At 7 years old I’m given an award in assembly for writing an ‘outstanding’ story on one of our homework assignments. In the last couple of years of primary school, I win a quiz in front of the school after correctly answering the all-important question of “who wrote the Mr Men books?”.
~ I don’t know what happened here ~
I’m collecting the uni results and realise I’ve achieved one of the highest grades in the year for my dissertation. The same dissertation that I thought was a steaming pile of shit.
That middle section represents years of life lived and, probably, things achieved that I just can’t remember. It wasn’t because of an accident that wiped my memory or alcoholism. It was because my confidence was non-existent.
Kids and their unashamed confidence
Mini-Meg was fine. No confidence issues there. I might’ve been shy and I might’ve been sad when I wasn’t good at something, but I certainly wasn’t plagued by self-doubt.
I hadn’t learned that I should hate my body yet. I hadn’t started beating myself up whenever I did anything that wasn’t perfect. I didn’t worry about how I came across to other people so making friends was still fairly easy.
Kids have got life figured out. I had life figured out. But, at 10 years old, I didn’t know that what I had was confidence…so I also didn’t realise when I lost it.
That middle part
I can’t think of one thing I achieved in secondary school or in the first couple of years of uni. Okay, that’s a lie. I remember crying on the phone to my mum, telling her with disbelief that I got an A in my maths GCSE when I thought I’d fail and have to retake it. Even then, though, I believed (and still believe today) that someone cocked it up and gave me the wrong grade.
I didn’t recognise anything as an achievement so it makes sense that I have no memories of achieving anything. It wasn’t until I picked up my uni results, looked at all the clever people around me, and thought about all the hard work I’d put into those grades did I start to get it again. That feeling of deserving something good.
An apology to 10-year-old Meg
I’m devastated for my younger self. She’s about to put herself through years and years of life filled with self-doubt and lost opportunities that she won’t even remember fully when she’s older.
Everything life threw at me, every little criticism I faced, all the dark thoughts I had…I internalised them and I repeated them back to myself every day.
I’m trying not to have regrets. I mean, there’s no point, right? What’s done is done. But I am so angry that I didn’t hold onto that primary school confidence.
Here’s the good news: I wrote all of that in the past tense. I’ve gotta long way to go but this year has been the best of my life.
If you told me that I’d be doing all that I’ve done even a year ago, I’d have laughed in your face. Honestly.
And, I don’t know how I did it. That’s the fucker. What’s the secret sauce? What advice could I give to someone who is missing out on life because they don’t have the confidence to recognise how great they are?
It’s gotta be done on your own terms, I guess. When it’s ready, your mind goes “well, shit! I did something right! And another thing! And another thing!”. Then, eventually, you stop giving yourself as much of a hard time for not getting things right.
You start to realise that everyone has ups and downs and everyone is good at some things and not so good at others. What separates us is how we react, how we internalise our strengths and weaknesses. Whether we recognise the strengths or dwell on the weaknesses.
I wish I’d figured it out sooner.