Why do I have a problem with being proud of myself?

by Maddie

Okay, so am I just having a confidence crisis – or are ALL of us suffering with a collective self-belief drought? I’ve always had a problem with being proud of myself. It’s an all-round pile of shit, because it stops me from going for opportunities, putting myself out there as much, and it leads to insecurities in relationships and friendships that literally are. not. there. Basically, I’m queen of creating problems for myself. So for this post, I’ve donned my power suit in an attempt to feign confidence, and I’m going to expose all my flaws xoxoxo

I reached out on Instagram and asked you lot if you struggled with your confidence and self-belief, too. Or, if I was just an alien who needs to get their shit together. Comfortingly (and worryingly) lots of you feel exactly the same as me. So, why do we have a problem with being proud of ourselves? Of putting ourselves out there? Of having confidence, or God forbid, just a bloody bit of self-belief?!

I think it starts with understanding the fundamental difference between confidence and self-belief. Then, we need to get open and honest with talking about our insecurities. And finally, we then need to find some solutions to the problems we’re encountering.

To me, confidence is this:

It’s being comfortable in who you are – and, crucially, owning it! Feeling secure in all the little quirks and abnormalities that make you ‘you’. It’s about seeing an opportunity and thinking, ‘Yes, that’s a bit of me – I can do this!’ and it’s about feeling secure and in your element, to an extent, when you’re in social settings and beyond.

And to me, self-belief is this:

You might not always have the confidence thing going for you – self-belief is this unwavering, little voice in the back of your brain that tells you to keep trying. It feels a little more achievable for people like me, who freak out at the mere thought of having to be confident.

So, it’s time for some honesty. Why do I have a problem with being proud of myself?! Good question – let me give you many, many answers:

My default is thinking I’ve got any opportunities because people can see I’m hardworking and ‘give me a chance’ or ‘pity me’

You know, the one thing I do have confidence and self-belief in is how hard I work. I know I’m a hard worker. Give me any job to do, and even if it’s boring as heck, I’ll WORK. But this confidence in my hard working ability manifests to a lack of self-belief in my ability. Whenever I get any decent opportunity, if I get a new job, write something for a client that performs well, etc. etc. etc., I default to thinking it’s just because they ‘gave me a chance’. They can see how hard I work, they know my ability is average, but they’re willing to give me a chance ‘cos they pity me. What kind of warped thinking is that?! I know my thought process is ridiculous, but it doesn’t mean my thoughts stop – and lots of us actually feel the same way, with an estimated 70% of the population also feeling imposter syndrome MASSIVELY in the work they do.

I think too much about other peoples’ wants and needs, and I never want to come across like I’m ‘full of myself’

I’m a sensitive soul. I care a lot about others, and I think too much about others, often. My parents brought me up to always be considerate of others, which I am very grateful for, but I took this on as a mantra a little bit toooo hard. I’m so scared of coming across like I’m ‘full of myself’ and I feel like there’s a fine line between ‘confident’ and ‘arrogant’. 76% of you responded to my polls on Instagram saying you felt the same.

I’m hard on myself. In. Every. Single. Way.

Oh my goodness me – there’s no one as mean as the inner critic, is there? We’re just too flipping hard on ourselves! When will we ever let up?! I’m never proud of myself because I never let myself be. My standards are impossibly high, my criticism takes Devil Wears Prada levels of crazy, and I find it hard to just stop for a second, look around and think about where I’ve got to. I think in a culture where we’re pitted against one another more than ever before, where our ‘achievements’ are plastered over LinkedIn profiles and the job market is the toughest it’s been, it’s kinda hard not to avoid this insecurity.

I never think things are possible for ‘people like me’

I’m from a working class background. I’m from rural Warwickshire. The only ‘journalists’ I’ve ever met (aka those in my dream career) weren’t until I interned for free at publications – until then, I thought they were mythical beings, otherworldly humans who didn’t come from somewhere where the most-used mode of transport is a frickin’ tractor or combine harvester. I think that’s why I love living in cities now, because they are aspirational. You do get to meet people from all walks of life. You start to imagine your dreams might be possible. For about three minutes, before the lack of self-belief kicks back in.

I let bad past experiences inform my present too much

Experiences from as far back as Primary School still haunt me to this day. I still hate wearing my hair up, because someone in Year 6 once told me I looked ‘like a boy’ with a bun. I mean, come on, man buns are GREAT, but it still haunts me now. Any childhood fallouts, careless words thrown around the playground – that shit sticks to you like glue, and sometimes it’s hard to not let it inform the present.

Comparison culture is something I desperately don’t want to say I’m a part of, but when I think about it, I really am

I thought I was really good at avoiding comparing myself to others. I thought it was the one cornerstone of my confidence, that one inkling of my self-belief that sparkled like a light at the end of the ridiculously long tunnel, but turns out I’m just as bad as the rest of ’em. My boyfriend informed me of this recently when I got caught up in the fact that I’d seen a peer successfully get commissioned TWICE, and I’m still yet to get rolling with this freelance journalism ‘career’. I apparently spent about half an hour telling him how excited I was for this person, whilst then spiralling into a ball of panic that I’d miss the boat and I’d never be as successful as them, or anyone else for that matter. Usually, I thought I was great at seeing others’ achievements, being bloody excited about them for them, and then getting excited that perhaps I have my own path to follow, too. But nope, not this time. Insecure status: achieved.

I let my mental health infringe on my self-worth

If I’m having an anxious week, my confidence and self-belief drops DRAMATICALLY. We’re talking off the charts (negatively). My mental health literally dictates my entire being, from the clothes I want to put on, to the food I’m eating (comfort eating 101 over here) and the mood I’m in. My value in myself drops to unprecedented levels when I’m having a bad mental health week. Instead of realising it’s temporary and a side effect of my mind, it’s all too easy to forget that in the moment.

Bigging myself up makes me feel a little bit like vomming

This is one of my greatest problems. If I look at ANYONE saying they’re proud of themselves, I feel SO happy for them. I don’t think they’re being bigheaded, or that they need to shut up right now. I like it when people own their achievements!! So why, when the tables turn to me, would I literally rather display my catalogue of flaws over the internet (as I am so doing now, lol) than admit an instance where I’m proud of myself?! Sheesh, gal.

I short-circuit my chances before failure stops me instead

One of the biggest fears humans have is the fear of failure. And as many successful people often say, such as writer and awesome podcast host, Elizabeth Day, does: failure is the very thing that will lead you to success. You hear stories of celebrities proclaiming the only reason they rose to fame and not anyone else is purely because they weren’t afraid of failure – they hit as many failures as possible before finally getting to the stratospheric heights of success. So, if failure is what leads you to success, why am I so bad at just starting things? I often stop myself doing something I’ve dreamed of doing, because I’m worried about the outcome: potential failure. Hey, and lots of you feel the same: a whopping 91% of you have put off things because you’re scared of failing. At least we’re in this together x

Okay, so now I’ve thrown my insecurities out there for us all to bond over, here is some of what you lovely people said you struggled with (big, virtual air hug and knowing look ‘cos saaaaame, gal):

  • 62% of you believe you lack confidence
  • 64% of you don’t believe in yourself when it comes to work
  • “I’m least confident in big groups – around people I don’t know.”
  • “At work I’m really confident, but at home I am the complete opposite and worry about everything!”
  • “I’d say I’m least confident in group discussions – i.e. university seminars – I’m not very outspoken.”
  • “When it feels like the world is against you, I lack confidence.”
  • “When my ideas are shut down by others I lose confidence!”
  • “I’m not confident when it comes to work. I still have a lot of work to do around self-worth and knowing my value and boundaries.”

How does this make you feel? If anything, there’s comfort in numbers, right? EVERYONE struggles with their confidence in some respect – even out of the 38% of you who believe you’re a ‘confident person’, you still had something to submit when it comes to struggles with confidence.

So, how can we combat these insecurities? Make them less prevalent in our lives and more just annoying, niggling voices in the back of our minds we can conveniently ignore? Here’s what some of you offered as tips to pep you up when you’re having a less-than-confident day:

  • “Spend time with the people you love – it always makes me feel good and boosts my confidence!”
  • “Throw on a good outfit!!!!”
  • “When I’m only with a couple of people who I really get along with, who know the value of me, that really boosts my confidence.”
  • “If I work with the people I feel comfortable with, that helps me!”
  • “When I get positive feedback – and achieve results that boosts my confidence.”
  • “Self-care!! A great morning routine with meditation, yoga and journaling!”

Remember: we’re only human. And by that, I mean we’re all imperfect, confusing, wonderful people. Fake it ’til you make it, pals – and then when you’ve made it, tackle the ongoing imposter syndrome (lol), but it’s all good ‘cos we all feel these feelings together! It’s good to be open about how lack of confidence and self-belief affects us all. x

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