The Confidence Crisis Series: Are Gen Z and millennials losing self-belief by the second? ‘Cos I sure am

by Maddie

I spent part of the last week heavily reflecting on 2020, on a personal level. I’ve never really been one for resolutions (‘cos, let’s be honest, how many of them do we actually keep past January 2nd?) and time is a construct and all that shit, so we shouldn’t really be placing an unattainable level of importance on the new year. But one thing I’ve realised that featured heavily in my 2020 days – aside from an overwhelming pandemic and a general ticking over mood of doom and gloom – is a severe lack of self-belief.

This soul-searching came after I looked back on how my first proper year of work had progressed, and I realised I was feeling, for the first time in 2020, a sense of pride. Instead of feeling settled and satisfied with this pride, I felt super uncomfortable. It’s not a feeling I’m used to, and I felt frustrated that I wasn’t comfortable with congratulating myself. I also felt sad looking back over 2020 at the stress cries and panics I had over work, and lack thereof of work towards my dream job. At the end of 2020, I was lucky to finally get some experience in journalism working freelance for my dream publisher, and it took me until near enough the middle of Jan to look back and feel some semblance of pride at how far I’d come.

Some pics showing how awkward I get taking photos outside. You’re welcome x

This initial strike of pride came along because one of my nearest and dearest gave me a lovely compliment on my work. However, what instantly replaced the pride was the aforementioned uncomfortable feelings, and then hit my usual default when someone gives me a compliment: utter disbelief at said lovely comment.

Where did my brain go? Straight to its usual questioning of anything complimentary anyone ever says about me: ‘Why did they say that? Was it because they were just being nice? It was really lovely of them, but I don’t believe said lovely thing about myself, so clearly they must have just been being kind. I’m really grateful for what they said, but they must have just felt sorry for me so felt compelled to say it.’ Wait – what?

Me: searching optimistically for some new-found confidence in 2021 x

It’s taken me until 2021, but I’ve realised I just cannot take a compliment. And that’s not because I believe all my loved ones are blatant liars, or because I’m ungrateful of kind words, but purely because I do not believe those nice qualities they’re talking about exist in myself. I constantly self-critique my work; my writing. I get pretty insecure in new friendships as I’m dumbstruck said new friend would want to be my pal. I’ve just about gotten over my lack of self-belief in my relationship, but that’s only because I’ve been with Sam a solid six years and he knows me warts and all – and, bizarrely, seems happy enough.

If one of my friends came to me with this lack of self-belief dilemma, I would want to shake them until they realised exactly how wonderful they are. If anyone uttered these words to me, I’d realise how bloody ridiculous they were being, but when it comes to me, my brain hasn’t got much self-belief going for it. And I have no clue at all where this comes from.

Before I attempt to psychoanalyse myself and work out my deep-rooted lack of self-confidence (‘cos that would not be a remotely jolly blog post) it’s time to cast the net wider. Because, it turns out, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I reached out on the highly scientific research platform of Instagram to ask you guys how you felt about yourselves. The results weren’t particularly cheery, either (apologies, this post will have a happy ending, promise): 79% of you struggle with your self-belief.

How do you even begin to tackle a confidence crisis? I sure as heck don’t know. But a few of you had some really great advice on how to begin tackling it, and here’s what a couple of you shared with me:

How are you trying to up your self-belief?

  • ‘When it comes to work, if a company rejects you, know that it’s their loss, not yours.’
  • ‘I’m currently designing my own mirror affirmations that can be changed daily to suit me.’

It’s all in the narrative we tell ourselves. Our brains are mouldable phenomena, and we’re easily affected by stories. Ever watched an emosh rom-com and sobbed at the end? God, same. As humans, we’re gripped by a great story. So it’s about time we started moulding the stories we tell ourselves. Even if we don’t necessarily believe at first that if we’re rejected by a job it’s the employer’s loss, the more we tell ourselves these truths that appear like fiction to us at first, the more we should start to believe it. CBT, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, is commonly used to treat mild to moderate mental illness to essentially help alter the narratives we tell ourselves, in order to rewire our thoughts, and by examining the alternative versions of everyday thought patterns we have, we can begin to see how we can approach all kinds of situations differently. This works just as well if you’re trying to get over panic attacks, as it does if you’re trying to up your self-belief. Changing the narratives we tell ourselves and repeating more favourable mantras should hopefully begin to help us understand we are worthy.

So, over the next few weeks, with the start of this Confidence Crisis Series, I’m going to examine the areas of our lives we struggle with self-belief in, and how to tackle these so we can become more confident people, giving ourselves the self-love we deserve – because what’s January if it isn’t to honour resolutions? And although I think resolutions are silly, mine for this year is to believe in myself more – so here’s a fitting start.

When I asked you all on Instagram, these are the some of the common areas you responded with saying you struggle with self-belief in:

Which areas of your life do you struggle with your self-belief in?

  • ‘Work; my portfolio; uni; making my future goals a reality’
  • ‘Social situations with work colleagues specifically’
  • ‘Work and romantic relationships’
  • ‘Work at the moment – imposter syndrome is REAL’
  • ‘I’ve started to question what I want to do with my life and it is so scary’

So, in short, us Gen Z’ers and millennials STRUGGLE with our confidence. In an age of Tinder swipes, rising unemployment, cancel culture and comparison anxiety online, when you think about it, it’s no surprise, really. But, we’re going to try and work through this thing together – starting with weekly blog posts on this shizzle.

But, before I end for this post, I wanted to draw your attention to something a follower submitted on how they up their self-belief: ‘I fake it ’til I make it, which is so scary but it works for me.’ Maybe it’s not possible to have unfailing self-belief. Maybe everyone struggles. Perhaps our obsession with confidence, killing it, believing in yourself and being your biggest cheerleader is purely because we’re all faking it so well that we think everyone has it nailed when we don’t. Maybe, as humans, we’re not supposed to feel that content, warm, fuzzy feeling of happiness and contentment all the time; that thing we’re always hoping could one day be a constant. Maybe, like everything else in life, self-belief is a process; a fluctuating state. So, here’s a rallying cry to start this self-belief series: I am not confident. I have a lack of self-belief. But I vow to be better – and this month, we’re going to look into how you can do just that.

Here’s hopin’, folks x

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