I've been thinking a lot about confidence lately. I'm not a confident person.
I know I'm able to string a sentence together, but when I read books or articles online I think, I wish I was good enough to write like that. And don't even talk to me about how I look!
After my last post about confidence, several people commented saying various different things. I was sent links to websites, books, videos that might be of help. One person commented with this:
Confidence is a strange and wonderful thing - when you have it. There is no way to learn it, or for others to give it. It's a lone struggle in which you need to build gradually and not let setbacks ruin the progress. Setbacks should be used to learn, so that you don't suffer them again. It's them, rather than an easy life, that make you stronger and more confident.
Another friend posted this video on my Facebook wall:
Both of these have really been playing on my mind since seeing them.
I met a friend for coffee the other day, and she said she understood completely that there was absolutely no point in her telling me I wasn't fat or that I was pretty or clever or anything else. She knew from her own experience that nobody can tell you something you just can't tell yourself. She also gave me a bit of a verbal slap around the face, telling me, " look at how far you've come. You're so driven and head strong, nobody will ever manipulate and control you like that again." She was right, of course. Damn these people and their always being right!
The fact is that from a very young age, I always considered myself to be fat. I had an older sister who was super skinny, something everyone always commented on, and two younger brothers who were just bang in the middle of "normal." I was the fat one. I always knew I was the fat one. I begged my mother to allow me to wear a one-piece swimming costume to swimming lessons because I hated everyone seeing my fat belly in the bikini she made me wear.
This is me at the beach, aged around 7 or 8, burying my brother in the sand. See how horribly fat I am clearly not?
And this photo is me taking part in a local carnival aged around 12 or 13, forced to wear a top I hated, arms in front of my body so that nobody would see how hideously fat I was.
I am 32 years old. When I look back over my life I see photo after photo of a shy, scared girl who was actually quite pretty, and actually had quite a good body, but hid it under big baggy shirts and jumpers because she was convinced she was fat. At one point, I owned more men's clothes than ladies'. In an English class once we had a substitute teacher and he made me read something out of the book we were studying. When I'd finished he told me it would have been better if I'd not been hiding behind my hair the entire time. I've had thirty two years of hiding. Behind my clothes, behind my hair, behind the person in front of me who is more confident than I am and happy to talk for both of us.
This is me, a few years ago:
Yep, hiding behind the hair (and piercings) and convinced I was obscenely fat.
I have spent my life convinced I was fat and ugly, that there was something fundamentally wrong with me that meant I would never meet someone "nice." I have allowed people, both partners and friends, to treat me terribly because I didn't think I could do any better. I didn't think I was worth more. This was a major part of my breakdown, and although the suicidal thoughts have gone, the belief that I am just plain not good enough remains. Oh, does it ever remain.
I could blame this on my parents or school or the media or next door's dog, but the truth is I've really no idea where it's come from. Reading this article on The Daily Life did make me think though - about me and also about S, and what I am teaching her. It scares me.
And now... well, I could tell you I am fat, but my proven track record would lead you to believe I was misrepresenting the situation.
I am overweight. My body has changed shape since having S, and now, after years of being paranoid that my belly would hang over the top of my trousers, it actually does.
But as my friend pointed out to me the other day: So what? Does it matter if I'm podgy around the edges? Does it matter if I have roots, if I seem to have seven chins and a massive nose in some photos? No. It doesn't matter. I know that in a philosophical, external way. But internally, yes it bloody does matter and yes it bloody does bother me. And it bothers me, that it bothers me. Because I know it shouldn't. Because I know that when I make friends with someone or fall in love with someone, I do so with their personality and not the size of their waist or the colour of their hair.
But, as someone commented on Facebook while I was writing this post, I tend to see myself through poo-tinted glasses. On a bad day, my one redeeming feature is my daughter. And I can't really claim credit for her, much as I would love to.
So here I am, trying to find a way to see what other people seem to see when they look at me.
And it's bloody hard.