You’ll notice things have gone a bit quiet around these parts since my last post – because it’s been something of a whirlwind since I upped sticks and moved to the big smoke. Honestly, I have not stopped for long enough to even think, let alone write – but I’ve been lucky enough to have met some really amazing, kind, funny and genuinely lovely people since I arrived. It’s been awesome.
But I’ll admit, it’s been very different to what I’d expected.
Actually, no. That’s not exactly true.
What I mean is that I’ve been different to how I’d expected. You know how I’m all about self-confidence? About rolling with the punches, and about staying positive no matter what life throws at you?
Well, my God have I had to concentrate hard on practicing what I preach over the last few weeks.
That’s not to say I’ve been having a bad time, by any means – it’s been uh-mazing with a capital UH, and I’ve had a bizarre amount of fun for someone going through such a serious change. Plus, yesterday I went to a chocolate sampling and a Topshop thing for London Fashion Week as part of my job. Consider this anything but a blog of complaint.
But I didn’t quite clock how big a change it’d be for me, leaving my work, home, family and friends and starting completely from scratch. I’ve had moments where I’ve been floored by the fact that I’m whizzing around, trying to get my head around the new job, whilst attempting to find my way around with a sense of direction I definitely inherited from my Dad (clue: it’s not great), and hoping against hope that I can make it through the day without making a faux pas of such epic proportions that I’m taken to the outskirts of the city and unceremoniously booted out.
In other words, my confidence hasn’t been quite what it usually is.
And that’s a development I kinda didn’t see coming. I was worried about the logistics of the move, and put many an hour into working out things like travel arrangements, whether I owned enough pants, making sure not to forget my phone charger, and other stuff that made most military invasions look a bit slapdash on the planning front – but I hadn’t put enough thought into the confidence issue.
It was only after a few days that I realised: I had contracted the fear.
If you know me, you’ll know I’m just not that way inclined. It’s not me. I don’t do that. But suddenly, I was doing the very opposite of everything I normally would. I was quiet, I was over-thinking everything, I was doubting myself, and I was beating myself up… In short, I was everything I tell you guys not to be.
Now, it turns out the fear is a bit of a bitch. It’s pretty off-putting – and it seemed to knock me right off my perch, for a few days at least.
However, it’s also not impossible to counter – as long as you can separate your internal monologues enough to work out which ones you really ought to be listening to. Here’s an example:
“I’m not sure you can do this. For a start, you’ve got bad hair and puffy skin and you’re really bloated today, thus rendering you incapable of understanding this industry and certainly completely unacceptable-looking to work in such a cool, glamorous industry, ’cause you’re neither cool nor glamorous – and also, you’re from a town which seems, from here in the middle of apparently everything, to be like Middle Earth in comparison to this place where you have no idea what you are doing because you’re useless, and probably a bit of a fraud. GO HOME.”
That monologue sucks – but it bears all the hallmarks of the fear. And when it popped up in my head, it managed to take down my confidence in how I look, my ability to do my job, and the way I contextualise myself both professionally, and as a person. Thanks brain. Much appreciated.
We’ve all been there – and it seems like the voice that pops up just before the crunch point. The crunch point, that is, where you either jump straight on the first train back home and move back in with your parents, thanking God you decided to travel light so you haven’t lost too much stuff in jumping ship… Or you don’t.
Instead, you’ve got to find that other voice – the one that often gets drowned out by the shrieking banshee of you-suck-at-everything right there. I’ve had to do this. But it’s not easy. If the negative voice is automatic, the positive one is very much manual – and you’ve really got to work to bring it out.
For me, I’ve found plugging in my headphones, putting on some ridiculously upbeat music – counter to the urge to put on some Radiohead and look woefully out of a window – is a good way to start. Jumping on a treadmill and taking a bit of a jog can really help too, especially when combined with the theme music from Rocky. That never fails.
And finally, you have to spend time coming up with the counter-argument to that other voice – consciously cancelling out every point it makes. Even if you don’t believe it when you first say it, I firmly believe that in these situations, if you say something enough times, eventually it’ll start to bear a little bit of truth. So:
“Yes, I am a little bit bloated, and yes, my hair does look ridiculous this morning because I’ve changed my shampoo – but really, nobody here is paying any attention to that. Not one person in London gives a damn if you’re experiencing frizz, or you’re veering on the side of blotchy – because they’re too busy thinking the same kind of things about themselves.
As for the industry – yes, it’s complex. But when you started in your last job, you thought you’d never understand that either, but eventually it clicked. Cool or glamorous? Pfft. Give me a break. And yes, London is massive, and home does seem quiet and friendly in comparison – but seriously? You just walked over Tower Bridge on your lunch break, and your office looks out on the Shard. This is some pretty amazing tourist stuff people pay a lot of money to do – so stop whining and get on with it.”
This might sound harsh – but sometimes, you’ve gotta fight fire with fire, or so the saying goes (although I’m not really sure how exactly that works… But that’s beside the point.) And you know what?
It does work. I’ve been doing this every day since I realised I had the fear – and things have been getting better every day. It’s not that I’ve managed to convince myself I’m awesome, or that I’m perfect, or anything like that – but it’s enough of a kick up the butt in the morning to enable me to pick up and get on with the task in hand.
It’s essentially a fight-or-flight situation – and one that relies on you being able to put your negative thoughts in the past, to concentrate on what you can do now to make the future – whether that’s immediate or longer-term – better. You’ve got to invest that bit of conscious effort in being positive, confident, and safe in the knowledge that you’re capable of doing whatever you put your mind to.
And not just in situations like this, either. Really, it’s the sort of mindset you have to get yourself into if you’re going to change your life, or even just make the best of where you already are. It’s never too late to start drowning out those negative thoughts, but you’ve got to make the conscious decision to do so.
So, here’s a starting point, from me to you. You can do anything, if you really want to. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, and that there won’t be times when you doubt yourself, or think you can’t – but you can do whatever it is you want to do if you keep believing in yourself. And for all these words… That’s all there is to it.