When she was asked to talk on a panel at Stylist Live, Annie Ridout panicked; this would mean facing a major fear. But she couldn’t turn down the opportunity, so she said yes and used an app to help boost her confidence…
I was fairly shy as a child. As soon as an unfamiliar face appeared, I’d disappear into the reams of my mum’s conveniently long, flowing skirts. It was frustrating; no one wants to be the quiet kid in the corner.
At school, I dreaded reading aloud in English lessons. My hands would shake, and so would my voice. I loved composing music, but couldn’t perform my songs. Throughout my English degree at Sussex University, I’d panic when asked to recite poetry.
Like many other girls and women, I was suffering with low self-esteem – probably because I was scared of failure. What if my voice sounded strange? Or if people thought my poem was crap? Would my reputation be destroyed? This was my internal dialogue.
Anxiety and self-doubt persisted throughout my 20s; apparently an issue of many a shy child in adulthood. So when, aged 25, I wrote up a list of dreams for the future that included performing in front of a large audience – I couldn’t see how it would ever actually happen.
I turned 29, had a child of my own, and began to feel empowered. Motherhood gave me an unexpected confidence boost. Where once I’d have felt mortified about the idea of sitting around in a circle and having to introduce ourselves one-by-one, I now felt at ease.
But there were still certain situations that would fill me with dread: work presentations and public speaking. My inner performer was cheering me on but I’d become accustomed to shying away; to saying no whenever possible.
Work presentations were actually already happening. I’d launched The Early Hour and was pitching for funding, advertising and support, so I’d found coping mechanisms. Mostly, massively over-preparing and making sure I looked the part, so that I’d feel it. But I’d have to sit on my sweaty, shaking hands to hide them.
I was desperate to also conquer public speaking but I simply couldn’t shift the debilitating panic that set in when just mulling it over. I felt resigned to never revealing that side of me. But then I was introduced to an app, launched by a friend, that promised to boost my confidence.
Clementine App was set up by Kim Palmer – a successful career woman who started having panic attacks in work meetings and had soon developed acute anxiety. She was still expected to pitch and present but couldn’t muster the courage, until she met a brilliant hypnotherapist called Georgia Foster.
Georgia’s hypnotherapy techniques enabled Kim to start believing in herself again, to feel confident when making decisions and to contribute in work meetings. Soon Kim saw that other women could benefit from these sessions so she built an app, incorporating Georgia’s recordings.
There are sessions to help you to sleep better at night and to power nap, or to de-stress after a difficult day at work. If you find yourself wound up after a conversation with a colleague or your boss, ‘reset’ enables you to regain composure and get on with your day. Future sessions will help with decision-making and assertiveness.
But I was most interested in the ‘confidence’ section.
I’ve had hypnotherapy before and understand the theory: that the brain is a malleable organ that can be trained to think differently. This is how people have been able to give up smoking and lose weight through hypnosis. But I was sure that my fear of performing in front of people was something that couldn’t be fixed.
By this point, however, I’d eagerly agreed to be on the panel of a talk at Stylist Live, alongside Jasmine Hemsley and Cassandra Stavrou, speaking in front of around 300 people. I was excited but petrified.
Dropping out simply wasn’t an option, so I started listening to the ‘build your confidence’ recording in the Clementine app in the week leading up to the talk, while I was out running – or when I was pushing my son in the buggy, to get him to sleep.
This 15-minute session reminded me of times in the past when I’ve felt confident, and helped me to transfer that feeling – of being relaxed and in control – on to the talk I’d be doing. I focused on an important photo shoot I did a few weeks earlier, when I’d felt surprisingly confident, and imagined myself on stage feeling just like that.
Visualisation is powerful; that’s why so many of us meditate. I regularly create a visual mood board of my future, planning what I want to achieve, so that I have my goals set down on paper. It’s amazing how soon these things start happening.
But I still couldn’t imagine that I’d actually be calm and confident on that stage.
Well, last November that day arrived. I sat in the Green Room, full of panic and dread, eyes wide, hands shaking. My sister was with me and looked slightly concerned. She knows the intricacies of my personality and could sense my fear. She tried her best to boost me but it wasn’t working. I thought: this is it. I’m about to royally mess up.
I got on the stage, took my seat alongside the host and two other speakers – gripping my detailed notes, in case I forgot everything I’d planned to say – and suddenly the fear dropped away. Just as I’d imagined, during those confidence building sessions I listened to in the app, I leant back in my chair and felt totally at ease.
The 1/2-hour talk went by quickly. I chipped in all the points I’d rehearsed, answered any questions directed at me without panicking and absolutely loved the whole experience. Once it was over, I felt not only a huge sense of achievement but also excitement for the future. Public speaking is something I can do now.
The only way to overcome a fear is to face it. After doing that talk at Stylist Live, I felt liberated. It was like I’d taken back the power – and not just in terms of public speaking; I’m now more confident pitching for work and asking for a higher fee. I’ve started playing the piano for friends and family. This experience totally restored my self-esteem.
I’ve since been made a partner at Clementine App, so I now work alongside Kim, coming up with ideas for new sessions and finding ways to introduce the app to as many women, around the world, as possible. If you’re looking for a confidence boost, I wholeheartedly recommend it (and it’s completely free).