Thursday, 26 May 2016

Boosting confidence and self doubt

As many people have just finished or in the middle of the exams I thought this was quite an important topic to blog about. As someone who has struggled with self doubt and confidence throughout my life questioning my abilities and beating myself up over making mistakes and a fear of failure. Rationally I know I've worked very hard to get where I am today, have faced a lot of obstacles and challenges and shown a lot of determination. But when your in the middle of the vicious circle of anxiety and it's "lies" can try and tell you otherwise.

One of the reasons I think dyspraxics can doubt themselves so much comes down to lack of public understanding of what dyspraxia is and how it affects people (which I went into more depth in a recent blog) this lack of awareness alongside ignorance or bullying which can affect confidence and self esteem. I know my past experiences of bullying have definitely had an impact on my self doubt, it's learning to heal again. Since first writing this blog there has been confirmation that Dyspraxia Foundation will work alongside dyslexia charities on a DfE project for teacher training which is a welcome step forward for dyspraxia awareness.

For a lot of dyspraxics anxiety and mental health issues can come alongside each other. Self doubt and the negative spiral thoughts when you're feeling anxious can make you think you'll make mistakes, mess up a situation, or question how you've managed to achieve something, when rationally your mind knows how much hard work, grit and dedication you've put in to get yourself there. Or even question your ability in things which you enjoy. You also have to remember what your strengths are and what you're good, some tasks may always be hard for you or take you slightly longer than others, but there will be some which you're good at.

But I think in your lowest moments, the moments when you hit rock bottom and feel like you're submerged in the storm, I feel like when I'm really struggling with anxiety that it's like being trapped inside my head. But there is always a little voice (hope) which is telling you to keep going. It's important that these feelings you may be feeling now are temporary, you never know what might happen in the future or who you might meet.I never say I fight my dyspraxia/dyslexia as it is something which will always be there, but my anxiety and low moods are a constant battle and throughout my life both my family and I have had to fight for me to get the right help, support and understanding. I know I have a lot of wonderful parents who read my blogs who will be facing very similar battles you probably have had your self worth dented by being dismissed but you too should feel very proud of your resilience.

I recently blogged about dyspraxia, anxiety and the unknown, as one of my biggest struggles is stepping out of my safe comfort zone, meeting new people, travelling to new places and having new experiences. My social anxiety can often cast a shadow over these and I can catastrophise situations thinking the worst will happen, whilst more often than not everything ends up ok or even if it doesn't the overwhelming rushes of anxiety eventually pass. Sometimes anxiety can appear for no reason what so ever and it can make you feel so uncomfortable, but you just have to keep reminding yourself that this feeling will pass. My lovely friend Alice recently blogged about how she stepped out of her comfort zone to travel around India and in it she talks about her own resilience to keep going throughout the trip.  Living with a hidden difference or disability and constantly having to come up with different coping mechanisms  or ways of carrying out tasks means your brains are working 10x harder to carry out tasks, that shows a lot of determination and exhaustion.

 I've been stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit over the last few weeks and attending social situations which had quite a bit of new and unpredictability. I recently helped out at the Dyspraxia Foundation spring ball raising money and awareness for their helpline, did a bucket collection for Manchester Mind and this weekend I traveled solo to visit my wonderful friend Paris for her birthday, before all of the events safe to say I felt really sick, anxious and overwhelmed.There was a few tears, anxiety attacks and feeling of self doubt before I even left the house and it took a while for me not to feel constantly on edge in the new social environments.

But what helped me not avoid the situations completely was reassurance and encouragement, whether it be from friends and communities online or by the people who I was meeting. Those words (and hugs) of reassurance and understanding that it was something I found challenging meant a lot to me. I've always been quite self conscious how visibly upset I get when I feel anxious or overwhelmed, but the reassurance gave me that bit of encouragement to keep going and not avoid the situation. Everyone is different and needs reassurance in different ways and a lot of the time just giving someone a bit of your time, a hug or and encouraging message can mean the world. Thanks to the encouragement I've been given over the last few years it has helped me achieve more than I ever thought I was capable of, this blog reaching over 100,000 views is testament to that. I've also been made aware that both the bucket collection and ball were a success which gave me a warm fuzzy feeling of knowing I had helped make a difference. As for visiting Paris, we laughed and laughed some more, and sometimes laughter is all you need.

 I have quite a way to go in learning to manage my anxiety but my own difficulties with my own self doubt and confidence have made me determined both in my job as a learning support in a college and all of my awareness work to be an encouraging voice to others or those who have a relative or loved one who may be going through similar struggles, help build often very fragile self worth and maybe offer some hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Knowledge can be such a powerful tool in helping others who may be experiencing similar. If you've found any of these blogs have helped at all  (thank you for your kindness so far) and I am lucky enough to be shortlisted for the National Diversity Awards please consider nominating me-  I hope to keep raising the profile of dyspraxia.

Whatever situation you end up facing whether it being an exam, the unknown or a day to day task, maybe you're fighting to get you or your child the right help and understanding, amongst the frustration which has come with it feel proud of yourself and be proud of the little things many people would never think of.

For more, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more dyspraxia awareness :)

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