Christine Webber

I bumped into a friend the other day. She’s generally so bright and breezy, but there was something different about her. 

It turned out she had fallen over in the street a few days previously. “I was rushing and not looking where I was going,” she admitted. But then she added, “the trouble is I keep worrying I might do it again. And I feel I’ve lost lots of confidence”. 

Unfortunately, a dip in confidence is fairly common as we age.   

Retirement is a regular culprit. I know a man who had a wonderful career in the medical profession but who, two years after leaving work, tells me his confidence has plummeted.

Recently, he was approached to chair a committee. It’s something he’d like and is interested in. But he wonders whether he’s “quite the man I was”. 

A bout of flu or Covid can cause us to lose confidence in our normal fitness and we worry we won’t fully recover.   

The death of a partner can cause a confidence-dip.

Alongside the sorrow, many individuals are plagued by anxiety that they haven’t the ability at this stage in life to deal with all the changes being thrust upon them.

Someone I follow on Twitter lost his husband a few weeks ago and posted: “Last time I was single, my mum was alive”.

That felt like a very wistful message. His words seemed to highlight how timid and unsure and lonely he was. We never grow out of wanting a bit of comfort from mum, do we?

So, I thought we’d look at confidence problems this week and try to put them in perspective.

First, may I emphasise I’m writing about temporary difficulties. It’s a different situation if you’re facing something hugely serious like your last illness.

But if you are, I bet you’re doing all you can to find positives in every day, and ways of boosting your confidence.

All the people I know who have suffered a terminal condition have been fantastic at small gestures like putting on a blue shirt to bring out the colour of their eyes, or finding a lipstick that lights up the face.

Such acts help individuals to feel they’re the same person they always were and tend to bring joy to even the darkest of days. 

But let’s concentrate here on those who are feeling diminished by current events even though they’re unlikely to be permanent.

And let’s do it by being as logical as possible. 

Frequently, we feel worse than we need because we imagine the worst. It’s important therefore to challenge those negative thoughts. And to ask if there’s any real evidence for them.  

The truth is that it’s unlikely my friend will suffer long-term from her fall. She should remember, as I do, that in our younger days, we often crashed to the pavement because we were running for a bus in ridiculously high heels. I fell regularly. Far more than I have done in my more senior years. 

As for the former medic, if he challenges his thoughts, he’ll probably realise that there’s no reason for him to have lost the ability to speak in public or chair a meeting.

He’s probably just out of practice. As for my Twitter companion, sadly, he’ll be grief-stricken for a while, but I honestly believe that if thinks logically, he’ll find the confidence and reserves to cope. 

None of us has a crystal ball. But if we look at how we’ve dealt with blows through life, we should be able to reframe our thinking about our futures into something less gloomy – and then our confidence will increase. 

There are plenty of other ways we can lift our moods and enhance our confidence.

Usually, the most effective ones are those that prove to us we can still easily accomplish tasks as we’ve always done.  

  1. Get a new haircut or buy a brightly coloured top. When we lack confidence, we tend to pay less attention to our appearance, but this is the time we should focus on it.
  2. Take a trip down memory lane. Remember an occasion when you gave a brilliant presentation. Or how you passed a crucial exam when you were also holding down a busy job. Or how you raised three children when you had practically no money. Recalling your past skills will build confidence now. 
  3. Get together with old friends. Your confidence will grow in their company as you feel their love and appreciation for you. 
  4. Tackle routine tasks you’ve been putting off, but which will give you a sense of achievement once done – clear out a cupboard that is overflowing with unwanted stuff or paint your bedroom. Getting on with things is almost always beneficial.  
  5.  Never, even in jest, shout at yourself “You’re an idiot”. You’re not. And this is an unhelpful message to give to your brain.  

We all have ups and downs, as we have done through life. Sometimes the reverses of older age sap our confidence but it’s important to nip that in the bud before it takes hold.

Our confidence hasn’t deserted us. It’s just taken a knock and needs nurturing.

We can do that!