Confident? Confident.

Trigger warning: this piece discusses themes of anxiety.

In my very consultant-y annual performance review, my boss told me, “I’m impressed by your confidence. Even when things get tense with the clients, you stay calm, know your sh*t, and make them feel comfortable. You’re incredibly calm and collected.” 

I almost laughed and said, “Well, you should see my bathroom cabinet full of anxiety meds.” But, I stopped myself, you know, trying to be professional.

I’ve never thought of myself as confident. I guess I wasn’t for a long time. Growing up with anxiety disorders and being shuffled through in and outpatient treatment for mental health as a teenager gave me an intense belief that I was defective. That I was inherently worse and more broken than everyone else. Years later (and now that it’s documented in my corporate records), I think I’m confident. No; I know I’m confident. 

The confidence I have is a learned skill. Maybe confidence can come naturally, but it didn’t for me. This learned confidence is largely because of, and not in spite of, my struggle with anxiety. After finishing exposure therapy for OCD, amongst other things, I learned how to recognise a thought that’s irrationally anxious and begin talking myself down. It’s a constant learning process. Each day I get a little better and a little faster labelling and pushing through the thoughts and feelings. It’s still hard, but that anxiety that used to hold me hostage for weeks or even months at a time, I can now usually push through in around ten minutes. 

If I can do that, I can do anything. I know overcoming such horrendous anxiety and continuing to overcome it is the hardest thing I’ll ever do. So, when a client comes to me, even with an expensive, complicated problem, I know I can handle it. I might not, and rarely do know all the answers, but I’m confident in my ability to work through the processes I have to find the answer. And, I’m not afraid to put in the work. Talking to CEOs doesn’t intimidate me because I see that no matter how much money or success they’ve accumulated, they are still people with problems they need to push through. We all are.

When you’ve worked through an all-consuming struggle like long-term anxiety or depression, you’re capable of working through so many other hard, seemingly impossible things. But, sometimes that anxiety, depression, or other struggle leaves a mark that tells us we aren’t enough, that we are somehow less. When, really, we’ve learned the skills to become more.

- Clare

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