Crisis of Confidence

This last week has been full of moments that – on their own – don’t even make me flinch in terms of my mental state. But – I’ve been nursing a wounded self-image for a week or two so every little moment that could be previously ignored has weakened my status and I find myself waking up this Monday just SICK AND TIRED of being so down on myself all the time. I’m sick of hating myself for various reasons. I don’t know why I do this, fall into these rabbit holes of self-induced misery, but I do it. I get further and further away from the light and I just wallow in disgust with myself as a Mom, as a Wife, and as a Woman. And this morning I founnd myself just really PISSED OFF at myself.

Have you been there?

But seriously. The little things. Comments that would previously be seen as innocent, or coaching that would normally be inspiring — these things now send me into spirals of self-doubt where I convince myself that everyone thinks I’m slovenly and inadequate.

And of course…I nurse my bruised ego with food and bad television. I don’t run. Or ride a bike. Or swim. Or do BodyPump. Nope, I grab another ice cream sandwich and add fuel to the fire.

I had to do a swim this morning. Swimming is the new Biking in my life. I’m feeling better about the bike but OH MAN do I feel lousy about my swim. This weekend’s Open Water training swim ended with me in tears all the way home. I did NOT want swim this morning.

But here’s the thing. I did want to swim this morning. I like swimming. This surprises me as much as anyone, but if you take other people out of the picture and just stick me in water and tell me to swim, I really enjoy it. But the second there’s another set of eyes out there…and there always is because of those DAMN LIFEGUARDS…then I start feeling like a total ball of anxiety and nerves.

I pulled into the Y lot at 4:50am. The pool opens at 5am. There were so many people there early that I convinced myself they were all swimmers and I’d have to share a lane and my partner would hate me and…THAT’S IT. I’M GOING HOME.

And I was one key turn away from leaving. But…I took a deep breath and gave myself a pep talk and I headed in. There was a very nice lady in the locker room that I turned into some sort of judgmental swimming snob just because she said, “Good morning!” She’s not going to want to share a lane with me…


Turns out, the entire hour I was there, I never had to even think about offering someone half of my lane. The lanes were full, never over full. But still, every time I got a mouth full of water, or lost my breath after 25m, I assumed the teenage lifeguards were making fun of me. So…I decided to give myself some therapy as I swam.

My first attempt went like this:
Kim…You NEVER, EVER, EVER, make fun of people who are trying their best at something. What in the world makes you think these people would do that? You are incredibly narcissistic if you think they are even giving you and your swimming a second thought.

But…here’s the thing. I know people who make fun of people. I’ve been in the company of people who mock others. There are entire websites dedicated to photographing strangers so the entire internet can make fun of them. People post Vines of people in public behaving embarrassingly. The fact that Ridicule = Entertainment in our society is not one that needs to be proven. IT IS A FACT.

So…I tried another technique.
Kim…Worse Case Scenario…there are people at this pool right now either laughing at you in their heads, or making fun of you with their friends. How in the Hell does this have any effect on your life?

Good point, therapist self. So, that’s what I went with. Every time I got embarrassed about my swim I thought, “Even if they are mocking me, It has no effect on my life whatsoever.”

Here’s the funny thing. In that pool today? I was probably the second most skilled swimmer at certain times. There were SEVERAL people who had a lower skill level than I did. Why I always feel like I’m the worst in the room is beyond me.

I swam 1200m. It took me an hour to do it because I was trying to ONLY do Freestyle and just stop and take breaks instead of doing a “recovery stroke” which is what I do when I’m in an actual race. And honestly? My technique isn’t awful by any means. I don’t cross my center line. I breathe on both sides. I reach. I turn. I’ve definitely made HUGE strides in the last month and when I’m in the comfort of my own home, alone, I know that. But the second you put me around other people my confidence and my pride just dissolves away and I end up in tears.

Maybe my crappy self-confidence should be handled like a recovery program. One step at a time. Instead of constantly allowing myself to think negatively and throwing myself down these pits of despair, maybe I should take it one thought at a time. When I feel myself getting down on myself during a swim…give myself a pep talk in that moment before it spins out of control. Face the demons every time they show their head so I don’t wake up one morning after a bad week feeling like the lousiest person on the planet.

So…I’ll give it a try this week and hope this week is a better one. I’ll face those demons one at a time and knock them away with whatever logic I can muster.

What about you? Do you wallow in your own self-doubt sometimes? How do you knock yourself out of it?

12 thoughts on “Crisis of Confidence”

  1. Hi – First of all – I love you. (Oh, right, you don’t know me from Adam…) But I love your blog and how honest you are about just about everything.

    And to answer your question – I do, I wallow in my self-doubts. I wonder if all the other moms are hanging out, eating fancy snacks and letting their kids become besties, while I’m trudging around with my two, eating stale pretzels and diet coke. I feel terrible about going to the gym, but do it any way. Wondering why they let the lumpy mom into the place mostly populated by dudes with ENORMOUS muscles. (It’s a body building crowd there, but it’s a few blocks away and hella cheap.)

  2. I like the realistic therapy too. One of my psychologists said I was imagining people mocking/criticizing others, and I looked at him like HE was crazy. Your approach is better: “So what if they are?”

  3. “Even if they are mocking me, It has no effect on my life whatsoever.” — This is true. So true. But. BUT. That does not excuse anyone that mocks. Because as you said, it is a fact, but that doesn’t make it any less terrible. Sorry for focusing on that point, but this is a sore spot for me lately.

    To your point…yup, I have self-doubts. I haven’t found my way around them yet. I tend to just…not do things. You are badass for getting out there, and even when it feels like you aren’t coping, you are. Because you’re doing it. You’re facing the anxiety and giving yourself a pep talk and you’re doing it.

  4. Hey! I saw your tweet about body image and headed over here. Yeah. I do the same thing. I keep thinking I can get back to my college weight. I used to be able to… But College Weight was 7 years, 15lbs and one eating disorder ago. And yet I still beat myself up.

    I was running two weeks ago and a group of people hanging out on a stoop started making fun of me. I’m not fast. I know. I may even look awkward. Okay, I probably do. But I’m training for a marathon and those people probably can’t run around the block. So? Screw ’em.

    Swim on with your bad self.

  5. As terrible as it is, sometimes it helps me get inside my own judgey head, and apply my own awful, judgey logic to myself. I would heap more criticism on the quitter than on the awful swimmer (runner, knitter, juggler, whatever). It’s probably not any healthier, and it’s definitely not any nicer, but sometimes it works, which is what counts.

  6. Hang in there. Look back at what you’ve accomplished and give yourself a hug, a high five, and a pat on the back!

    Eleanor Roosevelt has words of wisdom that I look to when I’m feeling inferior (the first one is my favourite because it underlines that my feelings of inferiority lie deep within me and I can’t blame others for how I feel):

    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
    ? Eleanor Roosevelt, This is My Story

    “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
    ? Eleanor Roosevelt

    “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
    ? Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

    “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”
    ? Eleanor Roosevelt

  7. First of all – I am a lousy swimmer. Like, lousy. I won’t put my head in water, I am that lousy. My boys all love the water, and I stay out of it, because I’d rather them not know how incredibly lame I am.

    But lately I was thinking about this woman we passed the other day. We were driving, and she was running. She was a larger lady – probably my size or a little larger. I was staring at her, and Bryan told me not to stare, that it was rude.

    In reality, though, I was staring at her because I was so JEALOUS of her. She was out there. Running. Working her ass off. And I was so PROUD of her, because she was out there, not caring what anyone else thought of her.

    You’re the same way, you know. I would imagine 95% of the folks who see you think, “Dude. She is AWESOME.”

    The other 5% are just douche-holes who we wouldn’t want to be friends with anyway.


  8. I love all those Eleanor Roosevelt quotes Kathleen! I am super hard on myself too, most notably when its that time of the month and hormones are raging, but it never really goes away. I am struggling this week because A: Started my period yesterday B: My “baby” starts all day kindergarten on Wednesday C: I start my first job since having my first baby 8 1/2 years ago also on Wednesday and D: Wednesday is slated to be my heaviest period day so I am FREAKING OUT that everyone will think I have a major problems because I will have to go to the bathroom at LEAST every hour and E: This summer I have gained back 13lbs of the 33 I had previously lost and I am SO freaking disappointed in myself. For nearly two years I didn’t eat desserts, I was pretty darn careful with my meals and I worked out a minimum of 3times a week (often more)… this summer I let a hectic schedule and a “its the summer” or “we’re on vacation” “whats ONE shake with kids gonna do” and worked out only 2x a week and now all my clothes are uncomfortably tight. SELF-LOATHING abounds… for what its worth I think you absolutely rock and are a huge source of inspiration to me.

  9. Sarah – it was seeing that SAME woman (well, not the EXACT same, you know what I mean) at so many of Donnie’s triathlons that finally got me in the water. I find it inspiring b/c if I had any sort of physical limitation due to age or weight I would not do it. I’m not that determined.

    And I’m really surprised how much I like swimming. I never swam with Eliah b/c I was embarrassed but now I swim with the kids because – it’s actually fun!!! I’m so shocked!!! 🙂

  10. I am currently in a full-on wallow. The last year or so has felt like it was Full of Suck, and the last month(ish) has been that times 1000. My therapist tells me it is because we are finally getting somewhere with our discussions, but all I know is that it feels hard ALL. THE. TIME. All of my numbing behaviors of eating and shopping online and playing Candy Crush Saga for hours have been in full use until they haven’t worked anymore, and now I find myself acutely sad (which is progress for someone who doesn’t feel the feelings, but it SUCKS SO BAD) and wanting to…spend several days crying? punch something? eat a gallon of ice cream? I keep thinking that there is some ah-ha moment I have to have, at which point I will finally GET IT, and POOF! All my worries and cares will disappear! I am thinking this won’t actually happen, and I just have more work to do. Hard, hard, tiring, frustrating, exhausting, important work. My therapist says it will get better, and I will get there someday. I 100% trust her, so I have to believe that is true. However, I don’t 100% trust myself yet.

    Thanks for reminding me that I am not alone.

  11. first just a huge (((Hug))) for you. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and you have changed so much over the last few years. You are so much more confident and out going than you used to be. Just think of all the things you do now that you didn’t do before!
    I decided at 40 that I’m me and that I’m happy with me. I don’t care what other people think of me and I just don’t worry about it as much any more. That being said…I teach a program to kids and adults. I love teaching to kids because they are pretty easy going and take me as I am. I have such a hard time teaching adults because I get nervous that they are going ask me something I don’t know or maybe question what I’m teaching. I have become better over the last year but I still get super nervous–I was super shy as a child/young adult. Honestly, no one has ever questioned me. They usually tell me they learned something new or enjoyed my class. I need to learn to just trust myself.

  12. I was a competitive swimmer for 11 years, then coached some really good high school teams. Like national champions, good. Also, I live on a lake and lifeguarded for years, so I have the authority to tell you these 4 things:
    1- 1200m? That’s awesome! Seriously awesome!
    2- Breathing is probably the hardest thing to learn to do correctly if you don’t learn it when you’re young. Bilateral breathing is a huge accomplishment.
    3- Open water swimming is different- the breathing, sighting, everything, is harder and can be disorienting. It’s hard for lifelong swimmers, so you are not the only one feeling freaked out during the swim.
    4- The lifeguards don’t care. Really, they don’t. I did plenty of gossiping and making fun of people in my day (outside of the pool,) but I’ve honestly never heard lifeguards make fun of lap swimmers. It’s not because they’re above it, it’s just because….they don’t care. Especially at 5 in the morning- all those lifeguards are thinking about is scanning the pool and not zoning out.
    So, in my expert opinion- you’re kicking ass. Keep it up!

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