OPINION: Nominating a Crisis Buddy can help when confidence is low
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Anyone can have a crisis of confidence. It can come out of the blue and affect people who normally feel resilient and capable, just as much as those who see themselves as more frail.
I’ve just read a post on Twitter from a woman who is losing her hair because she is having chemo.
Her confidence, she says, is shot to pieces. And it’s the change in her normal appearance as opposed to her illness that has knocked her for six.
I think most of us would lose our sense of self in such a dreadful situation.
But it isn’t just major moments like that. It can be something routine that suddenly crops up and stops you coping.
A friend of mine, a gentleman in his seventies who is still working and is generally the life and soul of any gathering, confided in me last week that he had suddenly perceived himself, for the first time, as a little old man.
He had been in London, and was wearing a mask as well as his spectacles, and they kept steaming up.
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Perhaps you know the feeling.
As he walked down the steps into an Underground station, he felt unsure and unsteady on his feet because he couldn’t see properly.
This reduced him to tears, which was most unlike him, and he felt a strong sense that life was going to go downhill from then on and that his days of independent living were over.
He recovered somewhat after a few hours, but there is no doubt that this one incident was a significant moment for him, and that it’s been distressing.
Last week, another friend, whom I’ll call Sue, applied for a voluntary role in a big charity. She was interviewed by Zoom and immediately felt uneasy. The interviewer used a lot of jargon that she didn’t understand and had a whole list of expectations that my friend would need to meet if she was to be considered.
Sue felt humiliated by the experience, yet until recently she had been running an HR department. I think this is awful.
Quite apart from anything else, surely the interviewer should have expressed some gratitude that Sue was prepared to offer her time and expertise for free, even if it did not seem that she was right for the job.
Sue and I discussed this at some length, and came to the conclusion that that particularly charity was not a good fit for her, but that there were plenty of others who might well value what she could offer.
However, I could tell that it was going to be a while before Sue got over her drop in confidence that day as well as her anxiety that perhaps she was a bit past her sell by date and no longer useful. A horrid sensation to have.
A former colleague, who runs a small business from home, rang me in a panic recently. She is so on top of things normally, but she had been busy and had fallen asleep over her crossword after lunch and had then missed an important Zoom with a new client.
She was able to remedy the situation later by pleading a loss of wifi, and then rescheduling, but she was thoroughly shaken. ‘I felt suddenly as if I was losing my marbles,’ she told me.
Does this sound like you? If so, can I remind you that we have all been forgetful through life. It’s just that when we were younger, we never worried about it.
Ask any university lecturer how many students turn up late or in the wrong room on a regular basis. Or cast your mind back to the day you were waiting for your daughter in a café and you got a panicky phone call from her saying: ‘Going to be terribly late, Mum. I just forgot. Sorry’.
Such situations happen all the time.
But feeling as though you are losing your grip is a bleak experience. So, if this is happening to you, no matter what your age, my best suggestion is that you nominate a Crisis Buddy.
This should be someone in your life who will be there any time you feel your confidence levels plummet - someone who loves and values you. The chances are that this person might also like you to be their buddy, and that will be a win-win arrangement.
Think carefully about who it should be. You might decide you don’t want to make it a relative or a partner – because you aren’t comfortable, for whatever reason, about telling them.
Exposing our fears and our unease about our capabilities can be frightening, but by doing so, these thoughts lose their power over us. A crisis of confidence can happen to the best of us – so we all need that buddy. Why not pick yours today?