Jump to content

Severe confidence, image issues - please help me!


Recommended Posts

I have job interviews lined up few days from now. Please help me. I need to crack them to get a better life for myself, and be independent. I will be really very grateful if you read my story. I cannot afford a therapist.


I am 24 years old. I am South Asian. I am female.


I feel terribly underconfident about myself. To give you a brief about my childhood - I have had a very strict upbringing - all I was encouraged to do was to study. My parents were never interested in "all round" development, so to speak, and I never went to dance, song, art classes like the other kids did, or play a sport. It seems all I ever did was to read. And I had good reason to. From the age of 6, I had been threatened by my father that my studies would have to be funded by merit scholarships and that he would not pay for my education. He had stated that he would prefer to get me "married off" instead (yes, "OFF").


I did not have a set of friends in school. For me, acceptance into the "cool" set of kids seemed to really matter a lot. I was instead bullied by them. I was also struggling with severe image issues. My mother used to do all my shopping till I was 23 (Can you imagine?). She never let me step inside a salon, not even to strip off the moustache that started flourishing on my face, when I was 15. I was terribly, terribly disgusted with my oily, hairy, ungroomed appearance but I was helpless, I could do nothing about it I fought persistently at home, but to no avail. I used to spend days LONGING to wear what I like, cried secret tears over how bad I looked, and how just a little work would have made me look a lot prettier. I sort of fuelled all that frustration into studying well.


And yes, my childhood was peppered with a fair share of beatings. Sticks, shoes, belts, vessels - you name it, I've been beaten by it, and every small incident warranted a beating. "Fear is good for you" my dad used to say. My mother used to beat me too. Her anger came in short, white hot bursts. My father's anger was icy and long drawn. I could never turn to any one parent for support. It seemed that both were against me and I was alone.


I used to have drive and determination till I was in school, and performed exceedingly well. Let's just say I topped every batch of students in school since 3rd grade (when formal school exams began), and I finally went on to top my country in my A level equivalent exams. I sort of skipped college, took up a professional course right out of school - Chartered Accountancy, and scored the 18th Rank in my country in the Intermediate exams. Heck, I even had a 100% in a paper, when the overall pass percentage was only at around 5%. I then got a role as an Articled Associate in a Big 4 accounting firm, and mind you, it's terribly competitive and tough to get into the role, where I come from.


From there, everything has gone downhill. I have always struggled with the thought that I am not really smart and have overcompensated with hard, hard work to get those fabulous results I spoke of. Also, people had been making fun of my bookish knowledge for as long as I could remember, and I was convinced I could never do well at a job. But I persisted, and worked horrible hours to get efforts that seemed to take much less effort for everyone else. I used to do things by rote, took shortcuts, never really understood the logic behind what I did.


I jumped into a relationship with a colleague from office, though I wasn't really attracted to him. I think the idea of being accepted made me so heady, that I didn't think things through. The relationship wasn't known to everyone. It was completely clandestine. My parents would have placed me under house arrest, had they known. I always carried the guilt of hiding the secret from them. TERRIBLE, CRUSHING GUILT. I am afraid I took out some of my anger and frustration out at my boyfriend. We dated 6 months, went upto 3rd base, and then things crumbled. After MONTHS of fighting, we called it off.


I took a short break at this point of time, went over to my mother's parents' place. Long story short, got beaten up by my maternal uncle. He insulted my dad, I spoke a few terse words, next thing I knew, he was bashing my skull in with his helmet. In front of his wife and 2 toddlers. And my grandparents. I cannot think back to that day without tearing up. The pain I caused my grandparents. And my uncle slapped my wife who stepped in between us. Heck, I'm crying now, just typing about it. But the odd thing is, everybody thought it was my fault, nobody sided with me. I couldn't muster the courage to tell my parents about this. I told my little brother, instead, and felt guilty for burdening him with my worries.


And then, my final level of professional exams were 6 months away. Both my mother's parents, the ones who I had visited were diagnosed with terminal illnesses - one with heart disease, the other cancer. You can imagine my guilt at causing them pain a mere few weeks back. The pain of my heartbreak compounded my misery.


My mother was hardly home during that period and was constantly by my grandparents' side. The problem is, my dad was always home (he has his office based out of home). I had to take over my mother's role at home - cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishes, gardening etc. and also take care of my other grandmother and younger brother. Nobody acknowledged my help, it was just considered my duty as a girl. I struggled with finding time to study, and the weight of the expectations on me had not changed - I was still expected to graduate with a rank, despite the immense pressure and domestic situation at home. I made a hash of my prep - learnt by rote, skipped large parts of my syllabus, did not really understand the things I was reading, remembered things only superficially. Long story short, barely passed my exams.


Also my father was not on talking terms with me during my exams. Every single day in the run up to my exams was tense - with my father constantly waiting in the shadows to nitpick my housekeeping efforts or bemoan the fact that I never seemed to by studying. He never raised a hand to help me. He never spoke of hiring a maid or a cook for those 6 months, just to ease my efforts. Not a hand, not a word, only constant beratement. Just before my exams began, we got into a fight over dinner, and it ended with him flinging his plate of food at my face, and physically hurling me across the room. I blamed myself for everything. My mother was in grief over her father's death by that time. She cried and scolded me even further for "causing" the incident. I buried my pain in deference to hers.


The day I passed my exams, there was no celebration. No kind words, no encouragement, no parental pride. They wanted that rank despite everything. I cannot tell you the shame I felt that day. I was a Chartered Accountant, the pass rates for the final exams are abysmally low, yet I passed despite the odds. But no love, no joy. I took to some form of self-harm to vent. I will not get into details here.


My father advised me to skip the job placement process organized by the Chartered Accounting Professional Body and write the GMAT equivalent in my country, instead. I had 2 months to crack another competitive exam - BUT I DID IT. I secured the 98th percentile, and had interview calls from Top B-Schools in my nation.

In the meanwhile, I joined a small consultancy for work, it was my first proper job. When I secured it, there was another bad fight with my father about how I was a doormat and should have negotiated higher pay. He had no pride in my first job. The work was very challenging, and very much out of my comfort zone. I also had a tough boss. Put in crazy hours at work, attended B-School admissions interviews in the middle and by some lucky twist of fate, I made to a Top 5 B-School in my country.


I was more than eager to pack off my bags and move to the other side of my country. At the age of 23, I was finally going to taste my hard-earned freedom. Within the first month, I found myself in another relationship (will get into more details later). Being practically a fresher, I had no idea of how competitive B-School could get, and slacked off. Summer job placements are assisted by my campus, and preparations for that began almost as soon as I stepped into campus. I had really great interview calls (think the Top 3 consulting firms, Top Investment Banks, Top PE/VC Funds) and screwed all of them up, due to severe confidence issues that hampered even my efforts in preparation. I took one look at my competition, and I basically gave up. I finally received an internship offer in a totally ordinary finance role with a corporate.


My relationship was founded on the basis of sex. I dropped my pants in a few short days of meeting the guy. He made it very clear he was interested only in my body. There were days that he would walk in, stick his tongue in my mouth, rip my clothes off my body, do his business with me, and then just leave, without a word. OF COURSE I FELL IN LOVE WITH HIM. I wasted myself away in love for him, founded on no reason at all. Due to my image issues, his acceptance of my body, my face seemed enough.


I let myself be treated like a doormat. He tried breaking up with me many times. I used to beg him till he took me back. I remember telling him to come to me, if only for sex. In the meanwhile, I used to try convincing him to get into a relationship with me. Half convinced, he agreed. I was later very hurt to discover that he tried his chances on the "better" girls, while he was with me and though we had agreed to be exclusive - girls who were higher up on the social ladder, had better bodies, better looks, and were coveted by the male populace of the whole campus.


I also spent my first few months of the relationship frightfully in awe of his cold, hard intelligence. I spent days in misery, thinking I was not only not good-looking enough for him, but also not smart enough for him. I lived in fear of losing him. In a sense, it was my very public relationship with him that gave me a sense of self-acceptance and identity. I was very afraid of losing him, and thus my identity.


Needless to say, these distractions contributed in hampering my efforts towards my academics and summer internship-seeking. The remaining part of my first year of B-School was spent in a haze of mindless partying, drinking and weed. Will not get into details here.


Then B-School broke for summer internships. I had VERY tough time doing the project assigned to me. I simply did not fit into the culture of the organization. My project mentor and I never established a rapport. I was terribly frightened of making mistakes, of asking for help, in case I was thought of as stupid. My reviews were a nightmare, with weeks of stress inducing even vomiting and headaches. It is considered a very relaxed job, the one I had interviewed for. Yet I was anxious all the time, and doing a horrible job at my work. I simply had no confidence in myself.


During my summer internship, the quality of my relationship with my boyfriend improved. We happened to be interning in the same city, and met on multiple occasions. He told me many times that he loved me, he craved my company, and at one point of the internship, he told me he wanted to marry me. I was thrilled to bits. I started taking birth control without prescription. I faced a terrible bleeding scare during my internship, during the 2nd month on the pills. My boyfriend did not offer to accompany me to a doctor to get myself checked. I managed everything on my own, despite not speaking the language of the region.


When we returned to campus, the first thing my boyfriend did was to inform me that he does not consider himself committed to me anymore, and that our relationship wasn't in the Top 10 things of his priority list. The slug that I was, I clung on. In a few weeks, I received the news that I was the only intern in my department who did not get an offer, though I was perfectly qualified for the job - the rest of the interns were engineers!


It was around this time that a mantra started off in my head that I was very stupid, and I do not have the ability to survive a corporate job. I performed even more miserably in my academics, ESPECIALLY in Finance subjects. Can you imagine - I am a qualified Chartered Accountant! Yet I PERSISTED with bad grades in my finance courses.


Meanwhile, my relationship took a downturn. Over the last 12 months, I had piled on 30 pounds. My boyfriend said I was fat, our relationship had gotten platonic, and broke up with me. Yes it hurt. I should have seen it coming. He had spent 3 months in my room before that, gaming over 12 hours on my laptop.. At 3 am every night, he would tear his eyes from the screen finally, see my sleeping figure on the bed, and wake me up for sex. We were doing it, just because we were in a room together and we could, it was pathetic. Took to self harm again this time to make the pain I felt inside come out. I had to vent, I had term exams round the corner.


This time though, I refused to beg my way back into a relationship with him. Something had changed. I started to make some stabs at loving myself. I wanted to keep my self respect intact and did not want to go back to him after all the hurt I endured. He had even rationalized everything to have been solely my fault. I felt positively gas-lighted. I was lucky to have made a close friend over the last year in B-school, and it was this friendship that kept me afloat. My friend had also gotten into disciplinary issues with my institution, and was almost on the verge of expulsion. It took huge amounts of love and care to keep her spirits up and keep her from spiralling into a depression. Her punishment was reduced, she was taken back and she worked maniacally to build her resume over the 2nd year in B-School, as she was barred from campus-assisted job placements, as a commuted punishment. Her hard work was sometimes at the cost of ignoring me, but I understood what she was going through.


Did I mention that my break up with my boyfriend was amicable? We decided to stay friends. Despite finding me fat and ugly, somehow nothing became hotter to him than having sex with me immediately after our breakup. We continued to mess around afterwards (it has been 4 months since our breakup and 1 month since the last time we had sex). He fell in love with me after the breakup. I fell completely out of love with him. He's now been begging me to take him back, and hindering my peace and efforts towards securing a job. I am sure I do not want to be back with him, but he can never listen to a no. There have been multiple instances of him forcing himself and his affections on me, and I can barely stomach it. I tolerate it most of the time to avoid confrontation. But a lot of time and energy gets wasted in this process.


In the meanwhile, after months of casual sex with different men, my friend finally found a relationship 2 weeks back. She's been shacked up with him for 15 days now. I hardly see her, and she hardly talks to me now and it hurts so much.


With my job placements round the corner, and my woes with my messy relationship with my ex-boyfriend, I find myself caught in the middle of a confidence crisis. I really feel I am stupid and slow, and not cut out for a corporate job. I was not smart enough to be accepted into influential networks here in B-School, and I just do not have the ruthless ambition or drive that EVERYBODY seems to positively BURN with over here. I want a job, a GOOD job, a coveted job, but I am not sure I would ever be good at anything I do. Though my preparation is definitely better than the last time, I am just as under-confident, and not as prepared as I should be. I have an immense fear of my competition for these jobs and an immense fear of being judged badly by corporate-shark interviewers.


I don't really want any of this, I think. These overrated corporated jobs. This hyped qualification. What I really want is a small, peaceful, contented life, a purposeful job that I love, and eventually the love and support of the man I will make my family with. Nevertheless, I need a job right now to keep myself afloat, to keep self respect intact and to be financially independent. Speaking of family, I think distance has improved relations between my parents and I, though I find it really hard to forgive them for my hardships at times.


Please help me. I feel I am all alone and without help. My interviews are mere days away. I want to feel much more confident and happy when I tackle them.

Link to comment

Hi darling. Can I be honest with you? When I saw the length of your post, I thought this is way too long and I don't have the patience to read it. And when I started reading it, I discovered a very articulate, intelligent, vulnerable and self-aware individual who has always used adversity to make her better. Stronger.


While I personally relate to getting beaten by every existing object around the house, I can't pretend to know what you must have gone through and how your parents' lack of support and nurturing has affected you.


It sounds like your bad results in the area you specialise in (finance) ended up being a self fulfilling prophecy, you have internalised your parents' voice telling you that you are not good enough and feeling like failure is just around the corner. I don't have another explanation, since clearly it wasn't a reflection of your (lack of) skills.


You are clearly not a pushover, despite the fact that you were taught you should be and put up with horrible behaviour from those around you. When you were little, you had no choice because you couldn't leave your parents. However, now you are a grown-up - and a smart one at that - so you can finally say the definite, strict NO that you have never had the opportunity to say before. And start with your ex. Treat yourself with respect and dignity, and people around you will start treating you in the same way.


Confront all the unjust, unfair preconceptions that were instilled in you since a young age and accept that you are a worthy, skilled and hard working individual.


When it comes to interviews, the way I think of it is that the people interviewing me know the company better than I do, and are more likely to know whether I will fit or not. If they say no, they will spare you the trouble of getting into a company or an environment you will hate. I understand the pressure of needing a job, but in the bigger scheme of things this is a matter of a short few days or weeks versus your whole lifetime.


A few tips for your interview:

- speak a bit louder than you normally would

- practice a lower tone of voice - a low pitched voice gets more attention

- research their website and people's LinkedIn profiles to get an idea of the culture

- talk about specific skills you have that are relevant to what they do in that company specifically


It's unfortunate that your friend is not available for you right now. However, I think you'd much rather not have to worry about her than support her through depression while you have everything else on your plate.


You can be the best prepared candidate for the interview, even if you're not the most confident one. Use the adversity to make you better and stronger.

Link to comment

Hi Derroax, thank you so much for your immense patience in reading this post. I really couldn't help the length of this post. This is the one place, where I've penned down all my secrets and lies, and once I had started, it just came pouring out! I read through the whole thing again, gosh, I must sound like a big whiner. Thank you again for reading. I must also thank you for your kind words at the start, it really lifted my mood.


Self-fulfilling prophecy - YES! That is exactly what it is. The phrase I have been looking for, for a while. I have to get the nasty, repetitive mantras out of my head.


It honestly feels that right now, time is too short to drastically improve - especially with my interviews round the corner. Don't you think that one's first job is an anchor - with respect to any job one might apply for, in the future? In any case, I feel that much of my life has passed by in this manner, and I will have no time or energy in the coming years to discover/improve myself - with the demands of job/family that I will have to shoulder.


I suppose I should get around to seeing a mental health specialist soon.

Link to comment

Hey - the point I was making was that despite it was long, you have made it engaging - you have a great way to express yourself and your self awareness was so good, it just made me HAVE to read it until the end.


No I don't think the first job is an anchor, especially in today's world people change jobs c. 15 or more times during their working lives. the first job has the purpose of helping you discover your likes and dislikes so you can then fine tune the way you search for the next one.


I want to stress on the preparation you make for your interviews. This is not going to solve your long standing problems with childhood trauma, but it's going to help very short term to focus on the interviews coming up. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be. Look the companies up on glassdoor and see if other people wrote about their experience working there or questions they have been asked in interviews. Google the company and interview questions, if it's pretty big then you're likely to get some inside tips. If you know something, you will speak confidently about it - better than going in completely in the dark and overwhelmed by anxieties.


Read a bit more and watch a couple of ted talks - these are just to help you short term with your interviews which are your priority right now:


Your body language shapes who you are


How to find work you love


Link to comment

Thanks Derroax. You know, I usually re-read drafts a zillion times before posting, just to make it more engaging. This time I just wanted to post and have it read.


Yes, I will do the necessary research and watch those videos, while I'm at it.


Have a great day!



Link to comment

Bah, I get it. Interviewing can be scary because you feel evaluated - we don't really think it's a two way street.

It sounds like you are putting very big stakes on these interviews. You have so much anxiety is as if you're going to die if you don't get that interview. Is that really the worst thing that can happen? If not - what IS the worst thing that can happen?


The voices in your head are quite likely the inner child who feels scared in the face of a difficult trial and she is not prepared to go through with it. My advice is to try to humanise that inner child as if it was a real child you see in the street - if you saw a child alone and scared, what would you do? You might comfort them and give them a big hug and talk to them to find out what's wrong. It's important to listen to the child and give her some comfort, let her know it's going to be ok. And then enable that child to feel free and playful. Listen to her before and during the interview and see what she is telling you, she will give you some important clues. Be gentle and kind to yourself. The worst case is that these interviews will be some interviewing experience so just use them as that. Learn from the questions you get and see how you feel. And allow your child to be playful and sweet.


You can't stop the inner voices and in fact, the more you ignore them, the more they will scream. So just allow them to be part of you, listen and react to what they need from the grown up you.

Link to comment
  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Derroax! Thank you SO much! I have gotten exactly the job I wanted!


Though I feel relieved that my professional life seems to have been sorted, my personal life is in a serious, horrible mess. It has gotten much worse than we last spoke, I'm afraid.


The inner voices have stopped. But I am just left with a general feeling of being blue now. I give up. B-School has given me a degree and a job but as a person, I've just become less trusting and more jaded.

Link to comment

Hey darling, when you say inner voices can I just check what you mean? It's just because you mentioned this a couple of times so wanted to make sure I am not misunderstanding what those voices are.


These forums are great to give you support and a "quick fix" solution or a sounding board, however as you mention severe confidence issues, feeling blue and jaded, I wonder if this medium is going to offer you the support you need. Now that you have a job, you should consider putting some of that towards your well being and seeing a therapist to talk through these issues regularly - you deserve that level of support and you deserve to be happy. Therapy can help you get there.


In any case, even though I don't know you and I'm not your mother, I feel proud of your achievement to get this job and I was confident in your ability to nail it. Well done - put the other issues to one side for a day and give yourself a pat on the back then go do something for your soul to celebrate. Don't skip this step.


Hugs and positive thoughts.

Link to comment

Hi derroax. I meant the voices of self doubt, self hate. Basically me bullying myself, all day long.


I will be putting some money in therapy. I think it will help me deal with this big mess a lot better. How exactly does therapy work though?


Thank you so much for your encouragement and pride. I have tried to celebrate. Mostly it felt like hedonism and waste of money. But I tried, and that is what counts, I guess. My parents are terribly thrilled. I think they are better friends than they were parents. But holding my judgment for now.


I recently found out that 2 of my friends, one whom I thought was my absolute best friend, had messed around with my ex boyfriend. Could you read about it here, please? I would love to have your take on this.

Link to comment


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...