Mental illness can do so much damage to our self-confidence.
As is our confidence, so is our capacity.William Hazlitt
While suffering with perinatal depression, I struggled with really bad imposter syndrome. It affected almost every aspect of my life. I never felt I was good at anything. I didn’t think I was a good mum. The thought of taking both children out on my own terrified me. I panicked that the kids would misbehave and I’d be judged by anyone who saw me. This also affected my working life too. I didn’t think I was that good at work because I was a mum, I had to leave on time and had to leave the late nights to the rest of my team. This then stopped me from pushing myself hard at all. I felt like I could only just cope with what I had.
Now, what I had wasn’t always easy. I had a full-time job managing a team of five in a pretty big media agency, two very young children, one in nursery, one in reception. It didn’t help that I was commuting for two hours a day, four days a week in order to do that job. I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Looking back I did so much with my children. I was by their side as often as I could be. I could count on one hand the number of times I actually asked for a baby sitter. I didn’t want to give that time up. However, the guilt I put on my own shoulders happened for being sad that I still didn’t deserve a night out.
Now don’t get me wrong – I love my job. I love the agency, the people, the work itself, and my team. I feel lucky that we all collectively worked really hard, and we enjoyed it together.
However, when lockdown hit, not seeing the people I worked with every day was tough. I spent more time with these people than I did my own family and felt strange to see them only on screen – something we hadn’t really done before.
I found it hard to not have that direct feedback I would have received at our desks. Calling someone or waiting to be called felt like an interruption. I didn’t realise how much I had relied on face-time with my team especially with my imposter syndrome playing hardball.
Lockdown however meant no commute. I gained back four hours, four days a week. I had 16 hours back giving me more time to manage my house and more time to enjoy with my children. This in turn meant that the guilt started to ease and ultimately resulted in me now finding more time for me.
With the loss of the commute however, I started to put on weight. I was walking from my bedroom to downstairs and that was the only exercise I got. However, with conversations now on screen, I had to constantly look at my own face. I didn’t like what I was seeing.
Four months into lockdown, I decided I needed a change.
My partner had converted our basement into a make-shift gym, so I started exercising. I tried yoga, weight training and eventually found my passion again for dance. Every day I would spend my lunch hour working up a sweat, dancing to my favourite music and 8 months later, I was 3 stone lighter and ready to take on the world. My imposter syndrome started to slip away.
My physical health improved my mental state. (read more in my post entitled How Getting Physical helped my head to heal). This in turn enabled me to rediscover the person I was before I became a mum and identity I had lost almost completely since the birth of my son.
Spending more time with my children in the week, enabled me to go away for the occasional evening or weekend. Concerts, dinners and musicals – all guilt free.
My newfound confidence allowed me to start pushing for more at work. More areas that filled my passion points – wellbeing, mental health and D&I. I wanted to stay in my agency but work on things that truly gave me job satisfaction around my already very fond love of marketing.
I asked for more and invited myself to meetings, groups, and teams that I had no part of previously. I wanted to create a positive change and I was reading more around subjects that would help me get there.
Just before Christmas, I was contacted by a young entrepreneur who had founded a charity initiative to create a large mental health event in the UK. He was looking for support and I jumped at the chance. Not only was his idea something I already felt passionate about, but I knew my years of experience could really help him. Something I truly think I wouldn’t have believed in myself enough for previously.
Supporting the Be;Live initiative then pushed me to launch my own dreams. I started writing for Insanely Normal just after Christmas and went live with the blog on 3rd Feb – the UK’s Time to Talk Day. I wanted to create hope for others struggling with their own mental health and create a space for those who had managed and recovered and were willing to share their experiences.
So now I wake up at 6am, dress my children for school & nursery. Take one or both to their various drops offs and head home to start work. On the days I work from home, I also run out in the middle of the day to pick up my son from school. I take him to appointments or his friends’ houses before rushing back to jump on my next call. I work harder in the day than I ever did before and I do this to ensure I get a couple of good quality hours with my children in the evenings. Cooking for them, reading to them and putting them to bed almost every night.
I then spend most evenings working on my passion projects whether its content for the event or copywriting my posts. In fact, I am busier now than I’ve ever been. But I am happier. I am full of ideas. I want to learn more. I have so much more to do, and I am not going to stop until I feel satisfied. I am, for the first time in years, truly confident and back to my old self.
Very recently I was offered an incredible opportunity at work. A prestigious scholarship via The Marketing Academy. Something I had been supporting my colleagues to obtain over the years and for the first time, I was one of the chosen few. If this had been offered to me two years ago, I would have been terrified. Made an excuse as to why I couldn’t commit to it and moved on swiftly.
However I was excited. Thrilled. Ready. Hopefull.
For the first time in a long time, I honestly believe I’ve not been happier and believe I think I can make it. I want to be challenged, I want to expand my horizons and meet new people. I want to learn from them and use that knowledge to continue the changes I want to implement. I want to back myself, I want to move out of my comfort zone. I am ready to be pushed.
If I don’t get in, I’ll be disappointed but not disheartened. I entered myself into an award for the work I’ve done around mental health and just heard I was shortlisted. I am already over the moon. However, I also believe nothing will stop me on my mission to better myself. I am definitely ready to make an impact and I am very aware this newfound confidence is behind it.
This is my time.