The C Word

“The trouble with you,” said my driving instructor, as we crawled to a halt and I wiped the sweat from my fevered brow with the back of a shaking arm, “is that you just don’t have any confidence in yourself.”

And there it was again, the “C” word.  Confidence. You knew that’s what I meant, right? Wash your mouth out with soap and water if you thought I was talking about the other one – although, to be fair, that one has crossed my mind a few times this week I can tell you.

I passed my theory test this week and as soon as I climbed into the car for my lesson my driving instructor was full of enthusiasm and congratulations.

“So what did you get?” she demanded. Well, forty nine in the question part and sixty two in the hazard perception. This is good, apparently.

“Fab!” she squealed. (That’s one of her favourite words, trust me!) Then she saw my face and sighed.

“Go on,” she said. “What’s wrong? Put yourself down in the way that only you can.”

“Well,” I said, rather uncomfortably, “I got one question wrong, and I don’t know why. It was about attitude and my attitude is very good.”

She fixed me with that look I’m getting to know so well. It’s the one she gives me just before she threatens to beat me on the head with a stick…she’s a VERY strange driving instructor. I wilted under her stare and started the car without another word. As we drove along we passed a school.

“Now, what can you see on your left?” she demanded.

“A school.”

“And what speed should you be doing?”

I gulped, glancing at the speedometer which said thirty. “Well, I would have said twenty, but then all the other cars started overtaking me so I thought I was wrong.”

“You weren’t wrong. You were right. They shouldn’t be overtaking. They were the ones that were wrong, but you thought automatically that it must be you, didn’t you?”

I had because, frankly, if I disagree with someone I always think they must be right. Confidence, you see, is not my strong point.

“The trouble with you,” said my manager, as we sat looking at the appraisal form I had filled in and she assessed my belief in my own abilities, “is that you don’t have any confidence in yourself.”

Aaaagh! Okay, I’m getting the picture. Confidence is what it all seems to be about, and how, I should like to know, do you go about getting it? Here is a confession…I have a kind of social phobia. I haven’t been on a night out for – well, I can’t even remember when, but I’m pretty sure it was in the early nineteen-eighties. I can handle family “do’s”. I can go for meals with my mum and siblings and children and grandchildren etc. I can just about handle a party if it’s mainly family and I get very drunk. But walking into a room full of strangers is beyond me, even if I’m accompanied by people I know. Take the work nights out, for example. Every month there seems to be someone I work with who is celebrating a “special” birthday, and notices are constantly going up on the board for people to sign up and say they will be going. Not me. Ever. I have never even signed up to one of the Christmas nights out. Even when we throw a lunchtime buffet for someone’s special birthday I am the one who can be found behind my desk getting on with my work while everyone else ignores the phones and dives on the sausage rolls. Why? I don’t know. I just feel sick with nerves and totally inadequate. It’s horrible.

Confidence, or the lack of it, is what also stops me making progress on my own novel. Every time I think I’m getting somewhere this little voice whispers that I’m fooling myself, that what I’ve written is total rubbish, that I don’t belong with real writers, that I’m a total fraud. Even reading a really good book is a pleasurable experience tinged with panic, as the delight in losing myself in this fictional world gives way to the realisation that I could never write anything as good as this, and what on earth am I wasting my time for?

This week I have done two very brave things for me. Firstly, I took off my wedding ring. It has become very clear to me in the last few weeks that this marriage is going nowhere and the chances of fixing it are practically zilch. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that I have been replaced, and the ease and speed with which that happened has been a severe blow to my ego. Not that I should be surprised. It’s not as if it’s the first time I’ve been replaced in this way. It’s happened several times, which has been most of the problem in the marriage in the first place, not to mention being the problem with my confidence! It was still a very hard thing for me to do, though, and I admit that as I put my wedding ring in the jewellery box and closed the lid I wept like a baby. Secondly, I signed up for the Christmas night out. This was very difficult to do but, as I jokingly told my lovely and very understanding colleagues, I have eight months to get “going out” therapy, so with any luck I will manage it…

So this week I have been trying to be very gentle with myself. Instead of looking ahead to the future, which at the moment is one huge panic-inducing void, I am taking one day at a time. Every morning, I wake up and tell myself that I just have to concentrate on today, and every night I tell myself Well done! You made it! It’s not a lot, but hopefully things will get easier and there will come a day when I don’t wake up feeling so heavy-hearted and don’t have to give myself a rallying speech to get out of bed! I am determined to pass my driving test, however scary the prospect of taking it may be, and I will continue to write and try to push aside that horrible little voice. When you can be replaced so easily by someone you loved for thirty four years it can be a huge blow to your self esteem, but I’m fifty this year, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that everything passes…good times, bad times, love, hate, loss, grief, anger, happiness, depression…all of these things come and go and nothing is set in stone. Maybe I should try the Paul McKenna confidence book?? ??

On the plus side, my heroine is going to have a whole stack of emotions to deal with, and no one can accuse me of not making her realistic! 🙂

Have a great week x

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