I’ve been contemplating this word “confidence” for the last few weeks. It struck me recently how my self-confidence has evolved and changed in my lifetime.
When I was a child, all I knew was love. My mom, dad, and sisters loved me. They seemed to think I was pretty great, as a matter of fact. (Well, except when I lied about feeding the cat, or forced my sister to give me her money so I could buy an enormous secondhand stuffed animal at the school festival) – but even then, I was confident I was loved and pretty awesome.
And then came school and friends. I was a pretty good student (okay, I was pretty much Miss Goody Two-Shoes) so the teachers loved me and that gave me confidence.
At an early age, though, I remember feeling like I needed to get attention from my classmates. I would act silly, or exaggerate an injury, or later even make up stories about some fantastic boy that loved me. I think that I felt like my “boring” ordinary life wasn’t enough to impress my friends and make them like me. I’m not sure where that idea came from exactly, but I was an avid early reader so maybe it’s something I picked up from an overactive imagination combined with a tween-hood filled with stories of fantastic lives and amazing experiences. I don’t know.
But the result was a very low self-confidence. Of course my classmates tired of my antics, and as junior high students will do, poked fun. And 8th grade graduation was the highlight of my young life. After spending 8 years with the same group (more or less) of 30 kids, it was my chance for a fresh start.
In high school, almost no one knew me. So I decided to act like the me I thought I’d like to be. And thus started my “acting” career. No, I didn’t join the drama club or act in school plays, but I started to put on the greatest performance ever, “Here comes confident Becky!” But in high school, my confidence quickly became connected to my new great love…boys. My sophomore year I started dating a very nice young man whom I dated for the rest of high school. My confidence came from the fact that he thought I was funny, he thought I was pretty, and he thought I was worthy to spend time with and…to love.
I felt confident in my school abilities still. I was still a good student and well-liked by teachers. (I think, in hindsight, that was more of the “true me” shining through the bs.) And I had several good friends who found me likable and funny, albeit a bit “perky.”
By college I had created a confident Becky. I was funny and sarcastic. I was flirty and always optimistic. I was smart but still silly. What can I say? It worked for me. But as much as I thought people were drawn to the me I’d created, I think the true friends – the ones I still call friends to this day – probably saw through the charade and saw me (and loved me anyway).
I was by no means a tortured soul. Probably mostly due to the fact that I just avoided any serious doubts I had about my behavior. I walked a fine line between “created Becky” and real Becky. I still found confidence in the young men I dated, the good grades I received, and now the fun, college experiences I was collecting.
Confidence is attractive. I remember one particular time during my senior year of college. I had been dumped by a longtime love so I did the normal things many girls do…I lost 5 pounds, cut all my hair off, and started flirting mercilessly with every guy in the student center. It was a TOTAL act, but by then I was a pro. I was even nominated Homecoming Queen that year. And won. NOT because I was the prettiest, or most involved, or most deserving…but because I was acting confident.
“Here I am, guys! I don’t need you! I’m funny and smart and sexy, and I believe in myself, and I’m a good girl, and I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to…” But even as I was saying it, it became more and more evident to myself that it was a big fat lie.
So now I am in my late 30′s . (I think 38, although I keep forgetting and have to do the math, and I’m just not that good at math anymore.) I’ve been married for 13 years, have had 6 children, and am a stay-at-home mom. I can no longer get my self-confidence from my grades or job performance. (My children explain to me all the time how I am the “worst mom ever!.” ) And while I know I am loved and cherished by my husband, his love makes me feel valuable and secure, but it’s not where I derive self-confidence.
It’s SELF confidence. I finally am starting to see that I’m supposed to be feeling confident because of my own abilities and powers…not because of anyone else’s belief (or lack of belief) in me. So what are my own abilities and powers?
- I am a good wife. I am not the “super” wife I thought I’d be. I don’t fill his car with balloons that list the ways I love him, I often forget to buy his favorite foods at the store, and he is often last on my list of hugs and attention. But I am kind, and I try to appreciate him and give him room to grow and be his wonderful self. (Oh, and to accept him for all his faults and love him anyway..yada, yada, yada.)
- I am a good mom. I am not perfect, but I don’t think a good mom should be. I think I’m teaching my kids what is important (at least in mine and my husband’s eyes), and loving them along the way.
- I am a grace-giver. I am accepting of people, and able to love them where they are. I see things in gray instead of black/white, and I think this enables me to give grace where others may not.
- I love to create beauty. Whether it’s a Christmas card-holder made from a re-purposed slinky, a mantle filled with lovely trinkets, a story full of honest expression and humor, or a garden full of flowers, I have – and deeply appreciate – the power to create and make something beautiful.
The last 13 years of marriage, motherhood, losing a child, and growing older have forced me to shed much of the “confident Becky” image I created. But when I have those moments now – when I am funny and witty and sarcastic – I know it comes from a true-r place; a more honest place within me. And even though I am NOT a “big picture person,” I know that there is a bigger picture of which I only play a small role.
It’s an important role, but not one where it’s “all about me.” Ultimately, I feel my worth as a child of God. Through my self-absorbed, play-acting adolescence, AND teenage years, AND college years, AND early adult years, God has remained the same. I am sure I have given him heartache and made him laugh. And I hope I can take this next phase of my life and give him honor.
I feel God’s presence in a very tangible way, ironically, when I act out of those “self” powers and abilities I have listed. When I can love my husband in a very simple yet meaningful manner. When I can parent my children in a loving and firm demeanor. When I can give grace to a person or situation undeserving or unexpectedly, and create acceptance and authenticity. When I sit in my garden, surrounded by beautiful blooms and never-ending weeds, butterflies, worms,bees…and feel at peace.
My journey is ongoing, of course. 2 steps forward, 1 step back. But I’m learning to give myself grace in this process and to recognize that this is just who I am. Sometimes silly, often forgetful, occasionally witty, surprisingly self-effacing, frequently clueless, always with…
just a little bs. And that’s okay.
Can you relate?