I Want To Be Alone (But In A Really Confident, Empowering Way)
I like to think I’m a pretty confident person. I’m pretty sure I’m confident at work (which you’d kind of expect given my role as the head of a function) - though I am hugely aware of my severe case of imposter syndrome, so I may just be an expert at blagging it.
But let’s assume for a moment that it’s proper confidence I ooze at work. I mean, there’s always moments that I find myself questioning my own capability or decisions, but I think I can hold my own in most situations. I won’t lie though, it took me several years to get over having any self worth I had at the age of 27, pretty much shouted out of me by a very short COO who thought he looked like Robbie Williams. He didn’t. And the shouting was VERY much unwarranted. Dick.
But let’s ignore work - that’s a can of worms that we don’t have time (and I don’t have the inclination) to dive into. I’m going to talk about me outside of work and a particular aspect of my confidence - or potentially lack there of.
I’m writing this whilst I wait for Birdy to come on stage at EartH, for her debut performance of her new album, Portraits. If you haven’t heard of her (and you probably have, you just don’t realise it), go and check her out. She’s really very good. To be honest, I only came across her after a recommendation from my old friend Kevin, who knows far more about music than I can ever hope to (he also knows a fair amount about movies too - find him on Insta @kev_talks_film). So now it’s my turn to pass on the recommendation.
But I digress somewhat. The reason this setting is important for my musing on confidence is because I’m here…on my own… This is a total first for me. I just don’t come to these sorts of events alone - I usually drag the OH - or on the rare occasion, gate crash friends plans. I’ve always been too self conscious to go solo to any type of entertainment experience - too afraid of standing out like a sore thumb. Will people think I’m weird or some kind of lonely pervert? Who’s going to hold my jacket or save my spot whilst I queue for a drink? Will I need to talk to people? And what about that group over there who are definitely laughing and pointing at me - “look at Mandy-no-mates”? Because of course everyone is a bitchy 12 year old girl and I’m back in secondary school, ignoring the jibes of the “Girly Gang”. By the way, Sally* - I hope that life has not been kind. That your boobs sagged before you were 23 and your blonde hair is permanently damaged from over bleaching.
I don’t know why I feel like this about these sorts of events. I have absolutely no issue going to a restaurant on my own, enjoying dinner and my own company - or sitting alone in a bar or pub sipping on a beverage or two. In fact I absolutely relish the opportunity (and have been known to slip out to the pub an hour before the OH gets home from work, just so I can sit there alone, enjoying some “me” time).
I travel on my own - admittedly not often (but that’s more due to circumstance than me being vehemently against the idea). I have taken a solo holiday (loved it - met some lovely people and…. don’t tell my dad, even sunbathed topless - free from the prying eyes of those who actually know me). My jobs have also allowed me to travel the world - often on my own to unknown places - and even when I have a colleague with me, I’ll undoubtedly find myself roaming the streets of São Paulo solo, asking for directions or trying to buy something from a street vendor in my woeful Portuguese.
I guess I'm ok at holding conversations with people I don’t know when attending parties and gatherings hosted by friends and families - though if I can avoid it, I will. And if I’m on my own in a place where I have no idea who anyone is… well I'll retreat into the smallest possible corner, stare at my phone and pretend I've got some kind of emergency to deal with. Surely no one is going to be interested in chatting to me - they've got other more exciting people to converse with. However, I’m also the same at networking events… well on the very rare occasion that I’ve attended them. These are places that you’re expected to socialise - but generally I’d rather scoop my own eyeballs out than make small talk with an overly enthusiastic room of HR professionals who I don’t know.
However after my recent emergency surgery - and to be frank, a series of life changing realisations - I’ve decided I need to embrace the things that I’ve been avoiding. What things in life could I be missing out on by not trying those that hold an element of trepidation for me? I’m also beginning to understand that it’s perfectly fine to not be a performing seal at these types of things - if I want to be on my own - that’s absolutely ok. No one is going to judge - and if they do, who the hell cares? So perhaps it’s not a lack of confidence in needing to be able to socialise that I need to worry about - but more that I need to embrace the confidence I have in being able to do these things on my own, free from the constraints of feeling the need to entertain or engage with others.
And so back to Birdy. The reason why I’m here on my own. I’ve navigated the streets of Dalston, and queued for my pre gig drink, before asking two couples very politely if the space on the tiered step seating is free. It is. And here I’m perched. I don’t need to make conversation - I’m an intelligent, confident woman - who’s going to use the next 30 minutes to start composing her latest blog whilst I wait for Birdy to come on stage.
And at the end, when I’m waiting patiently for my train that will inevitably be delayed, kicking myself for not factoring in a food stop before the gig and questioning why I’ve done this on a Wednesday night when I know I’ve got work the next morning, I’ll ultimately know that I’ve done something that day that I’ve never done before - and have proved to myself that it’s absolutely fine to be me, alone, doing the things I want to do.
I don't really know if any of that makes sense. But it feels good to have at least got something that was in my head out on paper (or screen, if you want to be pedantic).
Birdy, by the way, was incredible. What a voice and what a set list. Go listen people.
*names changed, obvs