How did I become such a wuss?

I lost something very valuable in the last 10 years and I’m desperately hoping find it again.

My mettle has gone missing and fear has taken its place.

I’m quite horrified at the mouse I’ve become.

Not in the workplace, I still trust my instincts there. I know what people want to read and I know I can write.

But I have absolutely no courage outside the office.

Once upon a time I was so resolute.

I’ve kinda lived my life in reverse. My grandmother would remark “still waters run deep” … I was an old soul in a young body. I hated being a kid, I wanted to be a grown-up as quickly as possible.

The minute I arrived in Sydney, I started saving up to buy my first house. I got it at 26. My ex wasn’t ready for the “responsibility” so I talked my sister into co-signing the mortgage so the bank would give me the money. My ex moved straight in and didn’t leave until 20 years later …

Until I had children, I managed all our finances, paid all the bills, sorted all the taxes, sourced and bought all the properties. I was a DYNAMO.

Now I’m like this meme …


I used to be the adultier adult. I remember wanting to buy a tiny company title apartment in East Sydney. The bank was all oooh aaahhhh eerrrr, we dunno …

They were just waffling and babbling nonsense at me.

I put up with it for a few minutes then I fixed them with a steely gaze and snapped: “Just tell me EXACTLY WHAT I have to do to make an offer on the place this morning.”

The two blokes behind the desk recoiled slightly at my directness and said: “Oh! Right! Well, you need to do this, this and this.”

OK. Thanks. Onto it.

So I bought the bloody place, and sold it again four years later for a handsome profit.

I repeated that pattern many times. I’d buy and sell every few years, usually for substantially more than I paid for it. My ex wasn’t interested in searching for the next potential find, he’d just do the bidding when it was time to seal the deal.

Meanwhile, I climbed the career ladder, scoring a nice pay rise and promotion most years.

And then I was asked to edit Woman’s Day. I approached the job with trepidation, I sensed it was a role too big to end well during a time when circulation was rapidly declining. But I love a challenge, so I took on the dying beast and rode its final wave of popularity during the era when the dreaded Bec Hewitt wedding/Princess Mary/Jennifer Aniston/Oprah combo raised sales to more than 500,000 copies a week again, and the magazine was raking in $40million a year in advertising.

Glory days.

The in-house beauty salon was doing a roaring trade in blow dries and beauty treatments back then, as staff glamorised for the constant whirl of social events and advertiser launches.

When it all began to crumble, I remember one of the finance blokes muttering: “Rome is burning and everyone’s off getting spray tans.”

But no one listened. The spray tanning continued. And the glorious city was gradually reduced to ashes.

No one believed it would ever happen. Nobody prepared for it. ACP even handed Microsoft the rights to all its websites. Like the rest of print media in Australia, it failed to see how comprehensively digital would steal its thunder.

So did I. I barely even looked at when I was editing the print version.

What was I THINKING?

Sorry, I’ve gone off on a tangent.

It became clear to me just how much I’ve lost the plot when the panic set in about taking the kids to Italy on my own. I was petrified both before and during the trip. I felt palpable relief when I delivered the kids almost in one piece to their dad in Rome. I gasped to him about how terrifying I’d found the responsibility.

WHY did I do that? WHY did I feel that? WHY did I tell HIM that?

What’s happened to me?

The same panic gripped me when DD left me in Singapore. It was just four days in a city where I’d lived for two years, but I felt desolate at the thought of doing it alone.

Since I got back to Sydney I’ve been faced with various renovation decisions and I simply can’t make them. I spent an hour at IKEA and 90 minutes in a lighting shop yesterday and walked away empty handed both times because I was so riddled with uncertainty.

I hate that I’ve lost my “adulting” nerve.

I wonder how I can get it back?

While there are aspects of the closed, controlling, perfectionist old me I DON’T want back, some of that old “I can do ANYTHING” mojo would be sooooo nice.

Aren’t people supposed to become more confident with age, not less?

Are you?

Song of the day: Neneh Cherry “Buffalo Stance”




12 thoughts on “How did I become such a wuss?

  1. Being stabbed in the back by someone u trusted wholeheartedly can do that to you… with ramifications that can take years… you may have to do something as simple as looking in a mirror & repeating a mantra of confidence… whatever you do to get your mojo back, lnow that your closest friends also believe in you!!

  2. I’d be terrified taking two children to Italy by myself too. The world is a different place now. There’s more to be wary of. I look at you from a distance and think you have an amazing amount of courage and spunk. Don’t undersell yourself šŸ™‚

  3. Being brave is not “absence of fear”. Being brave is “doing it scared”, as a friend of mine says. You have courage by the bucketloads. The confidence will come back. And hey, you had the confidence to get the renovation planned right, telling the builder you changed your mind (I’d have gone “oh well, I’ve chosen now”, but felt sick about it). Prevaricating in shops? Too many choices. Next time you go to IKEA, let me know and I’ll see if I can tag along. You won’t come out with nothing šŸ˜‰

  4. I have found that as I’ve got older I am certainly less confident and on top of being less confident, now suffer from anxiety issues. As far as I’m concerned, getting older sucks for lots of reasons. I’ve never minded about my age – I don’t even mind the grey hairs that are starting to spring up but I do hate how I feel, how it’s harder to get up off the floor, how it takes longer to recover if I get sick, how it takes longer to get fit, how it takes longer to do most things !!
    I so wish I could go back to my 30’s and do things differently – I would look after my body heaps better so that when I got to be over 50 it would serve me better !!

  5. Maybe more confident of what might go wrong. I’ve seen my 80 + year old parents get somewhat more afraid of the world but on the other hand by their age they’ve side-stepped lots of scary things – mental health issues, car crashes, cancer and suicide . Rather than lacking confidence maybe we’re just more realistic. Riding a motorbike in Lombok with my then 15 yr old son seemed a really dumb thing to be doing, but the accompanying meme could be something like “the horrifying moment when you realize your 15 yr old child is more adultier than you.”

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