Alan's Blog




Self-Doubt?  No Way!

Have you noticed that all great men and women exude self-confidence? That great blessing of having total belief in one's self to an almost overwhelming level. This is probably the reason they have become great men and women. The secret of their success. In most cases, this would have been instilled in them during those all-important years attending their elite private schools.

A classic example of this is Sir Winston Churchill who guided our nation through the horrors of World War Two against all the odds – and dragged this country along with him in his total belief that we would overthrow the despicable Nazis even against what seemed like overwhelming odds. Who else could have done this job? Not a single person in politics during that era would have been capable of his achievements. No other person would have had the total self-confidence to pull it off as he did.

When I was working at a nuclear power station one of my colleagues was talking to me one day and he asked me if I knew one of the worst aspects of growing old. At the time he was at the age of 63 and I was 41. Of course, I asked him for his answer to this question and he informed me that it was a loss in self-confidence as one grew older. Perhaps it was a good job that Churchill didn't hear him as my colleague was younger than Churchill was when he served the country during his finest hour. My colleague even told me that he was losing his confidence in driving his car, which I thought was very sad.

I'm now somewhat older than he was at the time and I do know what he means as this has in some ways affected me too. When I was 67, I asked my 11-year old son if he'd like to go for a bicycle ride. Of course, he said "Yes", so off we went – for 5 weeks riding across a large part of Europe – 6 countries. I hadn't ridden a bicycle for about 16 years but that didn't prove to be any problem at all. In fact the biggest challenge was committing myself to book our flights to Zurich, knowing there was no turning back once they were booked. It took me about a week of dithering before I clicked the button on-line to buy our tickets.

A few days ago, I was chatting to one of our caravanning friends about the possibility of meeting somewhere in Europe during the summer holiday. Despite being considerably younger than me he said he didn't have the confidence to tow his caravan in Europe. He also happened to remark that he always thought I'd got a lot of self-confidence. In actual fact, that is far from the case.

Whilst I was at primary school, where one teacher is the only teacher of a particular class for a whole year, I had the terrible experience of being bullied by an ogre of a teacher for TWO consecutive years. She frightened the life out of me. I went from being near the top of the class to the bottom of the class very rapidly and she knocked all my self-confidence out of me. This was the most horrible experience of my life and one from which I've never recovered. What a dreadful woman. She should never have been allowed to work with children in any capacity. How I suffered – as well as being bullied by her, I was bullied by some of the boys too. This part continued throughout my entire school life and my only ambition at school was to leave. After leaving school I took an apprenticeship where I was still subject to a certain amount of bullying, both at work and at college. I must have been about 23 years old before I started to enjoy life (until I got married to my first wife at the age of 26 when life started to go into a decline once more, but that's another story). Isn't that terrible? My self-confidence had disappeared years before.

"It's all in the mind" is a common expression, frequently spoken but rarely thought about in any real depth. In situations where self-confidence is a factor, I have no doubt at all that this is a true expression. No doubt that most people have self-doubts – a lack of self-confidence – and this is the main factor that is holding them back from becoming great; or, at least, being less successful than they are – and this is where the upper and ruling classes from their elitist backgrounds wipe the floor with us normal mortals – together with the important social connections made in their private schools and clubs into which we don't have access.

However, all is not completely lost by any stretch of the imagination. As one who has suffered with self-doubts all my life, I can assure you that it is possible to overcome these to a great extent. One can be far more successful or rise to challenges in life that your lack of self-confidence would have prevented you doing if you'd taken heed of those doubts in your head. There is a way forward.

The way to deal with your self-doubts is to have the courage to face them and the determination to overcome them.

In 1996 I was almost suicidal and suffering from depression, taking prescribed anti-depressants, living alone in a fairly remote place with very few friends or social activities. It was only my work that kept me going at all but I was seriously going downhill, which I recognised and realised that I needed to change my life. One day, a copy of the bi-weekly publication Overseas Jobs Express came through the letterbox. The centre page spread was about a young man who'd gone to work as an English language teacher in Columbia in South America. His story inspired me. I planned a whole year in advance and stuck to my plan. In short, like him, I qualified as an English teacher. I then completed my contract at the power station and refused the offer of another continuation there. I got rid of all my possessions, some put in store with my mother, bought a 'plane ticket to the other side of the world and off I went into the unknown – without even having a job to go to. Most people thought me to be completely mad; crazy. One admitted that there was no way he could have done what I was doing, but that's what I did – and it certainly changed my life, big time! And for the better.

My determination overcame my fears and self-doubts. This is the only way forward. Without that determination to overcome I would still be stuck in the position where I was all those years ago – or I would have taken the ultimate decision to end it all.

From there, I've reached the point where I actually enjoy getting out of my comfort zone and taking on a new challenge. In fact, I get bored after a few years in one place or after a few years of being stuck in a rut.

You may well have come across the following quote: “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” Sometimes attributed to Goethe, sometimes to Basil King, but regardless of who came up with it there is a lot of truth in it – at least in my experience. Read my on-line book A Cockroach in My Cornflakes to see this quote come to life (on this blog site).

Failure is not an option – believe in yourself.


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