Most people who follow my blog know me only as an author of historical novels, but novel-writing is a relatively recent chapter in my life.
If you too are a person who does not believe in yourself, if you lack self-confidence, I hope the following will encourage you to take stock and re-assess your self and capabilities. I’ll begin with an honest admission; I have never rated highly anything I’ve done. I’ll see the flaws in my own work that others may not, but be the first to recognise the talent in others. The up-side is that I strive to do my best in anything I do, the downside is that whatever I do I never believe it is quite ‘good-enough’.
It is a fact of life that a great advantage on the road to success in anything is the ability to ‘sell’ yourself and promote what you do. And that is a near impossible task for a person with integrity who does not believe in themselves. If you don’t know your own worth, you will always sell yourself short, not only in your working life but in your relationships, too. In the competitive culture we live in, there will never be a shortage of people who will gladly undermine your talents, so why add to their number?
All of this has been brought home to me this week when I was going through old photographs in a chest that hasn’t been opened for some years. I was looking for something else when I came across the ones that would be a revelation. One small envelope of photos has revealed to me what I rarely admit to myself – that my worst enemy throughout my life has not been someone else but my own lack of self-belief. I’m certain I’m not alone in that.
The envelope is labelled ‘work photos’. I’ve worked since I left school at fifteen. I trained first as a seamstress, making women’s clothing. In my twenties, I trained with a furniture upholsterer and cabinet maker. He was a kind man who encouraged me to employ my skills as a seamstress to branch out into soft-furnishings. And that was to be my trade for the next thirty years of my life, until my life went awry and I had to leave my old home. I made my living through transforming old pieces of furniture and making tailor-made furnishings from curtains to loose-covers.
You’d think, wouldn’t you, that I would possess a large portfolio of work photos after all those years? But no, these are all I have, and they are poor ones at that. I only have the ones I do because those customers had asked me to take them, for insurance purposes I think it was. It never occurred to me that there would come a day when I might like to possess a record of the hundreds of jobs I had done over thirty years. The fact that I’m a keen photographer and I have taken literally thousands of photographs of the things I value, from family and travels to landscapes and pets, speaks volumes. It tells me I did not value my work as I did those other aspects of my life. It is too late now.
Looking at these photographs, I was confronted with evidence which totally contradicted the view I’d had of my own abilities for most of my life. Back then, when I was doing stuff like this every week of my working life, I didn’t believe I was doing anything remarkable. When delivering these items, which were invariably met by happy customers, my abiding emotion was relief – relief that they thought my work was ‘good enough’ to actually pay me for it.
I am honestly stunned by these images because they tell me what I didn’t see at the time – my work was always more than ‘good enough’ and I’m shocked and saddened that I failed to recognise it myself. I’m not saying I got no satisfaction from transforming people’s rooms and furniture in this way. I’m saying my lack of confidence led to my being so anxious over the quality of my work that it blinded me to what I’d actually achieved. So now, looking at a small fraction of the things I did and thinking of the many more I have no visual record of, I’m thinking what a shame it is I was so unaware of what I was able to do.
It was my daughter, artist Heidi Magdalen, who first told me I could write those books I’d always wanted to write. She told me many times before her words permeated my disbelief. Her faith in me encouraged me to take a leap of faith of my own.
From experience, I’ll say that nobody else can give back to you that self-belief or confidence taken from you early on in life. It is something you can only regain via a battle with your self which has to be fought, every single day. I know that for those who have never had to do this, it is hard to imagine. But the positive words and belief of others can encourage you to at least try what you would not otherwise. That is why it is so important, not only to know your own value, but to have people in your life that truly believe in you. I am ever thankful to those who have encouraged me to try to fly.
Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of the Megan Jones trilogy of historical novels set in early 19th century, rural Wales.
You can read about the books and purchase them by clicking on the links below.
Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd
The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd
Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/i1sy302jXXK