“What the fuck is wrong with you?”
The words burnt into me.
This was one of those moments – later, I’d look back and wish I’d said something different. Something smart, witty, stood up for myself. Something that I could later recount to friends as a “boom!” moment, whilst Aretha Franklin’s Respect played in the background (thanks, Bridget Jones).
But my humanness let me down. Too slow.
In that moment, my shock left me with only one option: to look away. The pain was excruciating; the agonising burn you get when antibacterial hand gel gets in a paper cut. Except the paper cut was my heart, and I fell apart. Later, I would cry so intensely, that medical dehydration was a genuine concern.
The words came from a friend I had once regarded my closest ally. Someone I would’ve taken a bullet for without a second thought. We were meeting for the first time after a long time, and what I’d hoped would be a reconciliation was instead an unanticipated reaction from someone I didn’t recognise anymore.
In that moment, I lost myself.
All because of stupid behaviour from someone I adored, trusted and whose opinion I had valued.
Confidence is elusive. We are taught that once built, it is unshakable; that if someone describes you as confident (or indeed, unconfident), their assessment is accurate. Bullshit. The most confident of people question themselves often, they just don’t want you to know about it.
Confidence fluctuates. Moments of doubt affect everyone. Just because you don’t see someone’s insecurities in their Instagram-perfect life, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Some people believe confidence is talking loudly. Some believe it’s regularly telling people how great you are. Some believe it’s never showing weakness. Some believe it’s posting endless selfies, seeking revenge, or wishing badly on someone who’s wronged you.
But true confidence is quiet. It doesn’t need to brag. It isn’t obnoxious. It doesn’t need to compete with others. And sometimes, it disappears. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less powerful.
The greatest confidence comes from experience. It comes from taking risks, challenging yourself, taking the road less travelled. It comes from learning that someone’s judgement of you can be wrong, no matter how much you value their opinion.
It’s about hitting rock bottom, and building yourself again step by step. Becoming stronger, wiser and kinder.
There’s nothing wrong with falling down, as long as you know there’s always strength within you to get back up again.