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Faking confidence & where it has gotten me

Oxford Dictionary defines confidence as “the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something.” It’s exactly right. Confidence is all about having faith in yourself and for a long time, I did not.

In high school, I went a few years with very low confidence and very high anxiety. This caused plenty of anxiety attacks and a lot of crying about the smallest things. Looking back, I wasted a lot of opportunities due to my anxiety. After 7 years, I am now ready to share my experience and how I overcame anxiety.

Where it started…

I first noticed a change in year 7. A mix of starting a new school, meeting new people and hormones were most likely the cause of this. I couldn’t go anywhere alone, I couldn’t speak up in class, I couldn’t eat in front of people. And that’s the thing with anxiety: it’s not a “won’t”, it’s a “can’t”. There was a mental block that stopped me from taking part in things that I would’ve enjoyed.

Here’s an embarrassing memory to explain how bad anxiety can be: I went to a festival one year with my friend. We had arrived and sat on a bench as we waited for the artists to begin their set. My friend wanted to have a look around the stalls before we made our way into the crowd. The only thing was that I couldn’t stand up. My heart was racing. I could feel myself on the verge of an anxiety attack. Everything was very loud and I felt so much fear. I was physically able to stand up. My legs weren’t numb or anything, but the fear kept me down. I sat on that bench for about 20 minutes. Trying to stand but being extremely scared. I couldn't tell you what made me stand up in the end, I can’t remember that part. The only thing I remember is having an overwhelming sense of fear.

I would have moments like that very often and they would overshadow the fun memories. I had missed many amazing opportunities due to anxiety. After a while, I decided that enough was enough. I was done wasting my time and stifling my happiness. But that’s easier said than done.

Taking back control…

The first memory I have of trying to overcome this anxiety was in my first job interview. I was fired from a Saturday job because of my anxiety. I had worked in a bakery but was too scared to speak to any of the customers. This new job was at Subway. I had plenty of anxiety attacks before my interview and I almost cancelled it. My parents are the ones who convinced me to go. Even though I was terrified, I ended up getting the job.

My first few months at Subway were terrible. I started in the Christmas season, so it was busy all the time. I was learning new things and I wasn’t very good. I floated my way through this job up until Covid hit in 2020, my anxiety getting less and less. Then I was furloughed, and my anxiety returned full throttle. There were strict restrictions, and we were kept away from each other. This was the one thing that I enjoyed. But it didn’t help my anxiety at all.

When going into shops again I noticed that the fear of the unknown was the biggest cause of my anxiety returning. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like and that was scary. I had no choice but to experience it. That was how I got through everything opening back up and the new way of doing things. I was forced to go along.

When restrictions eased and things opened back up, I took a gap year and worked at Subway full time. Whilst doing this I had to speak to a lot of customers and was taking on a bigger role in the team. It was a very gradual transition, and I didn’t really notice anything changing which helped. Before I knew it, I was a deputy manager, and I would speak to customers and delivery drivers daily. This was more than I ever thought I would. I knew how to do my job and that gave me the most confidence.

Outside inspiration…

I continued to struggle when it came to speaking to new people. It isn’t something that you can change overnight. But something my sister used to say would always pop into my mind. I would always admire how confident and independent she was. Always able to do things on her own and never scared. I asked her what her secret was. She simply said, “fake it ‘till you make it”.

I had heard that phrase before, it wasn’t new to me. But I had never actually thought about it until that moment. I had always loved acting and used to do drama as a child (which I quit due to anxiety, shocking I know). So, I treated this as a way to continue my love of acting.

Faking confidence is really just putting on a performance. Find a piece of your identity and turn it into a character. That way when you’re doing something new or scary, all you have to do is play a version of yourself. Doing this has helped me to achieve so much. It has eventually given me my own confidence. I really have “faked it until I made it”.

Where I am now…

With my newfound confidence I have managed to move out of my parents house, get an apprenticeship in a job that I love and a course that is teaching me everything I want to know, drive my car on the motorway multiple times a week and start a fitness journey. These may seem like small wins to some, and that’s the whole point. It isn’t a done deal. It’s something you need to work at and strive towards. But I will say: the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

I think confidence is earned. For a lot of people it isn’t something that comes easily. The only way to achieve it is to work at it until it becomes a reality and never give up. As for my anxiety now, I can’t say it has completely disappeared and I don’t know if it ever will. But it doesn’t hold me back like it used to and it doesn’t stop me from achieving my dreams. That is something I had always wished for and I hope that now I can pass on what I have learnt to other people who have struggled with anxiety and a lack of confidence.

Aimee Hodgkinson, Cohort 34, Digital Marketing Apprentice at Space HR


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