Losing confidence and finding it back

I can’t sleep. The wind outside keeps whispering at me to get up. The rain is hitting the window. The bones in my pelvis clicks every time I turn around. The joints in my thighs are screaming in pain. The little one in my belly is having a rave. They say the last 3 months of pregnancy are riddled with insomnia.

But I don’t think it has anything to do with the storm or with being pregnant. I can’t sleep because my mind has decided to invite me to an unwanted screening of a feature film of all my failures.

The last two years are years where I’ve learned to fail and let go. Well, I thought I had learned how to let go, but the film is telling me otherwise. So it’s 5 in the morning and I get up, because I need to rewrite the scenario.

In the film, I see myself falling, getting up and smiling. Many times.

Two years ago, for the first time in my life as an adult, I experienced bullying. Someone I trusted, someone I chose to trust to carry forward a project I considered my baby, turned out to be someone who seized every opportunity to belittle me and my work, in a way that only bullies can do: in a way that makes you doubt yourself. At the end, I let go. But it still hurts.

It was a painful experience and my confidence took a hit. But I have learned a lot, and the mistakes I made when trying to seize the bully by the horns have thought me a lot, and have helped me to slide through 2017 with the biggest sense of calm I have ever experienced. (Might have been the pregnancy hormones too).

Let go of people and situation that don’t bring the best out of you

Last year, when I left my job, I had a plan. The plan was to start something new and exciting with people I trusted. In February this year, I realised this combination of people was unlikely to allow me to be my most creative, confident, happy self, so I let go. I experienced a deep sense of grief, and spent many days of March hidden under a blanket of anger. But then springtime came, and the pain turned into a sense of opportunity. I had no plans, and it actually felt good.

Some things are not in your control, and it’s ok

Around the same time, I faced a few rejections. One for a job that I thought was cut out for me, because it built on work I had done with the organisation advertising it. One for a residency which later funded a project very similar to the one I had applied with. And a few others. They hurt, but not as much. Because it felt as though they were only comforting me in my intuition that I had to find my own way, and stay put with the no plan plan. I started freelancing and picked up some creative side projects that had been gathering dust for years. Focusing my energy on getting busy and reconnecting with doing things just for the pleasure of it helped me to throw away the blanket of anger and to step back into my comfy suit.

Let your body tell you when to stop

In April, I got pregnant. It was a surprise, a lovely surprise, which forced me to say goodbye to the chaos of feelings once and for all, because I needed to focus on the massive task ahead. I had a painful and very dramatic hospitalisation at the beginning of the pregnancy, which weakened my flesh and bones. It took me 3 weeks to be able to walk out of the house. It taught me to listen to my body and to be patient with it. I’ve carried on to apply the same patience through the rest of the year, through the nausea, the back pain, the shortness of breath, the tiredness and all of the other pregnancy symptoms. That’s when I fully realised that being freelance was the right thing for me. It’s been lovely to be able to do this without guilt, without the feeling I was letting others down.

Build and nurture a community

Around that time, I reached out to women I knew well, and women I knew less well to build a supportive network. We hold meals every month and a half or so, exchange ideas, tips and opportunities, feast together and support each other. It makes freelancing very pleasurable and less lonely, it makes me feel I have a community.

Dare to declare independence

So that was the first half of the year. The second half has felt really smooth and lovely in comparison. I’ve had lovely clients and partners, and freelancing has surprisingly turned out to be more financially rewarding that being employed full-time. I’ve actively made time to develop a podcast, I’ve self-published a book, I’ve set-up and delivered a successful retreat with a friend, and I’m investing more time in meeting and working with people I admire and care about.

I’ve learned that I don’t need others to define success for me. For now, success is birthing and raising a sunny child. It’s having found balance in my relationships. It’s supporting my friends when they need it. It’s reading for pleasure. It’s cooking for even greater pleasure. Until I’m ready for another failure.

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