It’s the last week of the year and the inevitable “best of…”, “worst of…”, “year in review” type thoughts begin to fill our heads and timelines. As I’ve begun some of my own personal reflections, I’m beginning to see a theme emerging for what 2016 was for me and what I would like to see change in 2017. In short, 2016 was the year that I lost confidence in myself.
It began with losing my job in 2016. In 2014 I was asked to leave a job I loved. It was my “dream job”. I was asked to leave for understandable reasons based on the culture of the organization. I wasn’t perfect at the job, but I was doing good things and I think I was growing into it. I was devastated to lose the job, and yet something of myself was retained despite the devastation. I felt like it was the circumstance more so than my performance that cost me the position.
This year was different. I lost a job I didn’t particularly like, a job for which I felt overqualified. The reasoning given was my being a “bad fit” for the position and also, it was inferred, for the organization. There was a sense that I should be grateful that my ill-fittingness was tolerated as long as it was. I was angry that I was fired. I was hurt. I was confused. But more than anything else, I was embarrassed. I had changed cities for this job. I had moved away from my kids. I had thought this would be my second chance, my reboot, my fresh start. Instead, it was another failure. And I was beginning to stack failures. Plus it’s a blow to the ego to feel overqualified for something and to be told you’re unqualified. How embarrassing!
That was January.
The rest of the year was a series of false starts, unfinished projects, pipe dreams, and disappointments. My resume has to be in the inbox of half of the non-profits in the eastern part of the country. Well, I guess more accurately, my resume was deleted by half of the non-profits in the eastern side of the country. I tried to self start, to be entrepreneurial, to be a go-getter all while getting increasingly depressed and discouraged.
That was my professional life.
In my personal life, I found myself repeating old mistakes, falling into old traps, and losing connections with loved ones. I struggled with feelings of unworthiness and powerlessness. I felt alienated and small. I caught myself grasping at old visions of who I was and what I wanted from my life and losing sight of where I was and what I had. I lost people’s trust and subsequently lost trust in myself and my own ability to make good decisions.
Then the summer came and I did something really stupid. Without consulting my doctor, I went off of my medication. Basically the one thing that is stressed when you are on anti-depressants is to not stop them without your doctor’s supervision. Oops! I wasn’t sure the meds were doing any good. Furthermore I hated that I was unable to trust my own thoughts and feelings. I felt like I was leaning too heavily on the crutch of medication.
Yeah, that was a mistake. I crashed pretty hard during the summer. What momentum I had built up, I lost. I let projects go. I became even more isolated. I became moody (moodier) and despairing. Needless to say, I was a joy to be around.
It took me until a couple of months ago to get back on medication, a different one than I had been on before. It’s through the lens of a couple of months of more effective chemicals and some pretty intense therapy sessions that I have been able to gain some clarity on the year that is passing.
It was a couple of sessions ago that my therapist pointed out that I had lost confidence in myself. The moment she said it, it rang so incredibly true that I was rocked by her words. I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever been an incredibly cocky person, but I’ve always had a baseline of trust in my ability to do the the things that I do well. This year, that baseline level of self confidence was gone. I didn’t trust in my ability to speak. I didn’t trust in my ability to write. I didn’t trust in my ability to connect with people. I’ve spent much of this year feeling like I bring nothing new or interesting to the table. It is an awful feeling.
Self confidence isn’t something that comes from external affirmations. I have had plenty of those. What has kept me going this year is that there are people who believe in me far more than I do in myself. I have cheerleaders in my family, friends who encourage me, and acquaintances who have entered my life simply on the virtue of respecting what I have put out into the world. I am grateful that I have had so many people who have lent me their strength when I have not had my own.
As grateful as I am, that outside energy is no substitute for what has been missing inside of me. I go into this year with a strong desire to get my mojo back. I think the key to that is accomplishing small things on a consistent basis. In the midst of the remembrances of Carrie Fisher’s life that have come out in the last 24 hours, I came across this quote that I really liked:
I think this is true. I think this is what courage looks like. I think it is about just doing the thing, despite all the voices inside of you telling you that you can’t do the thing. I think it starts small, sometimes simply with making a plan. Part of the next couple of weeks for me will be making my plan for the upcoming year. Shannon got me a cool Panda planner for Christmas. It’s a tool to help me monitor the incremental growth I’m taking towards my objectives. I’m looking forward to using it and rebuilding some of the resilience I feel I’ve lost.