How I Went from Being SUCH a Shy Confidence Coach to Being, Well, a Bit LESS Shy Today

Eve Menezes Cunningham with Lou Lou cat
I wouldn’t go back to my late 20s (or any younger age) for anything. I do sometimes wonder how Lou Lou Cat would have got on with Rainbow MagnifiCat, though…

I still work on my own confidence but it’s much easier than when I started my first life coaching and complementary practice, Apple Coaching – Be Confident from Your Core (geddit?), in 2004.

The self care tools I’ve learned and integrated into my own life as well as into my practice to share with clients, supervisees, students, readers and audiences are now things I almost take for granted.

And they can help you have a hopefully less torturous journey towards feeling more confident or even simply liking yourself a little more.

I so wish I’d had access to these tools as a child.

Certainly by my teens and twenties.

Still, better to start feeling better by my late twenties and beyond than NEVER.

There was, I think, always a PART of me that was quite expressive and wanted to expand my comfort zones.

In some ways, the GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) I was diagnosed with in my late teens and 20s then complex PTSD I understood more about by my 30s helped.

Both meant that I grew up feeling almost constantly scared, anxious and afraid.

Perpetually worried about not being enough AND being too much.

Not ideal, obviously.

But now that I have had so much healing (progress not perfection. There’s room for much more) around both, I can see that it’s what HELPED me go freelance as a writer with no professional writing experience at the SAME TIME I was setting up my first coaching and complementary therapy practice back in 2004.

I used to imagine writing a Confessions of a Shy Confidence Coach series but was far to shy – and ashamed of how unworthy I felt about almost everything (this was long before Brene Brown’s wondrous work reached my world) – to dare pitch it to the editors who were commissioning my self care related features and columns.

Because I started out coaching writers, I had to walk the walk myself and keep going even when it felt like I’d bitten off way more than I could ever lick let alone chew.

In today’s Self Care Sunday blog post, I’m sharing some of the things that have helped me in case some of them are useful for you.

1) Remembering that what other people think of me is none of my business

I’ve been trying to believe this for DECADES and am closer now than ever before. It’s funny because even today, I realised that some (temporary, thankfully) angst that had come of for healing was triggering old stuff from being at school and never being able to tell (for a few years) who my genuine friends were.

Once I made that connection, I was able to notice the feelings and fears, with increasing self-compassion.

Moving to a town and country where you don’t know anyone has similarities to moving schools (which I did a lot as a kid and teenager).

Where Teenage (and 20s and 30s) Me would perform mental and emotional contortions attempting to be more (or less), Mid 40s Me can breathe into it, accept things and let them go more easily.

Mid 40s Me can also have fun with the kind friends I’m making and, of course (thank goodness for technology and transport wonders) catch up with older friends.

2) Embracing imperfection and weirdness

I was so shy as a kid, I spent a week or two in detention, the year we lived in America (6th Grade) because I was reading under the desk instead of paying attention to the teacher. I stood out and was trying to be invisible. I also adored reading.

It would be another few years before I attempted to dye my hair black and it would go purple, soon after starting at another new school. Because I had no real history there, I began reinventing myself from ‘shy’ to ‘weird’ – progress not perfection!

I still worry if I’m too weird and ALWAYS encourage prospective new clients and supervisees to check out my approach online before booking because I love working with people who are open to a holistic, embodied approach and that can feel a little woo woo for some.

My book helped me here too – putting all my weird (but effective and gentle) tools in one place. Want to work with your Dragon’s Tail? Bring it on.

Some people are definitely put off but, for the most part, my becoming more myself has been rewarded by not only feeling better FOR myself but also attracting more of the kind of clients and supervisees I love to work with.

My 40s are what I always hoped 30 would be like.

3) Total transparency

Where Younger Me worried I had to have everything sorted before I even attempted anything, I’ve learned that being open about what I can do and can’t do means other people can make informed decisions and I don’t have to worry (so much) about Imposter Syndrome attacks.

Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Eve Ensler and Elizabeth Lesser
Back in 2004, I didn’t understand enough about how we can be filled with self loathing AND believe in something more for ourselves but in spite of the default settings, I was fortunate enough to do some amazing things – such as getting a press pass to this press conference with Elizabeth Lesser, Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda and Sally Field

Even as Younger Me, I’d be transparent with people. For example, by the time I psyched myself up to ask if I could be added to the press list for my first ever press conference (at a VDay Conference in NYC with Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Eve Ensler and Elizabeth Lesser – I’d been fortunate enough to meet Gloria Steinem, too but she had to leave early), it didn’t occur to me to lie about my almost non existent journalism experience – I had no contacts but had flown to New York the day after my last day in an office job, setting up my freelance journalism on the strength of one commission and some promising rejections and no clients yet for my coaching and complementary therapy practice.

Looking back, I clearly had SOME confidence even though I didn’t feel it At All. (And I had some ongoing freelance editing work to keep my bank balance healthy enough.)

Even now, the fact that I work so much with stress, anxiety and trauma helps as the tools I’m constantly sharing (from soothing self talk to somatic work, energy work and more) are helping me as well as my clients, students, audiences, supervisees and so on.

4) Honouring sensitivity as a gift instead of something to be ashamed of

Probably 15 years ago or so, I came across Dr Elaine Aron’s work around Highly Sensitive People – her quiz was possibly the only quiz I’ve ever got 100% in!

Her work is still radical. The recognition that sensitivity isn’t something to be ashamed of but something that aids empathy and that HELPS me do my work has been revolutionary for me.

Even this week, a loved one misguidedly said he worries about me ‘being hurt too easily’. Being ‘too sensitive’. Etc etc.

Younger Me might have shame spiralled but I was able to breathe (again, thanks yoga and meditation!) into it and answer (without too much charge) that there’s nothing wrong with being hurt when things hurt and that feeling all the feelings means feeling more joy etc, too.

5) Therapy really helped me

I’d had a few short attempts but by the time I decided to train as a therapist (knowing the personal therapy that entailed and worrying that I’d be too much for the poor therapist), I was fortunate enough to be pointed towards psychosynthesis – a holistic model which integrates ancient Eastern philosophies as well as psychoanalysis and more modern positive psychology.

Several years with a patient and kind therapist – even though I still wasn’t ready to bring my whole self to therapy – was incredibly healing.

If you’re considering therapy or have tried it and dismissed it as not for you, please give yourself the gift of exploring a bit more and finding someone you trust enough and feel comfortable enough to open up to. There are soooo many different styles, there is a therapist out there who can help you.

If you’re in Ireland, the IACP website will help you find an accredited counsellor.

If in the UK, BACP’s will do the same.

There are, of course, other professional bodies – these are the main ones I’m a member of – and wherever in the world you live, there’ll be a directory of reputable, appropriately trained and experienced therapists to work with.

6) Experimenting with complementary therapies and energy work to support every level

As well as the coaching – working with other coaches and, over time, with the help of therapy, turning my own inner critic into a more supportive inner coach, energy work such as crystal therapy, EFT, NLP and yoga have really helped me.

Notice what you’re drawn to and allow yourself to experiment with different types of support.

7) Working somatically

I’ve written so much about working with the body and breath in articles, columns, blog posts, my book etc. I’ve talked about it regularly on radio shows and sometimes for TV.

But, for me, it’s been life changing.

Simply learning about the Vagus nerve and autonomic nervous system (amongst other miraculous wonders we often forget to appreciate our bodies for) and understanding how so much of what we feel is physiological helps us make sense of A Lot.

Especially when working with trauma and anxiety.

We can simply choose a different breath practice or posture to help us regulate our emotions.

With practice, we’re rewiring our brains and retraining our nervous systems.

This basic knowledge is something that could revolutionise the world if enough adults and children knew how to support themselves in such simple but effective ways.

I’m so grateful to have been able to write 365 Ways to Feel Better: Self-care Ideas for Embodied Wellbeing as well as being able to share the tools with clients etc when appropriate.

8) Keep learning

I’m a bit of a learning addict. My membership of so many professional membership bodies, each with their own CPD (Continued Professional Development) requirements and offerings means that while I’m qualified and experienced in my various coaching and therapies, I’m also constantly learning, too.

Getting involved (especially my volunteering with AICTP and then BACP Coaching) meant that not only did I meet amazing people I’m now privileged to call my friends but that we got to be pioneers together.

I still haven’t met anyone else who integrates the same therapies and coaching that I offer. Still, there’s better access to more information now.

We all understand that it can be scary when doing things differently. Knowing that we’re all wanting to work as ethically and effectively as well as creatively as possible has made it all far less lonely.

9) Surrendering each day and each perceived problem to the Divine

This might sound quite strange but, although I was raised as a Catholic and parrotted the words, ‘Thy will be done’ a gazillion times as a child and teenager, I didn’t understand them properly until last year.

From the time I started my crystal therapy training in 2001 and I was in so much daily pain it often hurt to stand upright so I knew I HAD to change my strategies for living (quitting alcohol, smoking etc), I liked the IDEA of ‘surrender’ and ‘letting go’ and ‘trusting’ but the very idea felt too dangerous to actually indulge.

My yoga practice helped me understand the benefits, too but, again, it often felt terrifying.

During an early meditation in which we visualised meeting a wise being during my psychosynthesis training, I was so angry with the patriarchy, that I attempted to shove my imaginary bearded white man (over a decade later, I remember my outrage) back up through the clouds.

I was getting tastes of what letting go felt like.

Being in flow.

Experiencing what felt like miracles.

But I’d quickly block myself again.

I even got a tattoo for my 34th birthday as a reminder to keep trusting and surrendering.

I still routinely forget.

Having said that, since 2013, I’ve not missed a morning of yoga and meditation even if some days it’s a short practice.

Over the years, it has transformed my life.

The yogic grounding tools I’ve learned are trauma sensitive, too.

And they’ve helped me bypass my residual prejudices against patriarchal deities and instead connect with the divine that’s in the sea, the trees, the mountains and so on.

I’ve been asking for guidance every morning for as long as I can remember but a few years ago, reading Tosha Silver, I suddenly understood the joy of offering myself to be of service for my and others’ highest good.

It’s not that I never worry about practicalities like money, setting up practice in a new country, etc etc but in spite of all of that, I now genuinely feel supported by the earth’s nourishing energy.

This helps me connect with my resources and make better decisions.

There are lots of tools on this site to help you be your own self care coach and my book has lots of suggestions (with bonus videos), too.

You can of course also get in touch if my approach appeals and you’d like to work with me – book a free telephone consultation to see if you feel comfortable enough talking to me (and to give me a better sense of whether my approach is right for you at this time).

And however old (or young) you are, you might want to imagine a happier, more contented Future You and spend a few moments connecting with her or him.

What guidance is s/he offering Current You?

You might journal or doodle or use other tools to ground this inner guidance for yourself.

With love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor

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