Self-Confidence – Growing Past Adolescence | The BridgeMaker

Self-Confidence – Growing Past Adolescence

By on Mar 11, 2010


It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes. – Sally Field

I wasn’t a very confident child or teen. My family moved house when I was ten years old, and I didn’t make new friends easily. I was overweight, wore glasses and had a “posh” accent, both of which made me a target for school bullies. Yes, it all seems a bit silly now – but I remember how much it mattered at the time.

If you read my blogs or even meet me, you probably wouldn’t think I lack confidence. But you’re seeing what’s on the surface. Like many people, I’m still struggling to throw off some false beliefs that got lodged in my head during my adolescence – and I expect that this is the case for most of us who struggle with self-confidence.

Three big false beliefs for me were – and in some ways still are – these:

  • I’m not attractive
  • I’m useless at practical things
  • I don’t have enough experience

I’m Not Attractive

I was overweight during my teens, and almost invariably wore baggy t-shirts, sweaters and sports trousers in an attempt to hide my figure. I wasn’t hideously obese or anything – but it wasn’t just the “puppy fat” which my parents thought would vanish.

Teenagers being what they are, I ended up feeling unattractive. I didn’t see the point in making any effort to change my appearance.

How it Changed…

When I got towards the end of school, something “clicked” and I decided I wanted to lose weight – initially for health’s sake, rather than to look better. I lost around 30lbs and went off to university feeling much more confident in my own skin.

What I’m Still Working On

I was diagnosed with PCOS (poly-cystic ovary syndrome) a couple of years ago, which finally explained some symptoms which I have – like a tendency to put on weight around my middle, and a fairly high amount of body hair. Both still bother me, and I’m working on accepting the fact that my fiancé couldn’t care less!

I’m Useless at Practical Things

I’ve never been particularly good with my hands. I’m fairly unco-ordinated (and bad at most sports) and I’m generally clueless when it comes to fixing anything around the house! I was always good at academic subjects like English and Maths at school and awful at metalwork, woodwork and so on.

I also have a tendency to be lazy: I hate to struggle with things which I’m not good at, and prefer to give up.

How it Changed…

When I left home and went off to university, like many young adults, I found myself learning about a lot of things like cooking and laundry! I became more confident that I could follow basic instructions perfectly well. I even have a photo of the desk I managed to assemble from a flat pack a few years ago (I wanted proof to show my family … ;-))

What I’m Still Working On

I’m slowly getting more confidence with things like minor bike repairs (I’m talking really minor things here, like putting on a new inner tube). I’m getting more used to looking things up on Google where necessary. I’m also – slowly – developing more patience when something goes wrong. Each time I learn something new, I gain a little more confidence in myself.

I Don’t Have Enough Experience

As a teen, I wasn’t particularly interested in getting a job. A few friends had part-time jobs in shops and so on; I did a bit of babysitting occasionally, but that was all. When I was applying for summer jobs as a student, I was worried that my lack of experience on my resume would mean that no-one would want to employ me.

In fact, I ended up getting the first job that I went for: it was only data entry, but I was proud and surprised that I’d managed to get it – and this was a real boost to my confidence.

How it Changed…

Since then, I’ve become more able to focus on the experience which I do have. I’ve found that it’s easy to discount some areas (such as my church, where I do all sorts of things from admin work to leading children’s groups) because they seem so natural to me.

What I’m Still Working On

I’m a freelancer now, which is very different from applying for corporate jobs: very few people ever care about seeing a resume. However, I’m also trying to break into fiction writing, where I find I can lack confidence – I’m taking an MA in creative writing and have had a few short pieces of fiction published over the past years, though, which has given me more experience and confidence.

I’ve found, over the years, that I’ve grown naturally in self-confidence by trying new things, by focusing on the positives – what I can do and what I have done – and by learning to rise above negative voices, whether they’re real people in my past, or my own internal critic.

I’ve still got some way to go (and I suspect most of us do), but being self-confident isn’t just about being happier and enjoying myself more … it’s also about being empowered to do my best work in the world. I know that it’s worth persevering and I hope that, if self-confidence doesn’t come easily to you, that you’ll find yourself able to do the same.

Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach. She blogs about writing and life at Aliventures. You can find out more about Ali here.

  • I just love your writing and transparancy Ali

    I could relate to so many things you mentioned especially when it comes to the beliefs we take on about our strengths and talents when we are young. Bravo to you in recognizing where you want to grow your abilities and where self-acceptance in the path to greater confidence.

    And yes, be sure to acknowledge what comes naturally. So often those abilities fall through the cracks of self-appreciation and we miss the ways we can deliberatly focus on using them in our life.