Something happened to me this week that gave me a hell of a lot of ammunition against self-doubt.
I’m going to tell you all about it, but first I should say that what I want to talk about here follows on from a recent blog post I published: Freelance Heroes Day: An Apology, A Promise and A Plan
If you’ve read it already, thanks so much and please carry on.
If you missed it, maybe go read it first? I know you’re short on time, but I think you’ll enjoy it. Here’s what some other people said about it:
“Sophie what an amazing blog because of its sheer honesty and your overwhelming determination that comes across.”
“Oh Sophie! This post brought a tear to my eye!”
“Reading this could have been me speaking Sophie.”
Yup. It was pretty
Okay. So not long after I published that post, Ed Goodman, founder of Freelance Heroes, got in touch to ask if I wanted to look after the community’s Twitter and Instagram accounts on the day of the event.
“We want to involve all the people who can’t be there. Make it an online event as well.”
My instant reaction?
I can’t do that. I don’t do social media. You’ll need someone more experienced.
“But we want you,” Ed said, “you understand us. You’re a member of the community and you get what we’re about.”
It embarrasses me, sometimes, my complete lack of self-confidence.
Here was a man I admire and respect – someone I’ve wanted to work with since I first connected with him online – presenting me with an amazing opportunity, and my response was to tell him I’m not good enough.
I mean Jesus fucking Christ Sophie! Sort your head out!
As frustrating as this may be to look back on, my immediate, innate response was that I didn’t think I deserved to be paid for that kind of work.
“I haven’t done anything like this before”, I told Ed, “assuming you’re asking me to volunteer my time, I’d need some coaching. If you’re looking to hire someone, I can point you in the direction of someone more experienced.”
Or basically: ‘I’m not even good enough to do it for free.’
Here’s a bunch of things that went through my head at the time:
‘You don’t know enough.’
‘You’re not skilled enough.’
‘No one wants to hear from you.’
‘You can’t do this. You’ll fail and make a fool of yourself.’
Those reactions came so rapidly that I didn’t even have time to catch them before they’d swooped in and made me feel shit about myself.
Awful, isn’t it?
You’ll probably know by now that I did end up running the Freelance Heroes Twitter and Instagram accounts for the day. (No thanks to my often crippling self-doubt).
And guess what?
It went well. I did a good job and I had a great time.
I did a really good job, actually.
Ed and Annie Browne (Ed’s partner in crime who helps run the Freelance Heroes community) both told me, very kindly, how pleased they were with how I’d done.
“You did an amazing job and we’re both very grateful,” Annie said.
Ed left me a voicemail: “Everything that you’ve done today was exactly why we wanted you to do this. Because you got it and you did it with extraordinary enthusiasm.”
An absolutely humongous thank you to @KickstartSophie for driving the online celebration of #FHDay2018, here on twitter and on instagram, and with such enthusiasm and passion. A Freelance Hero in the truest sense. pic.twitter.com/2RfJsd90Dn
— Ed Goodman (@edagoodman) May 16, 2018
It feels nice, reading those things back.
But do I believe them?
Most of the time, yes. But honestly? Not always. *Shameful face*
There’s still an ugly and vicious little voice in the back of my head telling me: ‘They’re only saying this because they feel sorry for you.’
And I know that reading that may make some of you want to scream and possibly even throw things at me. (Especially those of you who are my boyfriend or my mum).
The thing is, when you’ve been struggling with anxiety for so much of your adult life, that voice is hard to overcome. It’s become a constant, a feature, a habit.
And habits are hard to break, but they can be broken.
That’s the point of me telling you this story. That’s what I’m here to say.
Negative thinking is just a habit, and habits can be broken.
I’ve been working on this whole self-confidence thing for a while now, so I’m not new to the idea of changing your way of thinking.
I’ve been working on it, on and off, for more than half a decade. (Unsuccessfully, as you might have guessed!).
What I have now that I might not have had before, though, is a perfect, unarguable example to remind myself of every time this thought pattern hits.
Because it is a pattern, and recognising that is the first step.
For me, it usually goes a little something like this:
Exciting opportunity or idea >>> self-hate and self-doubt >>> a battle (sometimes won, sometimes lost) to overcome that negativity and just do the thing anyway.
I go through this cycle ALL THE TIME. Sometimes – when things are really bad – several times a day.
Do you know how exhausting that is?
I’m sick of it. So completely and utterly sick of hearing those thoughts and feeling that way.
So this is me taking that first big step. This is my moment of acknowledging it – not for the first time, but hopefully for the last.
By committing this to paper and sharing it publicly, I’m trying to hold myself accountable.
It might take a long time and it’s certainly not going to be easy, but I want to fight this thing.
What stepping outside of my comfort zone and just doing the thing anyway taught me, in this instance, was that many of my automatic thoughts are wrong.
Plain and simple.
I was presented with an exciting opportunity. I told myself I wasn’t good enough and didn’t deserve it. I hit back at those thoughts and did the thing anyway.
And I did it well.
I got heaps of positive feedback, I made plenty of new connections, and I learnt a lot about myself in the process.
So fuck you, crippling self-doubt. You can keep trying to chip away at me all you like, but I have something to fight you with now.
This is my contrary evidence, and I’m going to hold on to it and remember what it taught me.
You can try and diminish it all you like.
You won’t win.
Do you know what the best part about all of this is?
It’s knowing that Ed and Annie believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.
And that’s exactly what makes Freelance Heroes such a fantastic community to be a part of.
Yes, it’s a place for freelancers to come together and share experiences, knowledge and opportunities. But more than that, it’s a community full of generous, kind-hearted people who want to lift one another up, and that neighbourly spirit stems from Ed and Annie. We’re so lucky to have them at the helm.
If you’re not involved yet, check out the Facebook Group. That’s where this all started, and it’s now the fastest growing freelance community in the UK with over 3000 members (and counting!).
If you want to chat about anything I’ve covered here: