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Mental Health Use this forum to share your mental health concerns and to seek advice.

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  (#1 (permalink)) Old
Skyline Offline
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a bit of a confidence paradox - July 16th 2018, 01:12 AM

In a strange place mentally. This past month I've encountered things which have been challenging for my self-confidence and well-being, I have been judging and comparing myself to others a lot and at moments have felt very set-back in terms of my ~ self-development ~ or whatever else I could call it. I have had quite a few good cries which is not at all unlike me but which is nevertheless significant. An average of three times a week to be specific.

I attended a week-long writing course run by a friend of my mum's and was surrounded by older, much more talented writers. It was very emotionally straining and I felt extremely blocked creatively, subconsciously filtering my ideas before I had really given them a chance. I was unable to read out anything. Though I soon realised that the fact of being too embarrassed to read anything out was even more embarrassing than the initial embarrassment. It became a bit of a vicious cycle.

Then I spent a few days with my boyfriend and friends of his from high-school who I like but with whom I had never had the chance to get close to. They were perfectly welcoming but I often felt incredibly uneasy and melancholic next to their tight-knit group. I realised that the number of close friends I have can be counted on one hand and only one of them currently lives in France. I felt kind of out of place realising that, and sad that I could not yet experience the kind of comfort that they could in a group, because my group is small and dispersed.

I also struggled a lot with jealousy, knowing that my boyfriend had once had a crush on two of his friends who were there. I kept watching them and watching him watch them, and wondering how easily he might go towards one of them if they showed romantic or physical interest towards him. And I wondered why on earth he was with me -- a shy, introverted, non-talkative girl whose ideal night is staying in watching a movie or reading a book -- when his best mates were the opposite -- talkative, energetic, extroverted, always staying up til four in the morning drinking and smoking and joking around and being a little bit reckless. I wondered why he would pick me when he seems so drawn to that, wondered if he hadn't actually simply "settled" for me.
We have been together for over a year now and we are in a particularly good period in terms of our relationship given the fact that we now have the holidays to see each other frequently; he tells me over and over that he loves me and that he feels especially passionate towards me right now. He is optimistic about us staying together next year despite my taking a gap year to travel. He gives me all the reason to trust him, and still I doubt the depth of his love. It isn't distrust in HIM, it's distrust in his ability to judge his feelings, I suppose. But also largely a sort of stubbornness on my part which will not accept that I am more than good enough for him and that if something happens it will just happen and that there is no use in worrying about it before it has even occurred. All in all our relationship is a good one -- when we are together just the two of us, things are amazing, we don't tire of each other and we have fun and interesting talks, we are affectionate and loving and encouraging. The problems only arise when we are placed in a larger social setting or when we haven't seen each other in a while, and things have the time to stir in my mind and create doubt.

It feels like I have thought so long about the subjects of self-improvement, confidence, social ease and trust that I have created quite a sturdy hand book on how to navigate yourself as an individual, but that I still cannot put that knowledge into practise.

I know that there are many things about myself which are likeable. I know that I am not stupid and that my quietness means nothing more than that I don't feel as much of a need to express myself vocally. I know that I am interesting, know that I am attractive. But I don't feel it deep down. I have made lists in my notebooks enumerating my qualities, I have written paragraphs about my weaknesses and why they are completely okay to have, but I cannot seem to manage to properly integrate them into my daily life and thoughts. Put me in a large-ish social context and my thoughts will resemble the first few paragraphs.

On the bright side, I have had moments of relief. A couple of times when I got talking with one of his friends I did feel some meaningful connection being made. I wrote a short piece which I feel relatively good about. And I have discovered two new ways to draw myself out from my thoughts and ground me more into my senses, one of which is singing and dancing to music when I go on walks, and the other one being hitchhiking, which makes me feel powerful and autonomous and forces me to focus on the present moment.

I felt the need to write this out because I feel like I have reached some sort of milestone though I can't manage to define it and I'm not sure what it consists of. I wonder if any of you have felt or do feel some of that paradox around KNOWING certain things but not being able to really FEEL them and put them into practise.

Thanks for reading if you've gone this far ! X


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Re: a bit of a confidence paradox - July 19th 2018, 03:48 PM

In a way, self-development can sometimes be a bit of a paradox. We are all human, we all have things that we don't like about ourselves, and it's always good to work on improving ourselves (which is a lifelong process). But focusing too much on self-improvement means we often get caught up in trying to change who we are, without actually accepting ourselves as we are first and foremost. And sometimes that may mean that we are never happy with ourselves as we are constantly trying to improve ourselves.

Self-development is about yourself so you may want to try challenging the need to compare yourself to others. For example, at the writing group, it sounds like you made the judgement that the other writers were older therefore more talented, and you felt more self-conscious around your own writing ideas (perhaps wanting to impress but feeling inadequate?) which then lead to the embarrassment of not wanting to read anything out causing further embarrassment. But what if you accepted that yes, the other writers may be older than you, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are more talented. And your writing ideas are good enough, regardless of anyone else's writing. At the same time, there's nothing necessarily wrong with not wanting to read anything out either. It can be conflicting but you can accept that you were feeling a bit insecure perhaps and still work on challenging the thoughts that others were more talented than you.

As for your boyfriend's friends, since you don't usually hang out with them, it makes sense that you may feel a bit uneasy being in a group when you aren't used to it and it's understandable you may draw comparisons with your own friendship circle. Again there's nothing wrong with having a few close friends but also wanting to have a group of your friends of your own that are more local to you. Maybe you can figure out how to find a group of your own or perhaps hang with your boyfriend's a bit more?

I think everyone gets a jealous in a while, but perhaps more so those who have low self-esteem and compare themselves to others. But again, jealousy is an emotion that leads us to discover more about ourselves. It doesn't have to be a bad or negative thing. While you may be the opposite of your boyfriend's friends (and previous crushes) it doesn't mean that you are unworthy of your boyfriend. Believe it or not, there is something about you that sets you apart from his friends, which is why he is dating you and not them. There's nothing wrong with being introverted and no 'rule' that outgoing people should date other outgoing people....in fact, it's said that opposites attract!

It's good to hear that you and your boyfriend are in a happy and relatively stable relationship. I do understand that not feeling 'enough' may cause issues in that you aren't perhaps able to accept his feelings. But equally, your outlook as to whatever happens, happens and there's no use worrying about it seems quite healthy! Even if, worst case scenario, your boyfriend isn't a good judge of his own feelings, it still doesn't reflect on your worthiness!

Putting knowledge into practice is often difficult. It's good that you do realise there are plenty of things that you like about yourself. But perhaps when it comes to social situations, it might help to engage a bit more or at re-direct your mind when you start feeling like comparing yourself, or just tell yourself that other people may be more talkative than you, but that's okay. It does take time and effort, but you'll get there!

I'm glad to hear that you had a meaningful connection with one of his friends and that you've also found ways of drawing yourself out of your thoughts and keeping grounded in the present moment. It definitely seems like you have a reached a milestone (well done!) and it's okay if you aren't sure how to define it or what it consists of. I've definitely felt similar in knowing certain things but not being able to feel or put them into practice, especially when it comes to friends and social situations...I always feel a bit inadequate in comparison at times even though I know not to compare. Definitely a paradox!


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Re: a bit of a confidence paradox - July 24th 2018, 03:27 PM

Thanks for the thoughtful response x


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