Photo by ammar sabaa on Unsplash

There’s a symptom of my depression that I never hear anyone talk about. Depression has completely destroyed my confidence. And it’s not just during a depressive episode. I lack confidence even when I’m feeling good. This is a fairly recent development, in the last ten years or so. It dates to just before I was officially diagnosed with depression.

When I was younger, I was brimming with confidence. Although I probably wouldn’t have called it confidence. I probably would have said that I’m sure of myself. I don’t think I was ever a braggart. I’ve always been too quiet for that. There were probably times, as a teenager, where the confidence came off as cockiness, but I think that mostly passed by college. It mostly came down to having a good sense of myself. I knew what I was good at and what I was less good at, and I behaved accordingly. Why be nervous or frightened of things that I know I’m good at?

Things flipped for me sometime during my marriage. I don’t remember a transition period. All of a sudden, I couldn’t be less sure of myself. I started second guessing myself constantly. I got even quieter than I’ve always been. My starting assumption was (and is) always that no one was interested in anything I had to say. (I get the irony of keeping a blog while feeling like no one is interested.) And I became hesitant like nobody’s business. When I was younger, I’d take on any project knowing I could do it. Now I’m worried about failing whenever I take on something new. It doesn’t seem to matter at all that I know better.

The worst part is that my lack of confidence has seriously hurt my quality of life. I’m pretty sure it’s gotten in the way of relationships. I’m quite sure it’s kept me from meeting new people and trying new things. I’m also sure it’s kept me from applying to jobs that I probably would have enjoyed. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s kept me from getting hired at the jobs I do apply for. It sucks.

I’ve tried for years to fix it, but, so far, have had no luck. I’ve tried affirmations and journaling and meditating and therapy and faking confidence. None of it seems to work. I’m going to keep trying, though. Not because I feel like I’ll be successful but because I feel like I owe it to myself and the people around me to keep trying. Any suggestions?

2 thoughts on “Confidence

  1. Did I black out and write this?

    When I was a spring chicken I remember learning about imposter syndrome and was like “why would anyone be like that? If you’ve got the education and skills, why would you doubt yourself?”

    Fast forward a few decades, and boom! A little bit of life experience kicking you down, and it’s harder to believe that you can take on anything because often there’s something outside your control putting on limits. Maybe you have done your best, but there’s someone on your team who sabotages the project. . . and it doesn’t matter because your name is also on that work, and then you begin to look unfavorable. Or, in relationships you try to be more forgiving or open-minded, but swing too far in the wrong direction, giving benefit of the doubt to people for the wrong things, and you can’t get your footing again. Certain things that should get easier because we learn, actually get weirdly harder because certain opportunities are reduced.

    Last year I sent out a holiday newsletter that was essentially a stand up act about attempting to date over 40 during a pandemic. It boiled down to that while I might have gotten more discerning, there are very few viable options remaning. It’s waiting for people to get divorced or sober or to enter therapy at this point. And then there’s the problem of me. I made it fun, not self-pitying, but it’s hard to feel confident when you see total dingbats in seemingly happy (or happy enough) relationships, etc etc, while you’re standing in the corner, watching it all go by.

    I don’t know if I have any advice to give. I don’t consider this “fake it til you make it.” It’s more “do the thing that’s scary anyway because maybe it’ll work.” I was telling this to someone recently, but it’s the idea of don’t reject yourself. Let them reject you. I’ve mostly thought about it with a job search a few years ago, which felt hard because I was trying to change careers mid-life. I could sit here and list the million reasons they might reject me, and never send out my resume, or, I could apply for the jobs anyway, and risk getting an interview. And I guess I’ve approached dating the same way. . . back when I hadn’t already dated every single man in Greater Hartford. It’s not that I was overly confident, but I’d rather know than not know if something was an option. Worst case scenario: they tell me what a terrible person I am, but I guess that’s fine because they’re not going to say anything to me that I haven’t already told myself.

    Thanks for writing about this. I’d be curious how many other people roughly our age can relate to this.

  2. This is such an open and honest post. Confidence is something I struggle with, but it is something I am trying to work on and learn to trust in my abilities.

    Thank you for sharing.

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