I’ve Watched My Confidence Slip Away After Becoming a Mom — and I’m Desperate to Get It Back

A young mother struggling with self-confidence holds her baby, looking serious.
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Your twenties are a magical — if trying — time, filled with heady optimism. For many of us, those are the years spent climbing out of student loan debt, climbing up the career ladder, and climbing the walls looking for Mr. Right. (Okay, maybe that last part was just me?)

Anyways, the thing that I remember most about those giddy years as a twenty-something is how frighteningly confident I was. There was no guy I felt I couldn’t get a date with and no job I didn’t think I could succeed in, if only given a shot. I was wildly ambitious and utterly determined.

If only I could feel like that now.

Since becoming a mother, something inside of me has slowly shifted; and it’s left me feeling infinitely less confident than ever before.

For instance, this week I attended a “story conference” for my new job as a writer on a TV drama. It took place over a couple of days, with all the writers coming together to throw out ideas for potential stories and debate them as a group. Obviously, it’s a lot of fun, but I couldn’t help but feel wildly intimidated. There I was, surrounded by writers who had worked on the show for years, as they churned out great idea after great idea, right there on the spot.

My stomach felt uneasy and my palms were sweating, as my mind desperately raced to think of something — anything — valid to say. The pressure to contribute was bearing down on me, yet the fear of actually speaking and making a fool of myself rendered me mute. Oh, to have even a tenth of the bursting confidence I had 15 years ago.

The experience reminded me of an interview I read a while back with Gwyneth Paltrow. We all know her as the Oscar winner, supermom, and Goop-founder who basically can do no wrong. But speaking with Fast Company back in 2015, she admitted that “my future self is always afraid when I look back.”

Paltrow continued:

“I had this the other day where somebody was asking me about [the movie Emma], that I did in England when I was 22. It was really my first starring role, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. I remember at the time people saying, ‘Weren’t you intimidated to play this English heroine? You’re this American girl.’ When I think about it [now], I would be petrified.’’

And while Paltrow seems to be confident in her growing business now, she also admitted that when she thinks back on how Goop began — as merely a small writing project — she gets nervous for her younger self.

“When I think back on it, I’m afraid to press send,” Gwyneth admitted. “But at the time, I had this belief in what I was going to do.”

Boy, do I get that.

Twenty-year-old me would have jumped into that story conference and talked so much that the other writers wouldn’t have gotten a word in edgewise. Why am I so afraid and anxious now, when I have vastly more experience in my career and life than ever before?

Just last week, I sent an email to a friend asking this very question: Why have I lost my confidence?

I think it’s because now that I’m a mom, there’s a whole lot more at stake.

Back in my twenties when I was a TV presenter, I threw myself into everything because I had all the time in the world and didn’t need to make a huge income. I just had to make enough money to pay the rent and feed myself. I survived between TV presenting jobs — waitressing, working in a book store, etc. — knowing that sooner or later, I’d get another presenting gig. I radiated positivity and utter self belief.

But now, I have kids sports lessons to pay for, a mortgage, car payments, bills galore, and the fear of being a failure as everyone around me seems to be a raging success. Now, I’m not just letting myself down if I fail at my career, I’m letting down two little people who want to have birthday parties, and go on school trips, and take trips to the movies — which all cost money.

More than ever, I need things to work out, not just for my own ambitions or ego, but for theirs, too.
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My kids aren’t greedy and are far from spoiled, but I so dearly want to give them positive life experiences, and to do so, I need an income. More than ever, I need things to work out, not just for my own ambitions or ego, but for theirs, too.

As moms, we have new priorities. Our kids come first, so we can’t devote the same energy and time to a job that we once did. In turn, we feel guilty that we can’t stay late at the office or be that “go-to” person that we were once able to be, so we fret more about what our colleagues think.

We have our “other job” to go to and it means that nights on the town with colleagues are sometimes replaced with working through lunch so we can pack five days of work into four, to get one day at home with the kids. Or as stay-at-home moms, we feel anxious that we’ve lost our identity. In fact, one SAHM I know recently confided in me that when she had a night out with all her old college friends, she “didn’t know how to be.”

“I’ve forgotten who I am anymore,” she told me.

The naivety of youth has long gone — only to be replaced with the anxiety of adulthood. And the struggle to find our way back to who we once were can seem impossible.

As moms, we have achieved so much (I wish my 24-year-old self could see just how much I achieve before 9 AM these days!); I just wish this made us feel more confident rather than less. After all, I pack far more into my day now than I ever did in my twenties. And my “mom” job is so much more rewarding than any of my presenting jobs put together. I have managed to have a career while raising two kids, and at one point in time, I even had two TV presenting jobs in two countries, a 4-month-old baby, and I still volunteered once a week.

I should feel like a freakin’ superwoman — because I AM one. So why am I wracked with fear and worry? Why can’t I give myself a break?

Most of all — why can’t I think like my 20-year-old self? It’s time my 42-year-old self reevaluate a few things, and recognize herself for what she truly is: A badass.

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