I would be an awful character in a movie – because there’s no damn character progression with me. I’m yet to materialise into the confident twenty-something woman we’re sold we’ll become whilst scrolling on our phones. Not to be dramatic, but I’m suffering a confidence crisis. Throughout my life, one thing has been a constant: I’ve never truly believed in myself. I always feel never good enough. I’m prone to getting insecure. And the worst part is I don’t know why I’m like this, and I certainly don’t know how to rewire my brain enough to let go of inferiority’s permanent stamp on my psyche. Sadly, I’m not alone in this – many of us are experiencing a confidence crisis, too.
However, the one thing I am certain of is that this ‘I’m never quite good enough’ mentality is the one thing that holds me back. Across all areas of my life, the “you’re not good enough” mantra playing on a loop like a broken record in my thoughts has stopped me going for work opportunities; has led to insecurities in friendships and relationships; has caused self-hatred from time to time in my appearance and abilities. Whilst many factors come into play and we’re not the master of our own destinies, I do believe that, often, the only thing holding us back from that next, positive step is, quite simply (and unfortunately), ourselves.
I reached out on Instagram (when do I not, eh?) to ask you what your confidence levels are like. Are we all experiencing a collective confidence crisis? Turns out we kinda are. And whilst this is a shame to realise, there’s safety in numbers – and it turns out we all have some stuff to say which might be both of reassurance and relief to those of us feeling not quite good enough:
I asked you when the last time you felt proud of yourself was.
The answers were… interesting.
- “Probably when I finished my degree. So, last summer…”
- “Getting a first in my last university assignment and securing a high 2:1 in my degree! Lol, so like way back in May.”
- “When I sent off job applications yesterday.”
- “I passed an exam!!”
Some of us need to attach a certain importance to an event in order to feel proud. ‘Pride’ usually feels like it has to be associated with a ‘major’ event for it to be ‘worthy’. But that shouldn’t be the case.
I got this following response from a follower which I ADORED:
- “When I pulled myself out of a low headspace this week!”
More everyday celebrations of pride, please!
I asked if you regularly struggle with your confidence throughout areas of your life.
83% of you said ‘yes’.
Okay, so let’s say we can determine we’re all having a bit of a confidence crisis.
I asked what area of your life you were least confident in.
The most voted answers by a mile were ‘outward appearance’ and ‘work’ – two aspects of life that are heavily promoted and scrutinised across social media – followed by ‘friendships’ and ‘romantic relationships’.
I asked if you felt social media affects your self-esteem and overall confidence.
77% of you said ‘yes’.
As a fan of psychoanalysing myself (lol) I asked you this question: If you regularly struggle with your confidence and feel you’re having a confidence crisis, why do you think that is?
These were your responses:
- “Imposter syndrome baby!”
- “Low self-esteem and the impact of toxic social media.”
- “I was diagnosed in 2017 with C-PTSD so maybe something to do with that.”
- “I’m usually a confident person but sometimes doubt my abilities. It’s to do with comparison – I need to channel MY POWER more and give myself more credit.”
- “I struggle with confidence in friendships. I had a strong circle and was confident in it, however at uni I realised some people aren’t as great as my other circle and can have behaviours that aren’t your ‘vibe’. I need to hype myself up more sometimes because people have put me down.”
- “Work and appearance – I feel like I have to ‘prove’ to people I’m independent and worthy.”
- “Imposter syndrome when applying for jobs.”
- “Internal self-critique caused from continued critique in my past.”
- “Weight is a huge thing for me. Social media makes me feel so belittled when I follow influencers who aren’t like me. I’ve now unfollowed those who gave me an unintentional negative vibe.”
Comparison is a biggie. Social media fuels comparison, and thrives off it. How does social media make my followers feel when it comes to their self-belief? Does it heighten that confidence crisis?
- “How other people look and present themselves through their outfits makes me feel insecure.”
- “There’s a specific ‘type’ we all aspire to be like on social media and it makes me feel small and insignificant.”
- “Social media makes me question the things I’m doing and whether I should be doing it differently.”
- “I always think everyone is ‘doing’ social media better than me – which isn’t the case, but it looks like it.”
- “Social media warps my sense of self-image sometimes.”
- “I do like to post images on social media but then I hide and avoid looking at how they’re performing.”
For me, I think my lack of self-belief and in turn confidence is hugely variable, dependent on whether my mental health has taken a hit. When I’m feeling stressed, anxious or low, lack of self-belief comes out to play and gets its talons into every area of my life and fuels that confidence crisis.
The main source of low confidence hits me up when it comes to work. Psychoanalysing myself, because that is obviously something people never tell you to avoid doing, I think it’s because I’m trying to get into an industry I know is hugely competitive. With journalism, it’s a highly sought-after career, but one that allow increasingly fewer seats at the table. It’s also an industry where you have to shout about your work and accomplishments, because it’s pretty dog-eat-dog. And for me, comparison anxiety is something I struggle with massively when it comes to work. When I see others achieving wildly incredible things, my first thought is immense happiness for them, and my second, overwhelming thought is always ‘well, I won’t be able to achieve anything like that so clearly I’m not cut out for this.’ Take a low self-esteem work day, and then this lack of confidence spills over into the rest of my life, leading me to feeling insecure about everything from my friendships, to my appearance.
Our digital lives exacerbate comparison. It’s the buzzword phrase I hate the most, but online we do mostly ever see others’ ‘highlight reels’, and when there is a glimmer of hope where someone opens up about a vulnerability, it’s always in the instance after they’ve experienced it. It’s the ‘I went through this awful thing and now, look, I’ve come out the other side!!’. We can’t blame ourselves for this – who’s going to film an Insta Story whilst you’re sobbing, curled up in bed? But the very public nature of social media is a Catch 22, because even when there’s vulnerability and insecurity admitted to, that person appears seemingly cured and back to their full potential again.
Other powerful reminders we need to take in when it comes to that ‘I’m not good enough’ feeling in our digital age are the sad fact that women have always been pitted against one another to fuel comparison anxiety, and the pandemic has worsened this as we have nothing but the endless scroll and a constant feedback loop of anxious thoughts as pals to keep us company.
If we’re insecure, we will buy into products featured on our Insta feeds. That #sponsored haul done by that influencer? You now want to buy all those pieces for your own wardrobe, convinced they’ll make you a better person, don’t you? Feeling insecure? A few ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ and, ooh, perhaps a cheeky ‘save’ for the algorithm might be the cure we needed.
It’s important to remember that the digital age we’re living in is fuelling the ‘I’m never good enough’ feeling. So, what can we do about it? I asked my followers for their tips on handling self-confidence on social media, and how we can use socials to empower ourselves – these were their tips:
How can we minimise comparison on social media and instead use online spaces to empower ourselves?
- “Mute, block or unfollow accounts that make you feel anything but positive.”
- “Delete TikTok!!!”
- “Change your mindset. Think ‘good for them’. And then remind yourself you’re doing good, too.”
- “Take breaks from apps!”
- “Unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself (I unfollowed allll the Kardashians).”
- “Follow the right people – influencers that are honest about their bodies/appearance.”
- “Unfollow people who trigger that response in you, and follow a diverse range of people.”
- “Make your feed YOUR feed. You need to allow yourself to have a fun experience on your socials.”
Are you ready to curate your space online? Begin bloody well believing in yourself? We’re all on a journey with ourselves, and no one is confident in all aspects of their life. You’ve got this – you’re doing just fine. Okay?
Read more on The Confidence Crisis series here.