I can still smell the paper mâché like it was yesterday.
An intense sickly smell that invaded my nostrils, like it would any 9-year-old, I guess.
If anyone remembers Blue Peter, I was trying and failing miserably to build a home for Nemo out of an old shoe box, covered head-to-toe in a heavy creamy, clumpy paste hanging over the kitchen counter on my tippy toes for dear life.
‘Bobs, go get changed – Auntie Sally will be over soon!’
Off I went, trudging upstairs to my blue, blue room. I tentatively opened the door, careful not to cover the walls in crap too – and stood at my chest of drawers.
I pulled on the zipper of this grotesque little black and white Playboy Gillet number I had on at the time (sincerest apologies to whichever family member purchased it for me).
I yanked again. Stuck. I tugged gently a third time, this time to a scream.
The scream came again. Louder, angrier this time. Mum always loved her football!
No, wait. The next one hurt. I ran downstairs as the screams kept coming, more ferocious, more painful. Each one came more ear-piercing, more blood-curdling, more sinister than its predecessor.
So, my mum had a seizure. A pretty bad one. It left a nasty lesion on her left temporal lobe that we weren’t to discover until years of black-outs, numerous ECGs, and brain scans later. And I grew up pretty quickly after that. Anxious-attachment style and clinical OCD aside (really interesting paper by Doron et al., 2009 on the relationship between adult attachment insecurities and OCD phenomena by the way if anyone is interested), I was a pretty ‘normal’ kid – whatever that is.
I loved reading and writing (and drawing its accompanying illustrations – art, also never my strong point), I’ve danced, acted, and sang since I was three, so my creativity shone through in different ways. Being an only child, and a Pisces (yes, even as a ‘Scientist’ I believe that Astrology has its merits – or maybe we all just want something to believe in, something to relate and feel connected to that is bigger than ourselves, a purpose – a conversation for another time…), I spent a lot of time getting lost in my own fantasy world, learning and exploring through imaginary games and such.
Before Psychology, I was pretty intent on English Literature or Creative Writing being my career path of choice, I fancied myself an excellent Journalist or Author one day (part of me still does). But my past held an over-bearing weight on me, my mind and ultimately what it is that shapes our behaviours, and how we can make it better, this world we live in more bearable.
So, I balanced late night studies against exceptionally long hours of training and gruelling auditions for the top dance colleges in the country.
I think something that has perpetrated my life to date is the unrelenting need to be everyone who does all the things. And, if the pandemic taught me nothing else, it was that that isn’t necessarily the route to living a happy and fulfilling life. If anything, such an endeavour could very plausibly lead to quite the opposite.
The result was a gladly accepted unconditional offer to Royal Holloway, University of London and the rest is history. Here I am a soon-to-be Chartered Occupational Psychologist.
But what has any of this got to do with work, or with confidence for that matter? Exactly that, our life and work are not two separate entities, they are rather part of one integrated whole. And that whole, is you.
I think something that has followed me around, like a shadow in the night is an undying need to achieve so highly, and for what? What’s the point? Because, on the exterior I’m this outgoing, bubbly, extroverted individual who exudes confidence and can make anyone buy into that and take you on that journey with me.
But, on the inside, there’s this inner child who is just crying out to be accepted and is not confident at all that something terrible isn’t going to happen. But she is confident that if it does, it will be all her fault because of her sheer lack of competence or vigilance.
A little girl who fears abandonment and up until earlier this year simply did not think that she could withstand another rejection.
As much as we hate to admit it, social media has penetrated our lives and the intrusive inner critic, that voice of judgement, imposter syndrome and self-doubt due to the on-tap ability to self-compare has become completely unavoidable. It was heart-breaking for me to see so many bright-eyed, bushy tailed post-graduates waltz straight into their dream Consultant careers. That’s not fair, what did I do wrong? If one more person told me, I ‘just need a little bit more ‘experience’’ I thought I might throw-up. A knock to my confidence was potentially the understatement of the Century. What did I do instead?
1. I created my own opportunities, I invested in myself, I upskilled. I kept going – I grew my Competences where I identified gaps or them to be lacking in areas of interest
2. I reached out to role-models, I networked, I gleaned advice. I made connections – I wasn’t too proud to ask for help, I engaged, and I got the feedback I needed. These individuals helped me to reframe much of my inner dialogue and experience into something extremely positive and useful – I grew my Connectedness with others
3. I stayed true to myself – if nothing else, I am very much a ‘does what it says on the tin’ kind of gal. What you see is what you get with me. I operate with Authenticity; I am open and honest in my interactions with others and take a heavy no BS approach to my work. I am moral, passionate and this degree of self-awareness has come from long periods of self-reflection, there is power in the practice of journaling.
The result? A version of me that has far more confidence in her capabilities and is proud of how far she has come.
I’ll leave you with this, a life’s mantra that I have learned to live by; ‘At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can’ ~ Frida Kahlo
This month’s blog author is Bobbie Groves, an intern at Zest Psychology. She is also a Doctoral student at Birkbeck.