life lessons

The Past

I was always shy as a child. I never developed a good sense of self esteem, and so I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. It's something that has been ever present in my life, lurking deep in my inner thoughts for as long as I can remember. Even when people complimented me on something I did well, every promotion I've gotten, there's been this voice in the corner of my mind saying "they don't know the real me" or "you can't trust what they say".

This voice has also influenced my behaviour.

When meeting new people, my immediate thoughts have always been "they don't like me, I will never see them again, so there is no point in building this relationship."

When buying new clothes, my immediate thoughts have always been "even if you look nice, nobody will like you anyway, so there is no point in trying to look nice."

When dealing with random passers-by, my immediate thoughts have always been "they are trying to take advantage of you, avoid contact as much as possible."

It has made me lead a lonely life.

That is not to say I haven't had friends along the way. In fact I've been quite blessed with many people in my life I have had the privilege to call friends. But very few have known about these thoughts of mine or my belief that I am not worthy of them.

Thus, moving to the Netherlands has been extremely difficult.

I gave up my comfort zone I had built up over the years. I gave up my friendship networks I had somehow built. I gave up a position at work that brought me great satisfaction. I gave up being able to visit my mother when I needed support.

I gave this all up because I wanted to run away.

Despite the comfort zone, I never felt safe. Despite the friends, I never felt worthy. Despite the good working circumstances, I never believed I deserved it. Despite only being a short drive away from home, I felt like a failure.

At first upon arrival, my survival instincts were working. I had friends to stay with, I had funds to keep myself sufficient, I found a place to stay, I networked a bit and established some connections with people in my new environment.

And then the voice got loud.

I crashed. There was a time when I couldn't peel myself off of my couch for a month. I couldn't leave my apartment, too scared to face the overwhelming world outside. I was depressed. I was anxious. I was questioning everything. I cried tears I didn't know I had in me.

I became a husk of my former self. I was proving the voice right with every choice I didn't make.

I still cannot tell you where the first 12 months of living here went. I suspect I spent most of it consuming YouTube content I no longer cared about, ordering food I didn't enjoy off Uber Eats every night, longing for the life I once lived.

The Present

This week will mark 2 years since I moved here, and I have learned a lot since then.

I've been going to therapy regularly for the past few months which has helped me process some things I didn't know were there. And slowly but surely, I've been connecting the dots of my life.

The most recent dot, and the reason for this post, has been an understanding of where I believe confidence comes from.

We've all heard the saying: fake it till you make it.

This has never been good enough for me, and I believe it's because I've had that voice in the back of my mind making me doubt myself.

"How can I fake it if I don't know where to start?" is one that I can distinctly remember bumping into.

What I've come to realise, is that despite being the most depressed I have ever been in my life, I am still here. I still have friends, I still have a job, I still have a desire for a better life. And when I think about that further, the question arises, why do I still have all these things? I believe the answer is that deep down, underneath it all, I trust myself. Specifically, I can rely on my subconscious to get me through.

When I think back to the highlights of my life, the moments I have been proudest of myself, I realise that I put very little of my own conscious effort into them. They were things that just came naturally, so to speak. I realise now that that was my subconscious keeping me on track, making connections and giving me ideas.

The things I've been good at are the things I've done confidently. The things I've been good at are the things that came naturally. The things that came naturally are the things I believe my subconscious does for me.

So is it really a case of fake it till you make it?

Well, I think it does have some truth to it, because the principle behind this saying is practice. By practicing things we build the pathways in our brains to allow our subconscious mind to do the work our conscious mind struggles with. We practice things for them to become natural.

This is why I believe the subconscious is key to confidence. And for it to really work, you have to trust that your subconscious mind has got this.

The Future

So the lesson for myself is to try to change this inner monologue of mine from one of negative thoughts and self doubt, to one that trusts me and my subconscious to do the right thing. The proof is in the pudding, because I'm still here, still going, growing, and wanting more from this life. The times I've struggled are the times I haven't trusted myself to do the right thing. The bad decisions I've made in the past were the ones where I let self doubt be the louder voice. The best decisions I've made were the ones where I believed in myself.

I'm going to try this confidence thing on for myself and see where it takes me.