I think most people, if asked, would doubt their own abilities in most things, we never really say out loud what we think we are good at- do you agree?
I was never a confident person by nature, I hid from photos as a teen, I always felt like I was the ugly duckling of my group of friends and was always very quiet in social situations ( unless I was at home, in which case my Mum would vouch for the fact I can be a mouthy cow!).
However, when I look back I had the confidence to join the armed forces ( Royal Air Force- literally 30 years ago when it definitely wasn’t the norm to do so), to leave the security of my family at aged 18 and pushed myself to do things I literally had no clue I could do ( shoot an automatic weapon, do gas mask drills in confined spaces with the unmistakable effects ‘tear gas’ , being dangled out of search and rescue helicopters as a ‘patient’ and even wing walking, twice, one of which was at an international air display!).
I also had the confidence to leave the security of the armed forces when I knew I was ready to move on and become a Mum and live a very different life to what I had been. When my children were hitting secondary school age I trained and qualified as a Driving Instructor and ran my own business. So when I look at things from that perspective I probably was either very reckless or quietly confident and either way I have achieved much more than I give myself credit for – which I think we are all definitely guilty of don’t you think?
But here’s the thing, as we grow older we can start to doubt ourselves or things may happen to us that chips away at that so called confidence. For me it was being diagnosed with a chronic illness ( Fibromyalgia and Hypermobility) that stopped me from working and lost me my business. Being in chronic pain and struggling to get words out due to the ‘brain fog’ is not conducive to sitting in a car all day, being alert and at least 15 seconds ahead of a learner ( who although not intentional, literally tries to kill you on a daily basis………only joking………but seriously its not a job for the faint hearted- but it’s a brilliant feeling to take a student in to their test and have them pass first time).
So in the beginning I had to give up my business, my husband had the pressure of being the main breadwinner again, my children regularly saw me unable to get out of bed and then to top it all friends started to drop me like a hot stone ( you know no one wants to be the person stuck with the one who cannot get up and dance, or have to leave early as they came with you at the start of the night and therefore fell obligated to leave early when you needed to). I went from being referred to as Tracy the driving instructor to being referred to Mr B’s wife, or C and A’s mum etc. That was HARD for me! I had to start using a walking stick in the end as my ankle pain is so sharp due to the Hypermobility ( which means simply that my ankles and my hands are prone to dislocations……..fun times) and that was the thing that stripped the last of any confidence I may have ever had. I literally cannot stand the fact that what people will see first about me is my bloody walking stick!
Anyway, this weekend I attended an event called the Confidence Lab organised by @mollyforbes and @charlieobriencoaching in London. Ironically, I had put off booking this due to lack of confidence ( I know, I know…..it’s not lost on me) and literally the afternoon before I saw it being talked about again on twitter and just thought ‘What the hell’ and asked if they had any tickets left and then booked it before I talked myself out of it again. Mainly I was worried about walking in on my own, but I was very lucky that @mummybarrow very kindly offered to meet me beforehand to go in together- how bloody lovely was that. However, she didn’t bank on the fact I have the sense of direction of a daddy long legs and my so called 10 minute walk from the station took me almost 40 minutes as I got completely lost! So thank you to Tanya, @innocentcharmschats and @fistarstone who all waited for me outside. I can confirm they are just very lovely peeps in real life.
I didn’t really know what to expect but I was looking forward to a talk from Dan Richards from @theonearmedwonder as his story is just inspirational. So, there were some visualisation exercises from Charlie first of all, which normally I’m not great at, but funnily enough these have stuck with me and I keep thinking about them. Then there was a chat from Molly who is all about body positivity and self acceptance and really got us thinking about who’s standards we are measuring ourselves by. Then there was an informal chat with Dan, who just has the most amazing story about overcoming trauma and a whole change of life direction for him, and how he not only coped with but how his life has propelled into the direction it has taking now because of that trauma. When at the end they asked if anyone had a question I literally couldn’t help myself and I jumped up and asked how he copes or over came the initial judgement he may get when people first meet him. His ‘disability’ for want of a better word is clearly visible, mines isn’t and I clearly struggle with the fact the only visible thing for me is the walking stick………….so I wanted to know how he dealt with those things from his perspective. I loved that he takes the approach that he would joke about it ( there’s a certain sense of humour you get from the forces and it tends to stay with you and I recognised it in Dan straight away), get it out into the open and own it. I liked his honesty and approach to it all and I was glad I stood up in front of everyone to ask my question.
After that 2 things happened that made attending this event a turning point for me regards my illness and how I perceive it and how others do. Firstly, Charlie approached me after it had finished to say that when I arrived she didn’t notice the stick but noticed my Northern Irish accent first of all. Just the fact she took the time to come and say that to me actually made my day ( it’s the little things people!). Secondly, the next day Dan messaged me to say he didn’t think he’d answered my question as fully as he wanted and went on the tell me to take ownership of the stick like I would my name, as part of me and who I am, as I think looking at it I’m almost apologetic in attitude towards having the stick…………but I shouldn’t be!
So as far as the Confidence Lab event in itself, I took a lot from it with regards to having confidence but understand it’s not an overnight thing but more of a work in progress. I’m so glad I went. I’m so glad I got to meet some lovely people, and I’m so glad for the advice I got from Dan which I really think has had an impact on me mentally already. I’m I confident? Absolutely not………….but has my view on confidence changed……………….then I would have to be honest and say YES, I think my approach to being confident and what confidence is for me has shifted from being a hindrance (ie: my lack of confidence) to something that absolutely everyone experiences and I am not alone, therefore it will become my underlying work in progress.
So I urge you to take the plunge next time they run another event like this…………….and there were amazing cupcakes and prosecco……………so ya know………….that always helps!
So I would love to know what confidence means to you ?