While I’m not exactly sure why I stopped writing, I am certainly worse for it – and I do not mean my Klout score.
I’d like to claim that line from the movie Contagion where the dad-from-Six Feet Under called blogs “graffiti with punctuation” chastened me or that sitting ten feet from the bureau chief of Chicago’s NYT editorial team has intimidated me.
The truth, however, is that I’m just in a confidence crisis. My slightly-neurotic analysis has yielded something like this:
When I was smart, I just wanted to be pretty.
When I was pretty, I just wanted to be loved.
I know now that I am neither smart nor pretty, but am miraculously and unquestionably loved.
My simple mind isn’t processing this well.
Further, what’s love got to do with it?
I’m talking about SELF-confidence. Belief in oneself apparently has nothing to do with how other people view you. But lack of it sure makes you vulnerable to the worst opinions others may or may not have. (You would not believe how far I can take this.)
Shouldn’t truly having self-confidence make you a bit impervious to outside forces? Is it not your own invisibility cloak when the ghost of crappy economy haunts you? Or the shield against the morally bankrupt thugs who would rob you of your vehicle to success and kick you as they drive away?
I am reminded again of that haunting statement by an interviewer that his dream candidates are single women because they have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. It made me furious then, but merely more self-conscious now.
Writing, like any art, is about sharing your impression of the life that surrounds you. And since we are all the hero of our own drama, everyone’s impression is unique to their storyline.
What has risen up as a monumental roadblock is the nagging disbelief that my storyline matters.
I think self-confidence is the elephant in every woman’s mental room of her own.
And my elephant has taken to sitting on top of me and crushing the life out.
This isn’t to say that men don’t suffer from a crisis in confidence. I’m sure they do. But overwhelmingly, I have noticed that women (including me) get derailed by circumstances beyond their control and then struggle to compartmentalize a sucky situation so they can get back to being awesome.
I had a fantastic conversation this week with someone who wanted ME as a mentor. [If that doesn’t boost confidence, what on earth will?] Listening to her story and her self-doubt felt very raw. In the beginning of the conversation, my nag was reciting “blind leading the blind” over and over… but when I stopped thinking about poor me and what an unimpressive loser I’ve turned out to be, I felt my indignation rise on her behalf.
She didn’t embezzle a million dollars, or have an affair with a married supervisor, or punch a client in the face. [For the record, neither have I – I was just trying to think of things that would, in fact, warrant feeling a little self-loathing.] Yet she was behaving as if she deserved to be sitting in ashes wearing burlap.
I was a relative stranger and a brand new connection but even I could see that she had something sparkly inside. And I told her so.
I’ve been inspired by this woman to seek out connections with people who won’t pump me up, who don’t have anything to gain by injecting my ego with steroids. I’m on a mission to read and subscribe to confidence and positivity bloggers. I have pulled out my child psych books to learn what I can about building confidence and what plays a role in one’s “confidence quotient.”
So much is determined by it.
Sometimes the mirror your friends and loved ones hold up to you is like a funhouse mirror. Their investment in your happiness and obvious love throws waves into the truthiness of their feedback. In my experience, at least, it is rare that someone close can give you raw truth. Most people shroud feedback in fluffy nonsense rendering any kernel of actionable insight unrecognizable.
I had a high school ‘phriend’ who, while she wouldn’t be seen with me in public thereby reinforcing my leperous sense of self, would write me ridiculous notes about why I shouldn’t think poorly of myself. These little gems had very little to do with weighty issues but still gave some perspective to the tragic sensibilities of a teenager – things like “You have all your teeth.” and “You do not smell bad.”
While funny in a Dax Shepherd sort of way, this has given me an idea. I’m thinking about a little project over the next few weeks. I’m going to emphasize positive things in my life that I can claim credit for as a way of focusing on good and praising my accomplishments as a valuable human, no matter how small.
If Gretchen Rubin can have a Happiness Project, I get to have a confidence one.
I’ll call it The Confidence Quotient - Small Wins or #CQsmallwins.
Who wants to play?