I’m reading a novel right now called The Winds of War and, while I haven’t figured out just yet what the “winds” part of the title means, it got me thinking about things that tend to blow into and out of life on a regular basis.
Sure, people blow into and out of your life all the time. The weather blows in and out with the seasons. The holidays come and go, as do birthdays and anniversaries. But there are other things that blow in and out, too, including one of my frequent companions: self-doubt.
We can probably all agree that self-doubt isn’t the only emotion that blows around. In fact, I’m experiencing a lot of those other emotions this morning along with my current bout of self-doubt: anxiety, fear, panic, etc. I continue to work to manage those transient feelings so that I don’t allow them to shake the essence of who I am, but some days are harder than others.
I’ve met people who seem to be endlessly confident. Have you? It seems like nothing can touch their sense of self and I sometimes wonder if it’s because they’ve worked tirelessly to nurture it, or if they were just born into an environment that shuttered the negative winds out and built their spirit up on a regular basis.
(As an aside, I don’t know if any of us is confident all the time – even those who appear unshakeable. I think we can be confident in certain areas or while doing certain things, but I also think that self-doubt or fear or anxiety will still blow in from time to time when we step into an unfamiliar space.)
Since my childhood had gaping, war-like holes in the walls and was orchestrated by a person who mostly saw – and pointed out – my faults, I don’t think I got a good start. So how well I can nurture my self-confidence as I move through life is fully up to me.
I would say that as I’ve grown older I’ve expanded my sense of confidence quite a bit. I know this is true because when I was growing up the only area I ever felt confident in was my school work. And there were a couple of reasons for this that I can see with my hindsight goggles that perhaps will resonate with you as well.
The first was that my level of intelligence was something that could be measured and shown to me on a regular basis, so I could grasp it tightly within myself as truth. The second was that these measurements took place outside of my home and were given by someone other than my mother, which resulted in a different slant or weight in my life.
And even though I’ve grown more confident in my appearance and in who I am as a person as I’ve aged, I’m still the most confident when I’m working in my day job. Not really a surprise, right? Because just like in my school days, my work in the corporate world can be measured rather objectively (ROI, KPIs) so I can hold it tightly as truth.
When you lack the ability to feel confident on your own, hearing you’re good at something enough times will allow you to latch onto the idea and consider it as a possibility.
Now here’s the paradox for me. One would think that this confidence about my day job – which is writing – would migrate over to my personal life and that I’d find some sense of calm about my personal writing projects. But it doesn’t. And why doesn’t it?
Because I haven’t had this particular writing affirmed enough by other people, and unfortunately that’s the pattern my psyche has come to understand as truth. It’s rather sad when I think about it, but I'm working to get there by sheer force of determination.
Maybe one day soon I’ll find my unshakeable sense of self while I’m alone in my own microcosm, writing the words that seem to come almost magically through an illuminated pathway through the sky. Maybe I’ll get to the point where I don’t need to offer my writing out for critique to believe that it’s good.
I think I'm getting closer.
There are a lot of mindfulness principles out there that talk about detaching from the outcome and about finding contentment or peace or joy within one’s self. And I think when those winds of self-doubt blow in, we can use those principles to remind ourselves that we’re good enough just because we exist. That whatever we strive to create or do is the result of the amazing energy that created our own existence, and therefore it is inherently good.
Putting my work into the world more often and more publicly these past six months has been both gratifying and scary. Luckily for me, I’ve gotten enough positive feedback to put fuel into my body and help me push through discomfort and fear. That feedback has also provided me with building blocks for my self-confidence, in a way. I envision those blocks stacked as a wall that I’m quietly constructing around myself, so that when the naysayers come along their voices will bounce off the exterior instead of piercing my heart.
A wall is inherently built to withstand winds, isn't it? Winds of self-doubt, winds of fear, winds of anxiety, winds of self-loathing (that happens, too). Keep building the self-confidence wall so that you can withstand the low points in life. The low points within yourself.
A wall, once built, is hard to destroy when its construction is sound.
My first book, Halfway There: Lessons at Midlife, will be published in 2020. To be notified when it is available for purchase, sign up for my mailing list.
Life Shows You Your Calling