It’s not often I get personal on here, but today I did want to write about something that means a little more to me. The main reason for me somewhat cloaking my personal life on my blog is because I’m not really a big lover of talking about myself, and I’m particularly not one for ‘bigging myself up’ so to speak.
I make it no secret that I don’t really see myself as a comparison to other bloggers. They’re years beyond me, but I don’t really mind.
Anyway, tonight – I make an exception.
Confidence is a funny thing. I used to think I’d never have it. I don’t think I’ll ever forget (nor will my lecturer) my first assignment at university. It was to deliver a short 5-or-so minute speech. Only in front of one person – but nevertheless, it terrified me. Looking back, this seems the easiest win in the world. Stand there for 5 minutes and recite a piece of already written literature to earn a percentage towards my first-year grade. 21-year-old me would be laughing, but 18-year-old me certainly was not. I remember choosing my favourite spoken piece of all time (George VI’s iconic speech where he showed his stammer who was BOSS), hoping it would inspire me to overcome my anxieties even just for a few minutes.
I’d paced up and down my uni halls’ corridor more times than I can count reciting it over and over again in preparation. But even alone – I was a jittery mess.
It was a Wednesday and the day of my first ever assessment came. (I remember the meeting so well and so clearly that I’m pretty sure I could even tell you the time – I think it was 11:05am). And, to cut a long story short, it went to shit. Doing George VI absolutely no justice at all, I didn’t stop to take a breath and I think I wrapped up the whole thing in about 25 seconds. My tutor’s immediate feedback was kind but honest, and I knew there and then that I had not done well. When my grade come back, I received a very low 2.2 – which in my eyes was generous, I should have failed. But, despite myself, to me this was devastating. I always put 110% into everything I do and I often do reap the results of this (I went on to pick myself up and graduate with a clear first – but that’s another story for another day), so to feel as though I ruined my very first shot at smashing uni broke my heart. I cried all the way down Brownlow Hill on assessment day; I did the same on results day.
I just remember thinking over and over again that I wasn’t cut out for this. I chose to study Public Relations largely because myself and a high school friend were interested in the course because it looked like “a business degree, but fun” and that’s all there is to it. I had absolutely no idea that presentations and pitches would even come into it, let alone be commonplace. It was during this time that I was very close to dropping out of university and going home. I wasn’t coping with living alone well and was going through some personal stuff at the time. I’d made some great friends though, and to this day they – and the fact that the idea of disappointing my parents was too much heartbreak to handle – were what kept me there. (Shoutout).
The thing is, I’d never been confident – not even slightly. Though I had a great group of friends at school, I was the odd one out. (I always call myself the ugly duckling and then get shouted at by my best pals almost instantly for this, but it’s true). Presenting, even talking to people didn’t really come naturally to me, I’ve struggled with pronunciation for as long as I can remember (just never ask me to say red rabbit), and until recently – even entertaining the thought of giving any kind of public talk or appearance would have me breaking out in hot sweats. They say confidence comes with age, but I truly never understood that for so many years. As I progressed through university, the number of oral assessments I had never ceased – in fact, they increased. Radio interviews, businesses pitches, mock-up press conferences, you name it. For every one of them, I was a nervous wreck. And though getting better as time went on, I never felt as though I really nailed it.
I was waiting for that breakthrough moment during my studies that never came.
Nearing the end of my third year, one of my lecturers asked if I’d be able to help out at the open days. To tell parents and potential students about the course and to answer any questions they might have had. At this point in my life, I couldn’t have been more grateful to LJMU for giving me access to some amazing resources, for providing a number of incredible experiences and for generally accepting me on to a course that truly was a gateway to the start of a brilliant career. With all this in mind, I was always going to help out. So I did.
The open days were scary, but I learned a lot from them. I think I did around 7 or 8 in the end, and during my last few I was confidently giving talks to 30-40 people at a time. But I largely pin my ability to do this on the fact that at this point, I knew what I was going to say. I still think if I’d have had to improvise – I’d have crumbled on the spot.
So, though my conviction in myself had grown while I was studying – it wasn’t at all there by the time I graduated.
I pretty much ended university like this.
But, 6 months on, I wound up like this.
This photo was taken just after I got home last Thursday night after – what I’ve come to realise – was one of the biggest moments of my life in terms of my confidence. Getting rid of that terrible haircut and losing a bit of weight off my face are not the only two changes you’ll notice between these photos though. Not long after I took this photo I actually ended up in floods of tears, but this time – they were happy ones. This was because I’d just figured out that, that person I always wanted to be? I was finally her!
I’d just come away from a client meeting with my two managers at work. And this client isn’t a small company either… They’re a pretty big deal. I’d been asked along to talk about some of my ideas for their campaign as we were wanting to branch into another element of PR and SEO.
I don’t know why, but when I first got that invitation I was more excited than anything. It didn’t even cross my mind that I’d have to like, actually get up and talk to people.
In fact, it wasn’t until about 6pm the evening before that it really hit me. As I was driving to my boyfriends I suddenly realised that (and I quote) ‘this is a really big deal’. After that, I found myself rewinding to that infamous Grand Central corridor moment, and once again – I was talking to myself. Reciting over and over again what I thought I would say. Only this time, the butterflies in my stomach weren’t from crippling nervousness, they were from eagerness. I’d realised that I actually wasn’t nervous at all but rather raring to go and meet with, and discuss my ideas with this client.
And that in itself, to me, is everything.
When the meeting rolled around I didn’t expect to say much. But actually, I soon found myself adding on ideas and comments here there and everywhere. To which my client(s) largely agreed with too. And, when it came round to my pièce de résistance – I found the words rolled off my tongue. I don’t like to big myself up, but I came away genuinely feeling so proud of myself and how I’d articulated myself, despite my thick black country accent looming over me and ready to dumb me down at any point. All parties in the meeting left feeling positive and optimistic and there’s really nothing more you can ask for than that, right?
I guess who I’m writing this for is the people who stand at the back. Who aren’t the loudest in the room and who doubt themselves and their abilities sometimes too (just like me). I’ve been there time and time again, and it’s truly not nice. But genuinely, if you aspire to be a more confident person – in time, you will.
I knew I’d got more and more cordial over the years, especially after I graduated and started my role as a PR executive. But I was still waiting for that pinnacle moment. The time where I could really say ‘wow, I smashed that’.
Last week, my moment came. And I can’t hide the fact that I’m pretty bloody proud of how far I’ve come. From a student to an intern to an executive, I’ve a lot in my life to be grateful for. But I think perhaps the biggest turning point is being able to stand up and speak for myself, instead of being the delegated team member who sits at the laptop clicking ‘next’ button on slideshow (introverts, we’ve all been there).
So I’m leaving this post on a quote that I found recently, and that I think sums up my ‘journey’ (ugh – so cliche) so far pretty well. I’ve spent far too long telling myself what I can’t do. It’s time to focus on what I can and will do instead.
“You are the only thing standing in your way.”
P.s. – Thank You!
You know the score by now, I have a little endnote to post. I’m in a small but brilliant pool of talented and creative writers, and I really do often feel as though I don’t belong here. Therefore, to be in amongst the finalists for the UK blog awards for best PR, Marketing and Comms blog means so much to me… Beyond words.
It’s amazing in fact.
Therefore, I just wanted to say a big… No, a MASSIVE thank you to everyone who voted for me in the awards. If it wasn’t for the people who read my blog and support me every day, I almost certainly wouldn’t bother. So for that, endless gratitude is in order.
While you’re here, please subscribe to my blog by heading back to my homepage and entering your email on the right-hand side of the page.