Handling the Covid Confidence Hit
Updated: Oct 4, 2020
Let's face it, this year has been, well, err, unique..
Just twelve months ago we'd never heard of 'social distancing', 'furlough' or 'R-numbers' but now we're well versed in the language of lockdown. For many, it's lead to our confidence taking a nasty hit.
It’s not just self-confidence, our mental health has taken a battering too. According to recent research*, 41% of British adults' mental health is at risk as a direct result of the pandemic.
In many respects, the reasons why are obvious (we’re more scared, isolated and worried about our loved ones and financial security than we were pre-COVID), but when it comes to our confidence, there are some subtle factors at play.
1) Our worlds have shrunk
For most of us, March represented our worlds getting smaller. Many of us went from working, socialising, commuting and travelling to the exact opposite in a relative heartbeat. And whilst some of us have regained those liberties, for most life is still far from back to normal.
But whilst worlds have shrunk, for some, responsibilities have grown. For the parents who face being teachers; the workers trying to stay afloat in the face of redundancy; the key-workers hustling harder than ever, the weight on our shoulders is immense.
Put simply, many of us are fulfilling roles and facing challenges we had no time to prepare for. It’s therefore no surprise that our self-belief is being well and truly tested.
2) We’re suffering the effects of ‘comparison culture’
As we've become more physically distant, our windows to the world have become increasingly screen-based. We’re being invited into the lives of our friends, colleagues and celebrities in a way that wasn’t viable before.
This leads to the psychological phenomenon of ‘comparison culture’ – where we constantly benchmark our own lives against those of others. Of course, the very nature of social media is comparison culture on steroids – providing a heavily air-brushed view of people’s lives and achievements.
Whilst measuring ourselves against other people is entirely normal (and can often act as a motivation for us to take positive action), since COVID, our lives have shrunk. Our opportunities for action are limited. You see where I’m going…?
3) We’re receiving less physical feedback
As humans, we’re hardwired for face-to-face interaction - so much so that it’s literally impossible for us not to communicate. (Resting bitch-face anyone?)
We thrive off the positive feedback of others, not just their words, but their non-verbal signals and their linguistic cues - and we’ve evolved to process them in milliseconds.
And guess what? Zoom just doesn’t cut it! (Ever heard of the 'Zoom-doom'? It's a thing, really!)
We miss the subtleties of face-to-face communication. The limited feedback from virtual chat forces us to work harder. The natural pauses in conversation seem magnified on Zoom - we feel pressured to fill them.
And let’s face it, observing yourself on-screen as you talk is about as natural as running up the stairs backwards. This is the reason why an afternoon of friendly chat requires little effort, but an afternoon of Zoom can leave us reaching for the gin.
That sheer effort - and the hyper self-awareness - can cast doubt on our own abilities to communicate effectively, which in turn gives our self-confidence an unwelcome kick.
4) Our plans have gone tits-up
The things we were going to do, the people we were going to see, the places we were going to visit - all put on hold because of a bloody virus.
We tend to define ourselves – and others - through our actions. So when COVID puts our best laid plans to pot, we can feel it deeply and question our own self-worth.
5) Our inner voice is shouting louder
More time to ourselves can lead to increased self-reflection, and for those of us with a critical inner voice, that’s bad news for confidence.
We’re missing the company of the friends who big us up, the colleagues who thank us for a job well done, those voices of reason that remind us we’re worthy. Quietening that negative self-talk is more of a challenge when there are fewer people to talk too.
What can I do about it?
Treat yourself as a good friend would.
Become aware of that negative inner voice and put it in its place – like a good friend would. If you want to take it to the extreme, note down what those thoughts are and find evidence to the contrary – believe me, it’s there in spades. Speak more kindly to yourself and your confidence should start to improve.
Share how you're feeling.
Just recognising that you’re not alone and sharing your concerns (even virtually) can help you realise that that a confidence dip is normal during lock-down – and importantly – highly likely to be temporary. You’ll be surprised at how many people feel the same.
Ditch the comparisons
We can’t control our lives like we could pre-COVID, but that’s okay.
We’re doing our best and our best is good enough.
If the constant comparing is hitting your confidence, give yourself a break and step back from social media. I know it's hard, (it's designed to be addictive) but it's imperative when your confidence is low to bring your focus back to you.
Instead of endless scrolling, take the opportunity to plan and dream so you have a clearer direction when things return to 'normal' - you'll thank yourself for it later.
We're hard-wired to be negative. We're designed to look for and minimise threats. have you been addicted the the news since COVID? But do you find it lowers your mood or causes anxiety?
There is always an opportunity to reframe situations. Yes, you may be working from home, but that frees up more time for you. You might be facing redundancy, but the same event presents an opportunity to re-evaluate what you really want from your career. You might be stuck inside, but you are doing it to protect yourself and others.
There is always the opportunity for a reframe and a positive mental attitude always underpins confidence.
Use the time productively
On the one hand, COVID has taken away, but on the other hand, for many, it signals more free time. And time is a gift if you use it wisely. Taking the opportunity to develop, learn and up-skill will put you on the front-foot when restrictions ease - and that can be no bad thing.
P.S. Have you joined my fabulous community, The Confidence Build for Women? If not head on over for support, expert-advice and a loads of lovely women who totally get how you're feeling.
*Research by Glasgow University, Università degli Studi di Milano, Università degli Studi di Trento, Tilburg University and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, May 2020.