Watching my friend lose self-confidence

This post was written by Megan on January 25, 2011
Posted Under: burnout and anxiety,burnout and depression,burnout and sleep,burnout and stress management

Wobbles through burnout cartoon

Watching my friend lose self-confidence recently became a light bulb moment for me.

Debbie (not her real name) was exhausted. I would have to say that she was on the verge of burnout, if not already there. She has been pushing herself hard at work (ironically, in healthcare) – and helping others for free. 

I noticed Debbie began worrying about things she wouldn't normally worry about. With the worry, her sleep became interrupted. Feeling more fatigued by the day, the harder it became for her to remember things and make decisions. The anxiety rose.


And then came the self-doubt. 

I hate that bit. When you don't trust yourself anymore. You start questioning everything you're doing. And everyone else around you have it totally together, of course. They are living life perfectly. And you….well, you haven't got a clue.

You're blundering along, offending people left right a centre – but they are too polite to tell you, right? And any negative judgement from these other perfect people presents itself as a confirmation of your complete ineptitude.

This stage of self-doubt is 'beyond all reasonable doubt' as they say in the legal system. This is unreasonable doubt. 


But you are sure of one thing…

For all the doubt, it's amazing how sure you are about how incompetent you are.

But you are not incompetent.

Not by a long shot. And I told this to Debbie, reminding her of all the things that she has achieved, all the people she has helped. And then I explained that she's feeling like this for a very simple reason: change is required. Preferably a break to give back to herself, to put something back into the pot.

'I can't afford a holiday right now,' Debbie wailed. Looking at her accounts, she wasn't making it up. She really couldn't afford to take a holiday. But if she kept going the way she was, she wouldn't have a choice. Her body will pack up on her behalf.


Thoughts and ideas that Debbie found useful to work her way back to 'reasonable doubt':

  • Very little is as urgent as it seems
    Imagined urgency creates drama – let go of the urgency, let go of the drama. 
  • It might be critical but it's not serious
    Get some perspective by finding a reason to laugh – comics, comedy movies, stand-up on YouTube, etc.
  • Lie down 
    You don't have to nap, but if you are finding it hard to make decisions, go lie down for ten minutes and clear your head complete by focusing on your breathing. Then try lying down for longer.
  • Do things that make you feel good
    An oldie but a goodie: have a foot spa, have an exotic cup of tea, watch dogs play at a dog park, etc.
    If you're too tired, then imagine yourself doing them.
  • Stop spending money on things you don't need
    Use the food you have in your kitchen before going out and buying more. Wear clothes that you have forgotten about, rather than buying more. That kind of thing.
  • Talk to your creditors
    If paying your bills has that Mount Everest feeling, then ring up your creditors and organise a payment plan that might be more manageable for you right now (most will rather have some money, with more to come, than none at all).
  • Focus on now
    Too much thinking about the past or the future can do our heads in. When you feel the anxiety and self-doubt rise, take a deep break and focus on how you are right now. You are actually more okay than what your mind is telling you. Then ask: What needs to be done in this moment? Now focus on that.


Just in the space of a couple of weeks, Debbie's self confidence is a lot stronger. While she's still very tired, it was a pretty impressive shift on her part. And I told her that – but her smile indicated that she already knew.


Do you have any tips for Debbie?

Leave them by commenting on this post.


This post was written by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer and cartoonist who has had her fair share of self-wobbles.  Find out more about Megan

Reader Comments

Advice no 1. Give yourself a break! You are wonderful, even if you can't feel it at the moment. Give yourself a break is a lifestyle (and well worth living)
Advice no 2. Buy an emwave (heartmath institute) or other biofeedback device. It will help you return your nervous system to 'normal', and help you relax and replenish. If you're on the edge of burnout it may help you keep on the right side of the edge. I wish I had had one years ago!!

Written By Ámber on February 7th, 2011 @ 6:29 am

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