Self-confidence is one of those elusive things that you want, but don't really know how to get. Sometimes if you're confident in yourself, people think you're cocky. If you're not feeling it, then they think you're fishing for compliments. It's a hard battle to win. People need to realise that sometimes when I don't take a compliment, it's because I genuinely don't believe that about myself. People need to realise that a struggle with self-confidence is tough, because confidence can come and go.
Everyone has that one thing they battle with, and for me it's my self-confidence. Everything I do is haunted by self-doubt and discouragement. You don't know how long it took me to gather the courage to write an article about this. The trouble with self-confidence is that it's so easy to hide. It's an easy task to hide the fact that you don't believe in yourself. No one realises that you reject compliments because you think they're false praise and they come from a place of pity. No one hears how you put yourself down in your own head; you're your own harshest critic. No one sees how you constantly compare yourself to others, about everything.
My confidence varies every day. I could get a good test result and be over the moon with myself, not to mention shocked at the fact that I could succeed at something. But the minute I see someone else with a result that's the same, or better, my confidence goes right back down again. And it's shit.
The lowest I have ever felt came right after a dance competition. Myself and another girl entered, not in the hopes of winning, but for fun. We knew the standard was high, and didn't expect anything out of it, but we wanted to do it for ourselves. We danced, performed and had a great time - that is until the results. She came second. And I felt just awful in comparison.
I know how dramatic that sounds. I didn't see it coming; the result nor the effect it would have on me. It made me question my ability not only at dancing, but at everything. We both entered with relatively the same experience, so it hit me like a tonne of bricks when she succeeded so much more than me. I was happy for her, of course, but the results threw me. I was never confident in my talents, and after that night, it took me months before I could dance comfortably in front of people again.
Never underestimate the power of self-confidence. When I lost mine, I felt completely adrift. I thought there was no point in trying anything, because there WAS no point. I wasn't going to succeed, so why bother trying? I felt like I couldn't talk to anyone, because no one wants to hear someone whine about how they didn't win. But it was so much more than that. Once my confidence crumbled, so did I.
It was a struggle to get my confidence back. It was easy to maintain the mindset that I shouldn't try, but it made me feel shit. And it was the feeling shit that empowered me to fight it. One of the reasons why I lost my confidence so easily was because I focused on comparing myself to others, rather than focusing on the talents and strengths that I had.
I began to realise that the way I was thinking was making me feel more negative, so I finally stopped comparing myself to others. My successes were mine, and they didn't need to be rated against other peoples'. It was okay if other people did better than me, but it doesn't mean that my achievements were less special. I began to fight the urge to dispute compliments, instead I made myself listen to them. I began to focus on what I had done, and what I had achieved.
I'm not going to lie and say that it was easy. I'm not going to say that I have perfect confidence now. What I will say is how important it is to have confidence, to believe in yourself. It changes everything. It makes everything you do seem a whole lot better, and you'll be happier for it. It's not just positive thinking, it's believing that what you do is enough and that's good enough. It's believing that you're talented. It's accepting that the good things people say about you are true. It's trusting that they're not saying it out of pity, or courtesy, but that they really believe it.
I know from my experience that I don't want to go back to how I was after the competition. But I also know that it's made me stronger. I know when I need to talk to someone about my worries, and next time I won't hesitate. I know that for me and many other people, having strong self-confidence is difficult, especially nowadays. Social media presents us with other people who seem better, prettier or more talented than we feel we could ever be. But the reality is social media lies. A smiling selfie doesn't mean everything's perfect in that person's life. There's a lot more going on beneath the surface that's not being talked about on social media.
Self-confidence can form the basis of a person. It needs to be protected. If you've lost your confidence, don't forget you can always regain it. It won't be an easy task, but you'll get there.