A Theory on Why We Lose Confidence As We Get Older


When I was 25 I took a 6 month trip to London with a boyfriend.

As soon as I jumped in a black cab that was to take us to Putney, where we were to be staying, I KNEW I wasn’t going back home in 6 months. 

As I looked out the window of the cab, immersed in the sights, something inside me said, “This is where the next leg of your life journey lies…and it’s beyond a 6 month holiday.”

That something inside me was right…

The 6 months came to an end, the boyfriend and I parted ways, and a few months later I flew home to South Africa, resigned from my job, rented out my apartment, and jetted back to London. 

ON MY OWN.

For what would become a 5 year adventure.

I found the perfect job, working for one of Britain’s most successful publishers.

I easily made new friends.

I found the perfect place to stay — and then when my time ended at that place, somehow the next one showed up, as if by magic, and I’d move there — without worrying about whether I’d find another place, or what would become of me if I didn’t.

One of my favourite memories is of the time my dream flat manifested:

Along the walk home to one of the houses I lived in, I would amble through tree-lined streets of large, affluent homes with ivy growing up the sides.

I dreamed of living in one of those houses.

Somewhat of a hermit, and someone who just loves their own company and to march to their own tune, I relished living alone in my own little bubble and being happy in my own little world after living with constantly changing housemates for a couple of years.

One day, I learned that the person whose room I was ‘sitting’ for was returning early and that I’d need to find another place.

The next day at work a newspaper crossed my desk and I randomly spotted a classifieds ad for a studio flat.

I got the goosebumps and rang up the landlady.

She gave me the directions which led me straight to a house in the affluent, tree-lined area I’d dreamed of living in!

The studio was on the top floor, with a huge green tree outside the window and a view of all those large, wealthy homes in the street.

There I lived, so happy. Drawing, writing, painting, discovering my spirituality and healing myself for the next 3 years.

What I find fascinating, on reflection, is that when I arrived in London I’d come off the back of a bout of severe clinical depression and was nowhere near to being ‘in the clear’.

It had been only 3 months since I’d been released from the Psych ward — my brain ‘fried’ by shock treatment, and on a high dose cocktail of anti-depressants and mood-stabilisers.

I didn’t say to myself, ‘I can’t go halfway round the world in this state.’

I didn’t wonder who was going to look after me.

I didn’t question whether I’d be able to access ongoing medication or a mental health plan.

I didn’t hesitate.

I just went.

It was also during my 5 years in London

Where did that confidence come from?

And, more importantly, as I got older, where did it GO?

Why was it that, almost 20 years later, when I wanted to start a business from behind my computer, let alone the other side of the world — and in full mental health, mind you (a good part of my time in London was spent healing the depression and weaning myself off the medication; a story for another day)— was I saying things to myself like,

‘How am I going to make this work?’

‘Where am I going to find support?’

‘What if I fail?’

‘What if it all goes wrong?’

‘I don’t want to network with and meet new people because I’m an introvert and I’d prefer to be at home.’

‘I don’t know where my next client is going to come from.’

I had forgotten my ‘magic touch’ that had everything I wanted land in my lap.

I’d lost sight of the fact that I’d once felt unstoppable, and never worried what was coming next.

I have a theory as to what happened for me to lose that confidence.

Years and years of putting myself down.

Something switched when I became a first time mother. 

It was all new. 

I had no idea what I was doing (I’d never been around babies at all, so my frame of reference was the doll we practiced on in the pre-natal classes).

My control issues reared their head.

My fear of failure was not far behind, and anxiety and overwhelm became the norm.

I reinforced every hour of every day how much I was struggling:

  • telling myself I wasn’t supported (my husband had no family close by to help us out with our 3 children),
  • telling myself I was doing a crap job at parenting and that I was failing, BIG TIME,
  • being an introvert and now finding it difficult to make friends in a new country on the other side of the world to where I’m from (I’d met my husband in London and we’d relocated to New Zealand in that classic Antipodean love story shared by many Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans),
  •  judging myself for my social anxiety (I desired DEEP connection with others at those times but in my state I was extremely sensitive to the energy of others and so I retreated),
  • not asking for help because I didn’t feel worthy.

It was after the birth of my third daughter that I began to relax more, and rekindled my passion for personal growth and development.

I worked on myself day and night with the determination that I’d tackled the healing of the depression.

I thought I was out of the woods. I was enjoying my newfound emotional freedom and feeling like I had a handle on things. I had even begun to believe I was a great mum!

I had chosen to be a stay-at-home-mum, working very part-time doing easy administration tasks that, in hindsight, didn’t require me to sell myself, price my wares, network and be visible, warts and all in the name of ‘vulnerability’ (my business would be predominantly online).

Things were going swimmingly...or so I thought.

Then…going out on my own when my children were less dependent on me, I was not prepared for the onslaught of self-doubt that starting a business ignites— all that over-analysing things in case I made the wrong choice and failed even more, SO much going over and over every decision, weighing up the pros and cons and getting nowhere, and waaaay too much asking the opinions of others .

I had to take stock of what was going on, and I had to do it fast, otherwise I was never going to make it out alive!

Having totally cured the depression and ditched the meds in my late 20s, I KNEW that I was the creator of all the suffering in my life (and all the healing), and that it was only the stories I was telling myself (all that putting myself down) that was keeping me from being confident, so I began to work on building myself back up.

I saw clearly that my self-doubt was a symptom of something much deeper.

This was a pattern. The SAME pattern as the one that surfaced when I became a new mother.

It made total sense that when starting something new (just as when I had my first child) that all those stories would resurface because live out the same patterns over and over if we don’t address them.

What do I do now? 

I decided to connect to that 20-something Karen who didn’t worry about where the next place to live was going to come from, who knew she’d be chosen for her dream job the minute she entered the interview, who — even though struggling with the biggest challenge of her life (overcoming Major Depression)— with an underlying FAITH that all is working out in her favour.

How wise she was!

Tapping into the part of me that creates magic was the answer…as well as clearing up and dissolving the limiting beliefs I was carrying about myself.

All those untruths that most humans seem to be programmed with.

Untruths that cripple us and hold us back from going for what we want.

ILLUSIONS.

When the Actual Truth is that we are powerful creators who can be, do and have anything we desire if we are prepared to do what it takes to take control of how we speak to ourselves and what we choose to believe about the human condition.

I have discovered that we have the choice in every NOW moment to choose where we want to focus and what new story we want to tell.

Knowing all of this doesn’t make the journey a ‘walk in the park’, but it sure takes the suffering and the belief that we are victims of our circumstances out of the picture. And that’s as good a starting point as any.


This article is also published on medium.com.

Karen’s book, ‘Keeping It Drama Free — discover the Actual Truth to take back control and create a live worth living’ is coming soon. 

Photo by Luigi Manga on Unsplash

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