Fear of being an adult

This is a random post but something that struck me the other day.

When I was at school I was confident and self-assured. I knew what I was good at and I focused on those areas (who needs science anyway, right…?). I loved English Literature and English Language, I loved drama (I even did a Speech and Drama course outside of school which involved competitions and exams in reading prose, poetry and general acting) and loads of sports. I won’t lie, I was a proper boffin and proud of it.School

Wow, found this photo of me probably aged 15

I didn’t care if I wasn’t in the ‘popular’ groups or if the cool guys didn’t fancy me. I was never more happy than getting good marks which I worked hard for. It didn’t come naturally but I enjoyed putting the work in to get the good stuff out.

I got good grades through school, applied for a good university and then, BAM, hit an ocean full of similar hard-working high achievers. All my self-confidence disappeared as I was no longer the top in anything anymore. In fact, I was pretty average at best. Despite that, I did achieve a good degree and applied left, right and centre for all the graduate jobs. Then when I had no luck there, all other good but non-graduate jobs. Then ANYTHING. 2009 was a rubbish time to come out of university with a Psychology degree that didn’t really qualify you for anything specific. My confidence was royally destroyed.

My first job was in a call centre for an insurance company reading a script about 150 times a day. I lasted two months before getting the hell out of there and into a basic admin job. To save you the boring details, a year and half later I finally hit gold with the job I’m in at the moment. I enjoy it and it pays well. OK it has nothing to do with my degree and it wasn’t what I always dreamed of doing when I was younger, but it’s a career I’m happy to continue with and progress.

But something happened to me after finishing school. I lost all my self-confidence in my intelligence and my abilities. I literally spend every single day convinced that someone will turn around and say to me, “Err, Anna, why are you here?”. I’m convinced they’ll realise I’m no good and fire me. I’m not saying I don’t do a good job or that I shirk work… It’s just I don’t have the same confidence I had when I was at school when I knew exactly where I was in the world.

I see everybody else around me as more competent and more worthy to be where they are. I think they look at me and wonder how I’m still here. I work hard, don’t get me wrong, but I sometimes feel out of my depth and lost. I’m often asking lots of questions and feeling stupid.

And it’s not just work. Despite being a fairly experienced runner, being generally quite fit and healthy and knowing pretty much what I’m doing, I still think that everyone else at the gym or at races are far more experienced than me. At the gym I think people look at me doing my squats and judge me on my form, my depth and the weight I’m using. Or they look at me in the race line-up and wonder why I’m not further back. I’m pretty sure no one cares but the irrational part of my brain truly believes that everyone thinks I’m clueless. This is despite the fact that I’ve been going to that gym and running for over three years now.

To be honest, it’s a general feeling of “am I really an adult?”. Leaving the bubble of academia and entering the Big Wide World is scary. Dealing with bills, moving house, thinking about divorce… it feels like I shouldn’t be dealing with this. I thought at some point a switch would be flicked on and I’d be an Adult. I’m still 15 in my head, wishing for someone else to show me what to do.

Will I ever feel like I’ve “got this” and I’m in the driver’s seat knowing exactly where I’m going and what I’ll find along the way? I don’t know. Maybe everyone feels this way but we’re all so good at faking it and acting confident when really we’re just all 15 year olds playing at life…

Do you feel like you’re an adult?

What’s the most scary ‘adult-like’ thing you’ve had to do?

Do you feel confident in the different areas of your life?