From someone that is still learning after 46 years.
Whereas last semester’s classes were draining, and pushing me to new levels of discomfort in ways I never imagined, this semester has me in a few courses that are nourishing for my soul. I have mentioned a few of the tests that I have been taking in my Interpersonal Communications class, and how it rocked me to realize that I struggle with “self-esteem.” I put self-esteem in quotations because I am also learning that my concept of this needs to change.
Do you have a word of the year? Instead of a resolution I love picking out a word that I want to motivate my decisions for the year. This year, because it is so apparent to me that I have been lacking it, “confidence” is my word.
How does one build confidence? It is something we wish for our children, it is something we look for in partners and friendships. No one wants to have to constantly reassure the person that they’re with that they are smart, beautiful inside and out, talented. It can be exhausting, and really is something that starts from within.
We were a large family and funds were tight, but my parents felt paying for activities was worthy of their hard-earned money. This kept both of them very busy, my mom as the taxi-driver and my dad as the bread-winner, and sometimes coach of our basketball teams.
I remember as clearly as yesterday my mom asking me at age 8 if I wanted to take dance classes. My good friends were starting at the dance school in the next town over and we could carpool. It was a “yes,” from me. I was always an active child and had dreams of becoming a future rock star. Dance was a sure fire way to help me on that trajectory.
“I have one rule.” my mom said.
I waited, breath held. What would she require of me?
“You need to stay in dance all the way through high-school,” she presented. “You can’t quit.”
I felt the resolve in me, even at that young age.
“Okay,” was probably my reply. I don’t remember exactly what my answer was but I remember that firm feeling of resolution. High-school seemed so very far away and I couldn’t quite picture all that was before me. But why would anyone want to stop dancing?
My friends that started dancing with me did quit. I think they both quit after one year. I didn’t. I broke a lot of things with my parents, including their hearts, but I didn’t quit dance school.
I asked my mom years later why she asked me for that promise of full commitment.
“To keep you out of trouble.” She replied.
Dance meant so much to me. As a skinny girl with acne who was taller by three inches than all of my girl-friends, dance was my refuge. At my studio, it didn’t matter who my friends were at school. It didn’t matter what grades I got or if I was on the right sports team. There I found structure, there I made effort, there I was given strictness along with kindness. Hard work was rewarded with compliments and overall feeling of creating something beautiful and entertaining. Performances were the icing on the cake and I did so love being onstage. Having that special something that I felt good at was that magical place in my heart when everything else in my life felt chaotic. I found something I was good at that set me apart. It gave me confidence. (Not to mention excellent posture on my tall frame.)
I didn’t become a rock star, I didn’t dance on Broadway. I fulfilled my promise to Mom and stayed with it all through school and then life and the choices I made had me give it up.
I noticed though, that my confidence was greater than that of siblings that were allowed to quit activities that they were very talented at. I wondered if that feeling of accomplishment in the follow through aided in my confidence.
As a busy mom I did not return to dance. Motherhood brings on all kinds of insecurities. The body and its constant changes as well as hormones that make everything feel extreme, throw expectations and comparison in to that pot and mix it all together.
Motherhood was fulfilling in many ways, I felt like I was doing something I was meant to do. I was pretty good at being “Mom” to my kids. I could anticipate their needs and interpret their secret languages like nobody else. I was confident in my love for them and my love of being their Mama. I just needed more…
Enter a dare from a friend who was building a relay team and I wanted to be with these ladies on this team.
“But you’re not a runner.” She told me.
My brain said “watch me.”
The first few years of running brought many tears and frustrations but many wins as well. It started adding to my life that knowledge that I could do something sort of well. While I wasn’t the fastest and I realized fairly quickly I never would be, I could run far. I started competing in ultra-marathons, which just means I ran farther than marathon length. It felt great. It gave me a sense of self, an accomplishment, a goal well met, a secret smile that I could feel constantly.
So what do I do now? Right now it’s not about dancing or running. I don’t have a skill that is marketable, and can add to the family income, but I’m working on that. Even still, I want that inner confidence that I have sought out for most of my adult life.
In our English class we are writing manifestos. Learning Manifestos. Every week we focus on a life skill and this week that skill is confidence. It is, as I mentioned above, my word of the year.
So I want to tell you those things I have noticed have brought me the most satisfaction, the most inner confidence, but these things have to be nourished and worked on constantly to grow that confidence.
- Find something you are good at. It doesn’t have to be physical. An area that I admire but have no talent or patience in is crafting. Crafting of all types. I have a friend that makes beautiful earrings. Another makes quilts that will surely be passed down from generation to generation. I have family that are artists and can create amazing works with the flick of their hands different mediums. I love that we are all unique with different gifts and talents.
- Set small, attainable goals. Attainable is the key word. We all know that New Year’s Resolutions often fail. I believe we start too big. I wasn’t running 30 plus miles right away. I started with a six mile race. I didn’t run more than that for a year. My second year running I signed up for a half marathon and truly thought I would die from it. The fear of dying or coming in dead last had me working towards that goal every week. I found a free training program online that seemed workable as a busy mom and I ticked the boxes off one by one. Now, I am not a list person…but it’s necessary sometimes. I make allowances for races. But don’t quit this small goal. Following through is key.
- Faith in your purpose. Now this one, for me, comes with believing in a higher power. I call him my Heavenly Father. I believe you could get there without believing in Him and I’m sure there is plenty of material on that, but for me it’s God all the way. My work this year, particularly, is to remember that I must be here for a reason and I need to trust that reason. I am my kids’ mom because I was the right person for the job. I am going to school because I felt that was my purpose at this time. I am not in it alone, I have a partner in all things that are good.
My hope for you, my friends, is that this is your year for confidence as well. When we are happy in our works, we are healthier, we are kinder to each other. We all know we need to see good, and kindness in this world, whether we believe in a higher power or not.
So let’s say this mantra together,
“I will do my best, this is my journey.”