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self-confidence needs rebuilding: a meeting with the Marketing Manager

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Everyday I look at myself and think I am doing okay. Yet something tugs at me inside, as if more repairing work needs to be done. I did not know what it was until a meeting at the clinic recently – self-confidence needed rebuilding.

Most people who know me know I am opened to sharing my experience in clinical depression and burnt out. In fact, I want to approach more people in the community and raise awareness. My psychologist was supportive and we discussed holding a talk at the clinic. So, a few weeks ago I attended a meeting with him and the Marketing Manager of the clinic to talk about the idea and details.

I was brought up to the office floor of the clinic. As I stepped out from the steps into the staff area, which was usually out of bounds for patients, my head reeled at the kaleidoscope of fluorescent lights meshed with the hint of grey carpeting. Whitish grey desks spiraled into clusters. Computer screens crowded out the eye level. The humdrum of people conversing, photocopiers performing their duties and phones squealing shocked my cochlea.

Holding on to the railing of a cubicle wall, I edged into the meeting room with trepidation. Four chairs and a table crowed the tiny space, with a whiteboard at the back. An intercom spider phone sprawled in the middle of the table. I shuddered and stood at the entrance, mesmerized by flashbacks of client and office meetings. A few years back, I would arrive at a conference room, and knew exactly which chair to take for what meeting. Today, I was lost and stood frozen until the marketing manager invited me to take a seat.

My psychologist walked in and after niceties, we proceeded with the meeting. Ideas were thrown around, brainstormed. I followed their agenda. It was a strange situation for me – habit dictated that I led the meeting and discussion. I squirmed, and forced myself to stop thinking of the meetings in the past and focus on the one now.

We talked about the flow of the meeting, what my psychologist would present, and what I would speak about to the audience. We wanted to focus on what depression felt like, what I did to save myself and how I deal with depressive realities on a daily basis. I asked a few questions to participate in the conversation, answered a few and 20 minutes ticked away.

My voice was stuck in my throat, dry and strained. I did not sound like myself. I felt subdued yet tried to be chirpy. My toes were perspiring discomfort in my sandals. I kept my head down, pretending to be busy taking notes on my iPad. I could not look anyone in the eye, not even my psychologist whom I had seen for three years.

Two years ago when I met my Regional Head to catch up, and to tell him I wanted to quit, I was puzzled by what he told me towards the end of our coffee chat. He said to me, “Noch Noch, take some time to rebuild your confidence. No need to hurry.”

I did not understand. I thought all it took was for me to be not depressed anymore and life would be the same again.

Rebuilding of the self, the core, the mind, took much longer than I anticipated.

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The environment has changed. Things have changed. I have changed. Although I am still who I was at the core, comfort zones have shifted. What was once natural to me has become foreign. Socializing, networking, voicing out, meetings, interaction – all new to me again. The presence and calmness I once owned in front of crowds shriveled.

Re-establishing one’s identity is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for someone coming out of depression.

The sight of an office setting could have sent me into a panic attack had I not been in the protected realms of my psychologist.

I thought I was slowly recovering and so did not expect my shocked reaction at seeing people at work. I did not realize I was still mending in some areas. I have to practice again. I have to let myself through perceived embarrassment again to reorient my comfort zones. My self-confidence and identity needed restoration.

The only way to do so was to put myself out there, inch by inch, meter by meter. Try again. Let myself immerse in situations that make me anxious and learn to manage it.

Public speaking was my forte until 3 years ago. This talk at the clinic will be my baby step to venture back into groups and crowds of strangers. I know I will feel uncomfortable and nervous (I always did before anyways but just somehow managed to not show it) in front of the audience, but I know people will not judge me.

I do not need to be perfect. I do not need to fit into the suave image I conjured up. I do not need to be a seasoned orator. I just need to be me.

Two steps forwards. One step back. To move forward.

What are your perceived steps backwards today? How could they actually propel you forward?

24 Responses

  1. Richard says:

    So true Noch. For ages I couldn’t even drive past my ex-employers building or see one of their ads on TV without feeling “weird”. I almost don’t want to say this in case it comes across as sanctimonious or “holier than thou”, but experiencing depression gives one a frame of reference that forces you to look at things differently, to approach things differently. Seeing the world in a new way – especially familiar setting like an office – can be frightening.
    From one ‘recovering banker’ to another: Speak from your heart – you know this topic!

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Richard

      Yes indeed, I sometimes pass by an ad and feel all tense. I avoid anyone who works in finance. I guess it will take some more time!
      Thanks for the encouragement 🙂
      It’s a great feeling to be able to touch others with my story and experience

      Noch Noch

  2. ANI says:

    found this interesting, especially what your regional manager said. I think a lot of the time our confidence is shook and we rush to improve it and ‘fix it’ and in doing so we are only making it worse. We strive to be the best at all times but sometimes its ok that we aren’t, its actually a good thing as we learn from it. Sometimes you have to let things happen in their own time. So like you said ‘Two steps forwards. One step back. To move forward’. a lot of people forget the little steps in life.:) XX

  3. jim says:

    You don’t update your blog that often, but when you do, wow. I wish I could write as well as you. Two of the last sentences struck me hard. They certainly resonated with me and I dare say most depressives: I don’t need to be perfect. I just need to be me.
    Beautiful.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Jim

      Thank you for your compliment! I am glad my writing can resonate with you. And yes we don’t need to be perfect, but we always forget that. As long as we are who we are, that’s fine, and if others can’t take it, we’ll tough luck :p

      Noch Noch

  4. Anne says:

    Our whole lives are one long journey. I have the desire to be a better version of myself and feel its always two steps forward one step back. But its important to give ourselves a break, we are not perfect and indeed if we were, we would be boring. More importantly we would not have the understanding of what others go through. All the twists and turns that life takes, shaping our reactions and feelings. Sometimes i find it helpful just to stop, distance myself from daily hum drum, and just let my thoughts wander. I have a tendancy to run with my initial responses ti situations, but if i am in the right frame of mind to mediate my response, delay it, then i have time to think. As always Noch Noch, a wonderfully insightful post. Xo

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Anne

      You make a great point! The twists and turns and seeming obstacles are those which teach us what we need to learn in life! We get too caught up sometimes and must remind each other to take a step back and distance ourselves!

      Thanks for reminding us!

      Noch Noch

  5. Kaman says:

    Thank you for sharing. This really struck me hard. I got the same feeling as yours and maybe I shall move on too.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Kaman

      I hope you can move on from whatever it is you are struggling with. It takes a while, and even today I was trying to push myself and then suddenly remember, it will take more time that I thought, and its okay!

      Noch Noch

  6. Black dog says:

    诺,和你感同身受,但我却一直放不下身段,没有办法接纳自己做的不像之前那样积极,好辛苦,好挣扎,苦苦求存。没办法学jane那样,把自己的心态如海洋一片叶,不挣扎,不易做到,有时真的要放下什么都不离,就觉得自己没有价值。。。

    我们都努力着。。。

    • nochnoch says:

      Black Dog

      完全明白你的感受,不久之前我也是常责骂自己为何不能像从前一样。但最终悟了:将来的我会变得更强壮更好,所以不能象以前一样也没所为,现在是一个过程。很漫长的过程但我一定能到彼岸!

      希望你也是!努力!

  7. Jim L says:

    Noch Noch,

    I found this post quite relevant and timely to my current situation. I am just coming out of a long depressive period and am poised to return to work (after a 15 week absence) this coming Monday. Needless to say, I am quite anxious about this. I am confident in my skills and abilities. I worry more about facing everyone and the potential awkwardness that will ensue. I keep telling myself that I will walk in with confidence, tell people that it is great to be back and ask them to respect my privacy about my absence (if they try to dig too deep). But something tells me that walking back into the office will not be as easy as I hope and that I will struggle for a while to find my new normal in the workplace.

    Thanks for sharing and reminding me that I don’t have to be perfect.

    Jim

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Jim

      You are great the way you are. And if anything depression has built you in ways you wont know, so daunting at first, i am sure you can find your confidence again. Let me know how the first day of work goes. I’d be interested to hear of your experience

      Noch Noch

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  10. Jan says:

    Hi Noch… I was wondering why I used to able to give impromptu talks to students & parents… and when I was singing just a line at the back of the church two years ago (not in front, it was behind hundreds of people) and I was shaking the whole time… the panic attacked was worse, when a few people glanced at me…

    You elaborated it so well… so true for all of us… it really takes time and effort to, you know, just be “me”…

    共勉之~

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Jan

      Indeed – it wasn’t until that meeting I realized that I have changed so much as a result of this depression experience and it takes a while to rebuild some skills we used to know so well. The important thing is not to berate ourselves for not being able to do it now. We will get there 🙂

      NN

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about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) is born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Play Consultant for corporates interested in creative change management and employee well-being using the psychology of playfulness.