Let’s be clear here; I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where my ego doesn’t take at least a little bit of a dent. You know, those little everyday knocks to your confidence. Bad hair days, bad skin days. Those moments when you can’t seem to get your words out straight without spitting them all over someone (“Hey, I asked for the news not the weather!”). Days when you walk down the street and end up tripping over your own shoes (come on, we’ve all done that little over the shoulder look to blame an invisible crack in the pavement – “I was framed! I’m not just a complete and utter prat!”). Those times when you just get it wrong; whether it’s an outfit, an answer to an important question or a telephone number (oh the horror). I mean, that’s life right? We all need taking down a peg or two from time to time; it’s those little knocks that remind us that we’re not actually walking Gods but snorting, spitting, “whoops I slipped up!” humans. Who knew!
But in terms of overall self esteem those are just little bumps and bruises, aren’t they? No biggie. A bit of a knock or a graze that can be sorted with a bit of Sudocrem from your emotional first aid kit by way of having a good old chuckle over the fact that we’re all capable of being a bit of an idiot from time to time.
But then there are those times when someone or something throws your ego a suckerpunch. One you didn’t see coming. The kind that knocks you flat on your back and leaves a little bit more than just a couple of bruises. Something breaks and you need a bit of time to recover. Maybe you even step of the ring for a while, and when you do come back you can’t escape the fact that you’re different – altered in some way. More skittish, more likely to duck out before you get hit or maybe you’ve learned how to punch back. Okay, I’m going to ease up on the boxing metaphor now – I’m getting carried away! What I guess I’m trying to say is that no matter how much it hurts at the time, it’s only through moments that shake our confidence right to the core that we find out what we’re really made of – and who we really are and want to be. Here are four of mine. 🙂
That time a famous Children’s Author told me to “Go Away”
Yep, you read that right. Back when I worked in a High School supporting English lessons it wasn’t that unusual for authors to come visit and read to the kids, and some pretty big names passed through. During one of those visits the teacher I was working with asked me to do a little bit of essay marking for her during the reading; it was coming up to reports time and she was absolutely swamped. So, “sure” I said and went to sit at the back of the crowd where I got out my green pen (apparently red’s seen as too negative these days) and started marking. The author got maybe a paragraph into his reading when he suddenly stopped and shouted, “Uh, the woman sitting at the back with the glasses and snot-coloured top. If you’re going to insist on scribbling through my reading, I’m going to have to ask you go away and scribble somewhere else.”
Oh man. I’m furious just thinking about it. If the same thing happened to me today, I’d have absolutely no problem punching back at someone like that. In fact, I’d enjoy it. But back then, I just couldn’t. I felt small every single day because I hated my job, and the way he’d treated me made me feel even smaller. Practically microscopic. He’d humiliated me in front of the people I worked with and worse, my students – who never let me live it down. Had it been rude of me to sit there marking while he read? Maybe. But was I – little old me with the messy, mousy hair, glasses and snot-coloured top – SO distracting, SO offensive that he couldn’t even concentrate on the simple task of reading a book out loud? Would he have spoken to me like that if I was a man? I doubt it. The truth is that Mr Successful Children’s Author had felt the need to pump up his already bloated ego by deflating mine. I’m sure he forgot about me the minute I walked away, but I didn’t.
That time I flunked my A-Levels
Okay, maybe flunked isn’t the right word because the truth is, I didn’t really flunk my A Levels. I did absolutely fine, the problem was that fine wasn’t quite good enough to get me into my top choice of university… or my back up. The day before I picked up my results the plan had been to go to Cardiff University to study History. Well, that plan went tits up – spectacularly. I was absolutely devastated. I felt like I’d let everyone down, including myself. The truth was – and I think I knew it deep down at the time – that I just hadn’t worked hard enough. I’d gotten sloppy. I’d overestimated myself, and it was tough coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t quite as good as I thought I was. My confidence took a savage hit. But hey, it all worked out in the end. I went through clearing and got a place at Swansea University instead. In the end it was good for me to get out of my home town and out of my comfort zone, and I had such a blast that I stayed on for another year with the guy I was really into at the time (…and still am, reader, I married him 😉 ) to study the other big love of my life; Creative Writing.
That time my hair started falling out
I used to have really long hair. I mean it was always quite fine, but I had a lot of it and it used to grow really fast. I used to steer clear of the hair dressers and didn’t really need to bother caring for it. I brushed it, I washed it and that was about it. Then during my twenties, everything changed. It became very dry, very brittle and even started falling out in massive chunks. My confidence took a nosedive. I stopped wearing my hair down and felt really bad about myself and how I looked. In the end, I had to get it all chopped off just to take back some kind of control over it. Nowadays I never take my hair forgranted! I get it trimmed regularly and take care of what I’ve got. It’s not perfect by any means, but these days I put in the work to keep it on my head! (If you’re interested in reading more about how I got my hair back, I wrote a whole post about it here).
That time I was called a liar during an interview
Oh the shame. This happened during one of my first interviews after graduating . I was so excited to have finished university and felt fairly optimistic about getting out there and finding a job I loved, although the truth was that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I was entertaining the idea of moving to London and was looking at jobs in marketing and publishing. I managed to bag an interview for a job in sales with a big marketing firm in the middle of London and went in feeling super confident. But it all went south during the interview. I don’t know whether I was nervous or got a bit tongue tied, but the man who was interviewing me smirked the entire way through. At the end he raised his eyebrows, scoffed and then said, “Sorry love, I don’t believe a single word of what you just said.” I can’t remember what I did or said next – I must of repressed it – because I was absolutely mortified! I couldn’t get out of that room quick enough! It was a good few months before I felt ready to go on another interview, and I didn’t apply for another job in sales after that. Good thing too, I’d have been bloody awful at it!
How do you cope when your confidence takes a hit? 🙂