Will Aylward became a life coach following his battles with anxiety and low self-esteem. With a clientele that spreads across 40 countries and multiple industries, he explains how losing confidence started his journey as a life coach.
How losing my Confidence was actually great for me
Despite being a bowl-cut victim, I was a confident kid growing up. I’ve always felt a strong sense of worthiness and a belief I could achieve anything I put my heart into. Remembering this one sunny day in primary school, I must have been only 7 or 8 years old, and making a few of my classmates laugh. Though I can’t remember exactly what I was doing, a bit of a song and dance, I think. Then at this point, my teacher angrily walked over to see where all the commotion was coming from. Glaring down at me she regrettably asked,
‘‘William! Don’t suppose you wish to show your little performance to the WHOLE class, do you?’’
I imagine Miss Clack had expected me to respond with a ‘No, Miss’ and for my pale cheeks to flush red. I very much doubt she thought I’d take her up on her offer. But I did. A few moments later and the whole room, including Miss Clack, erupted in laughter, rolling around in stitches as I proudly performed. The impromptu class comedy performances stopped in Secondary School, but I stayed connected with my inner confidence. I’d often be asked to play the piano in assembly, performing in front of a couple hundred students, something I took in my stride. I had a solid group of friends, and school life was great!
First panic attack
Skip forward to my late teens/early twenties and life looked very different. But no, that’s not accurate. Life felt different.
To the outside world, I was the same, happy go lucky, happy, confident Will. But a battle was taking place inside my head, and I was losing. Riddled with insecurity and negativity, fighting alone with an anxious mind. My confidence took a hell of a hit once I left secondary school, due to a few factors:
- A rough heartbreak after my childhood sweetheart and I split up.
- I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, after all, I left Year 13 without a plan.
- I began to compare myself to those around me who were seemingly ‘doing better’ than I was, friends who were in a job they loved or at uni.
Instead of opening up, I internalised these feelings and kept them to myself. I partied Thursday-Sunday to numb out the truth, masking my emotions through gallons of Guinness and a smokey haze of Marlborough light cigarettes. This way of living caught up with me and on a cold Sunday evening in December 2011…
I had my first ever panic attack.
It scared the shit out of me. It felt as if a chord had been snipped inside of my mind. As though my reality was spiralling uncontrollably out of control. Difficult to put into words but I just felt a strong feeling of impending doom. Literally thought I was losing my mind, I remember sobbing to my young brother saying ”I just don’t feel right‘. After some time, my family managed to calm down, and my mum tucked me into bed that night.
I was like a big, anxious, 20-year-old baby. Eventually I fell asleep, realising I couldn’t continue living life this way.
The next day, accompanied by my Dad, I visited my doctor who informed me what I had experienced was indeed anxiety and that I should make some lifestyle changes if I wanted to avoid further episodes. I’ll never forget the shocked/impressed/appalled look on his face when I shared how much I would drink and smoke on my frequent binges. Never. So changes needed to happen. And it began with a book.
After this initial panic attack, I started to do something I had previously thought wouldn’t help… Talk about my situation and how it made me feel. You see, I was fearful about how people would react.
Would they think I’m crazy?
Will they call me a liar for pretending everything was Ok?
Would they understand?
These fears sealed my lips for a long time.
Becoming a life coach
Soon I discovered that by talking about my situation and feelings, a small weight was lifting off my shoulders after each conversation. I finally opened up about my lack of confidence, opened up about my anxious mind, opened up about the debt I was living with. I spoke with family, friends, work colleagues and things got a little better. But only after I got real and honest.
So to the book. Following a conversation with my good friend Mark, I purchased a book called ‘The Game’ by Neil Strauss, which was a real eye-opener. Although the book is all about the life and works of a pick-up artist, I took a lot away from reading it. In particular, the idea of the comfort zones. That to grow our confidence and face our fears, we have to get out of our comfort zones.
So my journey into Personal Development began with this book. I learned. A LOT. I devoured dozens of personal development books, reading everything from mindfulness, making money, mindset to goal-setting, and how to start a business. As I read, I finally began to understand how and why my lifestyle and choices had caused me to experience anxiety and leave me living with debt and low confidence.
I made a decision that every day I would do something that scares me a little and slowly and surely these steps added up and I was back to living with a healthier level of mental and physical health and better levels of confidence. And as soon as my debts were cleared, I made a terrifying (but exciting) decision- to travel to the other side of the world, alone, for one year. Yes, I decided this was the best way to really face my demons and put me outside of my comfort zone, a solo trip to New Zealand.
It was the best decision I ever made. It forced me to fend for myself, learn the value of money and as cliché as it sounds, find myself.
I returned to the UK refreshed. I worked for 2 years in a job I adored before starting a business and working for myself. Fast-forward to today, I now work as a life coach. As a life coach, I can help people all over the world to connect with their confidence. My own experiences help me to help others and wow, does this feel amazing.
If I was asked whether I’d go back and change my past, in particular, the tough times – I would say no. I believe our toughs times happen for us not to us.
Thank you for reading,
Life coach Will has since become a published author with his book, “Becoming Unstuck”. The book is a collection of personal stories and a step-by-step guide to taking charge of your life. Expect to feel inspired and ready to become unstuck.
It’s not uncommon for people to find their passions following battles with mental health. Camille Van den Bogaert overcame her battle to become a graphic designer. Also, an anonymous account shared how he grew to understand his anxiety to reveal his struggles with his close ones.