Confidently Unsure

Confidence is such a weird thing. We come across that word so many times throughout our days, our lives, and yet I feel that so often what I read or hear isn’t quite right.

I am not confident in a lot of things that I do. At the same time, I am boldly confident at other things. Sometimes, I find that I am both at the same time over the same thing. Weird, right?

When it came to my former job, I had confidence that probably bordered on arrogance. I knew what I was doing. I knew the business. I  knew the direction the business needed to move, and how to get it to move there. I had no problem being direct or making decisive decisions. I was confidence defined.

Yet, I also found myself extremely unhappy and unfulfilled. As a result, I was constantly questioning myself, wondering if I was making the right decisions. Which is not confidence defined.

One of the first things I forced myself to face last year, was this exact dilemma. I had a job that I was fairly secure in, that I was good at, that I even enjoyed on some days. I also had a job where I did not feel appreciated, and felt like I had to work insanely hard to be heard and respected.

The main office was not located where I live, so I effectively ran the businesses here with little oversight or guidance. I oversaw HR and the retail operations, my co-worker ran real estate development and fuel operations. It is not my imagination when my direct boss would contact my male co-worker to complete assignments and tasks that fell directly under my scope. This did not happen once or twice. It happened every single time. He would also contact him to notify “us” when he was coming to town, or had meetings he needed “us” to attend, or to request things that only I could complete or answer. He rarely made direct contact with me. That is not my imagination. And to be truthful, it pissed me off to no end.

And it wasn’t just him. I was surrounded in an industry of men, and they all did it. To be fair, this is not the first job I had in the industry, and I would say my entire career was full of men overlooking women. I think the same can be said for many women, in many fields.

While I said I was fully confident in my capabilities, there was a different confidence where these small things were taking a brutal beating. These small hits were constantly eroding the confidence I had in myself. Imagine being in a meeting room, and an idea you throw out is largely ignored, until a few minutes later a man, sitting near you, says the exact same thing, and it is applauded as a great idea. It happened all the time. I would talk to other women, read books by women, and it was so similar. Yet, we’re told to persevere, to find our place. I believed that these small hits were part of being successful. You have to grow a thick skin, ignore it. I convinced myself that it didn’t matter.

I was so wrong.

When I found myself listless, and angry, and unmotivated, and often depressed, I had to figure out why. Everyone has things they hate about their jobs. You’re supposed to find a career and stick with it, only a lucky few actually get their dream jobs. I had a good income, was pretty good at what I did, had security, and even had a boss that literally lived hundreds of miles away. Living the dream, right?

I don’t think living life in a mediocre or moderately satisfying way, is a lifestyle choice many of us would make when we are children. If we put on the veil of idealism, we know who we want to be, and what we want to do. What I lacked, was the confidence to do it.

Some people don’t see themselves in the business world as children, and find themselves very happy. Kudos to them. Honestly, I wish in some ways that I found my experience to be satisfying enough to stay in that environment and thrive. But there is a huge difference between surviving and thriving. I was not thriving. Not in any definition of the word.

I get migraines. Always have. My entire life. Migraines constantly. And sinus infections that would explode into border pneumonia, multiple times, every year. Without fail. Isn’t it interesting then, that this year is the first year I haven’t been sick like that? Isn’t it interesting that my migraines have decreased? They haven’t disappeared, but now that I can rest, and live life on my schedules, they have gone down.

I cuddle more with my dogs, and laugh more with my husband. We have gotten more accomplished around our house in the last six months than the last three years. I don’t dread getting out of bed daily. I simply feel better, and my life has improved.

I always thought confidence was an external thing. Yes, I know it lives inside us, but it often produces tangible, external results. Confident people are successful people. We see it all the time, plastered on the covers of magazines, movies, television and social media. We are told to embrace our inner confidence, to believe in ourselves. This is the first year that I am actually learning what that means.

Confidence in myself is still a slow process. I have days where I think following a dream is insane, foolish, childish. I have days where I don’t write as well as I would like. I have days where I feel lost and frightened. Confidence, like bravery, isn’t lack of these things, but the ability to push through them.

We live in a strange society where the sense of self is valued but not cultivated. Where we find ourselves isolated by the things that are meant to connect. We strive to stand out, to be special, to make a difference, make an impact. In an effort to do that, to be that, we find a society more disconnected than ever.

Confidence cannot be found in these external things. It is living within us. It is living within me. I need to cultivate it. And I do that by following the things in life that make me thrive. I may never be “successful” in my writing. I may never see my books launched into the stratosphere of authors I worship. But that’s ok. As long as I follow the path that is mine, and mine alone. As long as I do the things in life that allow me to thrive. As long as I stay true to myself. My life will be fulfilled, and deep, and rich.

Confidence is not arrogance. It is not boldness and brashness. Those are actually traits that don’t belong in the realm of confident people. These are things we’ve been told, much like you have to be wealthy to be successful. I am tired of allowing other people to dictate what my confidence is, what my success means.

Instead, I will nurture the flicker of warmth I feel when I write a good sentence. I will embrace the flush of happiness when I finish a chapter. I will cuddle more, and laugh more, and spend time doing things I enjoy. I will confidently and boldly embrace that I am unsure of what I’m doing most of the time. I will listen to the pull in my gut to guide me.

We get one life. One. I refuse to let strangers dictate the terms of mine anymore.

 

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