with me when things are good. No more dead-weight from the friends who never bother, no more negativity from that friend who spends more of our interactions complaining at me, being negative about other people, about the world. I just decided that I don't have time anymore for anyone in my life who isn't real with me. I need people like that in my life, people who are my biggest cheerleaders but who are genuine about it. Good people.
2) Accepting myself
This was a hard one. I'm ... a little weird. I'm hugely sensitive, I'm imaginative, creative. I have this weird childlike wonder and excitability about me sometimes. I don't often like to throw in funny comments into situations if I'm not sure how they'll be taken. I used to not like to share my opinions or make decisions for the same reason. And now? why not? Mostly because I've realised that my friends and family have long ago accepted me for who I am, I may as well do the same and unleash my fun/weird personality on the world while I'm at it.
3) Reframe past experiences
Together with accepting myself I also have to accept the things that have happened to me, reframe those experiences and move on. You might not quite understand what I mean by that? But do you ever have one of those times where you say or do something in front of someone else and then beat yourself up about it forever afterwards? I do that all the time. Which is kind of a fun, light-hearted example of what I mean by 'reframing my past experiences' but I sat down very purposefully and went through old memories of things that had happened. And I look at them from a different, more adult perspective. And instead of putting the blame/guilt/whatever on myself, I've made those memories and experiences more positive in some way. So they don't feel so heavy. So they don't continue to hold me back in my current situations. I'm taking some of the things that helped shape my low self-confidence, removing them and trying to do better!
4) Doing something I'm good at
Doing something you're good at gives a boost of confidence in itself. Just knowing that you've put hard work into a thing, and your reward seems to be the ease that you do these things, maybe the recognition you get from it, just the overall level of productivity. Whatever it is, they're all good things. Can be tricky finding the right things that you're good at to put your energy into, but once you have? Sorted.
5) Surround myself with happy things
There's a little more to it than just 'surround myself with happy things' of course. Most of this one is actually ... put all the junk in my house in its own proper place so things aren't all in disarray and unorganised and cluttered. Because that sort of stuff just drags me down rather than anything else. But aside from that? Surround myself with happy things. I've tried for there to be something in each room of my house that makes me really smile to see it. It could be the colour of the walls, a piece of artwork, a blanket that I love. Something. It's a small thing, but it makes a huge impact for me.
6) Dress comfortably
There is so much to be said for going through your wardrobe and throwing out absolutely everything that is too small, too big, uncomfortable, ripped, faded, or just otherwise makes you unhappy when you wear it. Holy crap, I felt so much relief when I did that. And for years I'd always had in the back of my head this idea that I'd wear nothing but dresses and skirts all year-long. I now have over 30 dresses alone and it makes me absolutely happy every single day that I put on one of my pretty, happy dresses. And now that I've organised my closet so nicely too. I love organising and tidying things. So very happy-making.
7) Stay on top of my mental health
I've struggled off and on with depression since I was an early teenager. And I feel I'm quite high-functioning with my anxiety. And like anyone, I need a little help sometimes pulling through the more challenging elements of my life, of my brain. So I stick to a fairly rigid routine to help along a positive mental health. This includes sleeping well, eating regular meals, exercising, being creative, meditating, talking with other people. I have a pretty great self-care system in place. One that works for me and for the dips that I face on a fairly regular basis.
8) Try new things
Something that gets me going is constantly changing my interests, trying out new projects. Finding out what other things I'm good at, that I might enjoy doing. This has included so many different things lately. Dabbling in artwork, clothing, balloon animals, learning Spanish. And I feel like it's ME that is the constant project. But I also like that too. I like the possibility of always trying new things, of evolving into a different person with all sorts of different experiences and interests. This makes me happy. It might not make everyone happy, but it works for me! I just like ... that nothing is closed off. I am open to these possibilities.
9) Me time
Over the years, I've been able to pretty accurately work out who I am. And who I am is a very highly sensitive, introverted, shy person. And because of all three of these things, it requires me to spend a lot of time on my own, recuperating from all the things in life that make things harder or more challenging for me. And I need some time alone, just for myself. To sort stuff out in my head, to calm down, to find myself again in a world filled with noise and other distractions. I can do this in any number of ways ... me with my laptop, writing, like I'm doing right now. Me with a book in a quiet room. Soaking in the bath. Me on a chair, meditating. Going for a run, a walk in the forest. Whichever way I feel like getting some alone time in. Whatever works.
10) The right attitude
I think I just got to a point in my life where I thought to myself 'why aren't I my biggest cheerleader? why are so many other people and not myself?' and that has sort of been the impetus for this whole change in myself. And I think it can be difficult to pull off positive affirmations in the mirror or combating really negative past experiences without that realisation. So, while everything is still a work in progress, I feel like I'm at least moving in the right direction...
I mean, this isn't the limit on the things I do to boost my confidence, to feel better about myself. When I walk, I listen to kick-ass music. I read self-help articles that make me feel good, I've stopped putting things off, I'm more productive, and organised.
I'm just ... happier these days. More confident. And that's definitely a good thing.