dr chloe warren is a science writer, writer writer, mc, occasional comedian, and guinea pig appreciator.

Shut Up (You), Be Humble

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If I were to go through the last 12 months with a fine tooth comb, or perhaps more of a Sonic Screwdriver sort of gizmo programmed to detect events to feel sad about, I’d really have a quite a nifty little pile of …life turds.

But thanks to an optimistic lease on life, (thanks to therapy, medication, family, my partner, friends, creative pursuits, rest, podcasts, exercise, etc.) I’ve spent a lot less time and energy combing.

The concept of ‘failure’ depends mostly on who you’re asking, and what sort of ruler they are using to measure success. I’m sure if I could be bothered asking around, plenty of people would indeed call me a failure – but I’m not one of them.

This is extremely new territory for me.

I really feel like things are coming together for me – and to be honest I think I can make my point here without having to list the reasons why.

Having spent so many years distractedly nodding through tears as colleagues, friends, partners and family members assured me of my skills and talent, the general response to my newfound confidence came as a bit of a shock.

If a person in your life – who you know struggles with anxiety but is also extremely hard-working – expresses some kind of confidence in themselves, how would you respond?

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Because I am surrounded by well-meaning people, and bad news travels fast, I’ve had a lot of honest, “How ARE you?” conversations recently. And my method of answering that question really depends on my mood.

Mood #1 (bad)

“I’ve been really making a crack at this new venture, but I’m just not sure it’s for me, or if I have the drive to make it.”

Mood #2 (average/good)

“Yeh, I’m doing pretty well. Things are going slowly but I’m confident I’m moving in the right direction and I think my persistence and skills will get me where I want to be.”

Strangely, if I’m in Mood #1, I’m far less likely to walk away from the conversation feeling shitty. Here’s why.

Maybe it’s because you’re Australian, maybe it’s because I’m a woman, maybe it’s because you don’t like me – but why is it the minute I express any semblance of confidence, you feel the need to bring me down a notch?

When I’m in Mood #2, if I assert my i) skill set, ii) experience and iii) reputation, I get people tell me to consider getting another qualification, I get people telling me I need more experience and I get people telling me that maybe soon I’ll start getting taken seriously.

What the fuck.

I’d like to assert that it’s not like I’m at a risk of running away with myself here. Anyone who knows me (strangely, all the people routinely scavenging for cracks in my confidence know me) knows that I have spent a LOT of my professional life feeling like a failure. I used to give myself nightmares worrying about what people thought about me and my professional choices and pursuits. Literally – I lost sleep over this, I would lock myself in toilets to cry about this, I spent many hours in therapy because of this.

The one piece of advice I routinely receive is, “You need to be kinder to yourself. You need to back yourself.”

That is to say – I’m pretty confident I don’t have a problem with arrogance. So why do people respond to my confidence by challenging it?

It's pretty frustrating to have spent such a lot of effort into cultivating a sense of self-worth, only to realise that my poor little seedlings are going to have to become actual Whomping Willows if they are going to make it out into the Real World.

NOTE: In light of the title of this piece...and also the context of the rest of the world outside my little white lady bubble...I should probably acknowledge that, if Kendrick Lamar's word is anything to go by, my experiences of having my new mindset be met with confusion are likely nothing compared to what people of colour experience if they attempt to convey any sense of confidence while they move through the world.

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