Confidence? What confidence?

Confidence, self-esteem, self-worth… Whatever you call it, I wish I had more of it.

Judging by the number of helpful people who offer insightful advice like “You just need more confidence,” there must be plenty of it out there, growing on trees, bushes and all around, just waiting to be picked.

When you feel like you’re invisible and inaudible, like nothing you say is of any consequence and nothing you do matters or is good enough, confidence is very hard to find.

In my case, low self-esteem has been one of the most crushing aspects of depression and its lingering aftermath. It’s like the nasty green stuff you still find yourself coughing up three weeks after a cold. It festers in your head and makes you feel lousy – small, insignificant and feeble, yet angry that you should feel that way, or that others might not value you as much as you think they should.

Even in areas where you used to feel confident – things you once knew you could do well – you can lose belief completely, and that lack of faith in yourself can prevent you from doing anything.

It’s not just your abilities you start to doubt. You can find fault with just about any aspect of your personality and appearance. In particular, my depression has made me feel older and fatter than I am. At times, I’ve looked at myself in the mirror and just felt grey and lifeless.

I find myself worrying about the clothes I wear, and whether they suit me. I doubt the decisions I make on just about every aspect of my life.

When you’re so self-critical, you assume everyone else thinks the same, so you can become paranoid and anxious. Just going out to meet friends at the pub can seem overwhelming.

So what can you do about depression’s mean-spirited assault on your confidence? How can you build it back up?

I think the main answer lies in a battle between reality and your perception.

The worst thing you can do is to keep telling yourself that you have no confidence. In reality, you do still have the abilities you had before depression came along, and it’s unlikely that you really look much different, so don’t let the voice of depression tell you otherwise.

People aren’t always looking at you and judging you. You’re just more self-conscious. Even if someone is judging you, well so what? Is it up to them who you are and what you do? No. Only you get to decide that.

I find it helpful to write down positive things that happen to me, and nice things that people say, on a daily basis, and to read these notes regularly to remind myself that actually I’m doing pretty well and it will take more than a bad day to undo the progress I’ve made.

Aside from that, I guess it’s just a matter of giving yourself time, being patient and not giving up. All these things are difficult when you’re beating yourself up over everything, but you can’t just flick a switch and suddenly feel confident, so just try doing some small things when you feel able to.

I bet you’re better than you think you are.

First published by Black Dog Tribe


15 Comments on “Confidence? What confidence?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I cannot believe how much I can relate to what you write. I have read an awful lot about depression and anxiety over time but none of it resonates as yours does.
    I’m definitely going to try writing down the nice, positive things that occur. Thank you very much for having the courage to “come out” and share your experiences and feelings – I wish I did.

  2. shell lawson says:

    Hi Paul.
    Great post, I find my confidence takes a real nose dive after each Bipolar relapse and more so with the manic side as when I am up their with the moon and stars and all of a sudden I am brought back down to earth by my bestest friend (Lithium) I leave my house and feel totally “naked” (sorry that is the best way I can describe it!) it takes some time to get back my confidence again and I fight all the way to do so. I may never win the war with Bipolar but I will sure as hell go for winning the battles ;). I will also start writing down the positives for me, as I tend to dwell often on all the negatives. Happy Hallowe’en……shell:)

    • paulbrook76 says:

      Thanks Shell.
      I have a lot of ups and downs too, although I don’t have Bipolar to contend with. Dwelling on negatives is such a common thing and something I am too good at!
      Keep fighting the battles 🙂

  3. Linda says:

    great post. I struggle with self-confidence and have done for most of my life. I have very little self-belief, and it’s a major contributor to my depression. I feel crap at everything, and feel awful if I make even a tiny miniscule mistake. It’s so ingrained in me that I’ve had to start right at the bottom and build myself back up- I changed my career path because my old one was destroying me. I’m on a completely different route now, and just content to be able to do my job at the moment. It’s almost like I needed to start again to be able to build my confidence in my ability.

    • paulbrook76 says:

      Thanks Linda. I know what you mean about feeling awful about even the tiniest mistake. I wrote a blog about perfectionism a while ago, which might help. It was called Perfecting non-perfectionism.
      Hope your new career works out really well.

  4. Shawn says:

    its always funny to me when i step on the scale and it still says the same thing…
    oh, i guess i’m not more disgusting – just the same disgusting as before.
    i don’t actually worry about my weight;
    but the scale is by a mirror which tells me something has gone drastically wrong
    …no its the same – i am a reasonable person and this is not a funhouse mirror
    so how can what i’m seeing be that distorted?
    it is the weight of depression that tips the scales to unreason.
    i need to flick that (nonexistent) switch and suddenly feel confident.
    i know i’ll just turn off the bathroom light!
    bump around in the dark running into walls and things
    and go eat some oreos.

    Paul, i really enjoy your writing and i relate.
    both this and the last post are very articulate and affecting
    thank you.

    • Shawn says:

      wanted you to know
      i had sort of stagnated in my own writing (for several reasons)
      and you helped inspire and spur me on
      i was able to post something new this evening
      so thanks for that help too.

      • paulbrook76 says:

        Hi Shawn
        I really appreciate your comments and kind words – thank you.
        And I am genuinely chuffed to bits that I’ve helped to inspire you to get back to your writing. I’ve just read your post – really lovely, and I know what you mean about children sometimes lighting up the room for a moment.
        All the best

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