Article by Paula Gardner
Mid Life Confidence
You think that one might have got this confidence thing sussed by the time we reach our fifties, but there are more things besieging our confidence than ever. The menopause. Friends and loved ones falling seriously ill. Health issues of our own, perhaps. That persistent low-level nagging question of what’s your purpose? Dealing with our children’s problems around cyber bullying, or digital addiction. The stress of modern day online dating. Even if only one or two of the above apply to you, it’s actually a wonder that you’re not on the floor in a gibbering heap right now.
My own major confidence crisis was of the existential sort: who am I and what the hell did I want to do with the rest of my life? I felt ashamed to still be asking myself, essentially, what I wanted to be when I grew up. Looking around at my friends and colleagues, so many of them seemed not only have things worked out, but to be happy and contented. Why then, couldn’t I be the same?
I questioned what I was doing, the person I was with, and the stories I was telling myself. I essentially started on my journey to find someone I didn’t know existed, my Inner Bitch.
Our Inner Bitch
Our Inner bitch, I now believe, is the strong woman inside us that we often fail to let out because of years of social conditioning, fears around what other people will think (will I be perceived as a pushy bitch?) and our own unfamiliarity with her. She often comes out when we are forced to fight our corner, protect our loved ones, or need to draw on huge amounts of courage discipline to do something…like leaving a dead marriage, facing up to an abuser or coping with the death of a parent without it darkening the rest of your life.
I know my own Inner Bitch was very cleverly hidden, and it took a long, roundabout journey to find her. This was a journey that involved time away in a convent, leaving a relationship, cutting ties with a narcissist who was not good for my self-esteem, dealing with a bereavement, coping with an attack on the underground, taking time away in Italy on my own, returning to University and proving to myself that I had the self-discipline for a Masters. It was a journey that involved lots of psychological research, of understanding what builds confidence and self-belief, and what can destroy it.
I now feel quite at home with my Inner Bitch. She’s not mean or nasty, and she certainly has no interest in undermining other people to make me feel better. There have been repercussions, however. My ability to place boundaries around my time, to conserve my energy rather than listen one-sidedly to others drone on and on about their issues, and to be able to be focused on my goals, leaves some people uncomfortable.
I’ve noticed that since I’ve been trying to use clear, unambiguous language, people are more comfortable playing games, especially when it comes to dating. When, for instance, has it been so scary to say “I like you” or “I would like to see you again”? So many people are stuck in games, unable to say what they really think or feel. It’s hugely liberating to just say what’s on your mind (within reason!) and feel like you are being true to yourself.
So, how can you start to bring out your own Inner Bitch? First, work out where you need to work on your confidence. Most of us have areas where we are strong and confident and areas where we are not. We may be great at dealing with difficult people a work, but find it hard to say No to our own family, for instance. Recognising where your strengths and weaknesses area is the first step.
Second, build in space to think about what you feel before you say it. Tuning into your body is a useful tool. How do you feel about agreeing to help your friend set up her dating profile? How do you feel about taking on this extra work without asking for more money? Build in a buffer before your mouth has time to say “fine”! The truth is that sometimes it’s not.
Have clarity about your own life
If your confidence issue is a lack of clarity about your own life, make a plan to explore that. You could use a coach, join The Bitch network, start journaling, or try adventures like solo travel or going back to education.
The Bitch Network (http://www.thebitchnetwork.com) is the continuation of my work around my Inner Bitch. I am on a mission to help other women find their own Inner Bitch, and have brought together my learnings from psychology and coaching to do just that. I’ve created a team of coaches and psychologists who are really behind the concept and am so excited about taking women on the journey to find the Bitch Inside!
Paula Gardner is a business psychologist and coach and the founder of The Bitch Network