Although shy, I was unafraid to hold elaborate birthday parties, send the boy I fancied a love letter and take exams way beyond my capacity. This glorious self-belief continued into my stint at an all-girls Catholic school where I and a group of friends were involved in everything; from the Duke of Edinburgh Award and school productions to learning sign language and attempting circus skills. I was utterly fearless of failure, even in four foot stilts.
Then came sixth form. The lower part of the school was made up of around 800 sexually charged teenage boys and the upper sector was a killer combination of sexually charged teenage boys and girls. With this transition came my first boyfriend, my first break-up, my first falling-out with friends, my first E-grade in a real exam and my first proper hangover. From this point I began to realise that life threw challenges at you and ‘failure’ wasn’t just a made-up word whether I liked it or not.
So as I embarked on my gap year and university adventure, I attempted to shun the capacity for failure and invented the “do-it philosophy”. I decided that I would say yes to everything that I wanted to, even if I was terrified. And to this day, 2008 was one of the best years of my life. Since then, I’ve had numerous jobs, paid a ridiculous amount of money for a degree in English, remain hopelessly unemployed and have had my heart broken. This has resulted in me being the person I am today: someone with lots of strings to my bow but without the confidence to fire the arrow.
For me, confidence has dwindled with time. For others, it’s been quite the opposite, which has led me to question: on the whole, does confidence soften or strengthen with age?
There’s the wonderful misunderstanding of what it means to fail in youth but then there’s the glorious realisation with age that a mistake is only as huge a deal as you make it. Or you let others make it. I’ve realised that the basis for confidence is your perception of other people’s reactions to you. If you quit your job for the right reasons, you’ll always assume everyone thinks you’re a failure. They don’t. They just want to make sure you’ve made the right decision. If you have the confidence to realise that you alone have the ability to rectify your mistakes, support your choices and make them work, you will be fearless and fabulous all at once. But don’t forget, there’s a pretty nifty safety net in the shape of your closest friends to catch you, if not.
No one has ever told me that I’m ugly; I have never been bullied and have always been pretty successful when it comes to exams and job applications. But something inside me has snapped along the way and hasn’t ever quite been fixed. It’s clear that my confidence fell after my first experience of failure. I began to put up a guard because I suddenly knew what disappointment felt like. So now, I’ll try something new. And that will be to forget failure and remember success. This way, nothing but confidence will survive.
So I’m going to embrace the ethos of my inner five year old and quite literally dive in head first. But I’ll bring with me the precautions that come with experience and I’ll probably test the water first. I’m also more likely to wear goggles, just in case.
I think confidence is something that most struggle with and perhaps we feel that we were more confident at various stages in the past when we were “happiest”. In reality, we’re all just a little bit scared. But with the help of make up or a pair of ray-bans, our game face has been strengthened and we’ve realised what brings out our inner confidence. Whatever that is, wear it well and remind yourself of how good you are at being you.
After all, you’ve made it this far and you’ll probably look back in years to come and envy the person you are today.
Go in for the kill with confidence. You’ll never look back.