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I have confidence, and confidence alone….

By Heather Oman


(If you just read that title, and you’re NOT singing the song from Sound of Music where Julie Andrews is trying to get up the courage to knock on Captain Von Trapp’s door, well then, you need to catch up on your award winning musicals.)

A friend was having a hard day and needed to chat. She came over to my house, and we talked. She’s had a tough year, by any standard. And not just run of the mill stuff—we’re talking Tough Stuff, stuff that would leave any mother wrung out, depleted, and just flat out exhausted.

We talked and talked, about lots of different things. Then she asked me a question I haven’t stopped thinking about.

“Where does your confidence come from?”

We explored that for a little while. I was surprised she thought I am a confident woman. After all, I have my insecurities, just like everybody else. I don’t feel like I walk around with self assurance and possession—I just, well, walk around, mostly in my own head, really, caught up in my own world.

We talked about where confidence comes from in general—do you get it from successes? From achievements? From being loved as a child? From having money? And, more importantly, if you don’t have it, or if you’ve lost it, how do you get it, or regain it? Is it something a woman in her 40s, 50s, 60s can find?

I had another friend who was having a bad day, and we talked over lunch. She’s an unusual friend, a woman who is close to my mother’s age. She has a daughter close to my age, and a grandchild close to my daughter’s age. A generation older than I am, and yet we still connected. As she unpacked some of the things she was feeling about her insecurities while I munched on my sandwich, she plaintively asked, “If I haven’t figured these things out by now, am I ever going to? Seriously, I must be completely screwed up!”

That left me pondering some things too. When DO we “figure these things out”? If you accept yourself at 20, will you feel good about yourself at 40? If you had it rough as a teen, and your life was rough in your 20s, can you find the strength to love yourself at 30? If your life crumbled at 40, can you find peace at age 60? Where and when and how do we define ourselves?

My husband and I have often said that the decade of 18 years old to 28 years old is one of the most important decades of person’s life, professionally speaking. If you make bad decisions in that decade, or fart around, or waste that time, it has long lasting effects for the rest of your life. It’s not irreversible, obviously—life is a long time, but we have seen what happens when people don’t take advantage of those years, or, worse, DO take advantage, work hard towards a professional goal, put in their dues, only to have that goal become unrealized for whatever reasons (mostly reasons outside his or her control–the job market isn’t right, or nobody’s hiring, etc). Then a person is stuck in a profession that a)he doesn’t like or b) isn’t marketable. That’s hard. It’s not impossible to retool your life and your career later in life. But it’s not easy.

So it makes me wonder, if those are the years that are so vital professionally, are they just as vital emotionally? Is *that* when we “find” ourselves, figure out who we are and like the person we see? Are the accomplishments (or lack thereof) we pursue and achieve in those years what set us up for life long confidence (or life long insecurity)?

I’m sure psychologists have explored this at length, and I’m sure there is plenty of literature on this kind of stuff. But I like hearing from real people and their experiences, not just from studies.

So, I ask you, and I’d like you to tell me. Where does your confidence come from?

About Heather Oman

(Prose Board) lives in the south with her husband, her two kids, and her wiggly black lab. She is a licensed speech language pathologist, but spends most of her days trying to teach her own kids how to say please and thank you. She is a member of the Segullah Editorial Board, and is the founding member of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars.

5 thoughts on “I have confidence, and confidence alone….”

  1. I was always so insecure growing up; very dysfunctional parents as well as being poor. I converted to the church at 15, then a few years later went to BYU. I remember standing under the stairs in one of the buildings until everyone was in their classes because I felt so insecure even walking down the hall – so insecure about my looks. Why I don't know – I'm not pretty but I'm average.

    Anyway, no one that knows me now would ever guess that. The difference? Commitment and activity in the church: callings that I never would have thought I could do – ward and stake relief society president; release-time seminary teacher; regional public affairs director among many others. The combination of opportunities to do things I never would have imagined myself doing AND more importantly, the subsequent focus on others instead of myself, turned my lack of confidence completely around.

    The older I get and the more I focus on others on purpose, the more "myself" doesn't matter. I always make sure I'm well-groomed; dressed as well as I can, then daily asking the Savior to be with me through my days with each day asking " who would Thou have me bless this day?" has made confidence, or the lack thereof, a non-issue.

    Its always about the other person in the framework of the gospel, and as President Kimball said so well, "when you lose yourself in the service of others, you find yourself because there's so much more of you to find". I'm a living testimony of that.

    When I do my best with my physical appearance (and I'm now in my 60"s), then I can forget about that and turn my love and heart to others.

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  2. I totally agree with Lynn. Accepting and serving in church callings has been a major factor for me in developing self-confidence. Of course it is not the only factor, but it is an important one. I can see a difference in the wards I've been in between people who generally serve in callings and those who rarely do. There is a woman in our ward who is in her 50's who won't accept any calling because she feels too inadequate to do so. She has a daughter who is slightly better (will accept only "easy" callings, and only sometimes), but still struggles with feelings in inferiority. I am pretty good friends with the daughter, so I'm close enough to see some of the things going on underneath. I seriously think that the life trajectories of both these women could have been changed dramatically if the mother had made the leap in her younger years to serve in the Church when asked. There could have been so many opportunities for growth and for being able to overcome fears and insecurities. I applaud my friend, the daughter, for the small steps she has taken to break out from the example her mother set for her. These women have so much potential and so much to give. It is sad to see much of it lost.

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  3. Oooh, loaded subject for me!

    I got my confidence from wherever I was standing when I decided to take it. I can't remember where, or when, but it's been in the last couple of years. I believe throwing off your childhood and teen (with the huge amount of baggage that can dump on you) issues and hangups can be one of the most difficult things you can do as a real 'grown up', and then to move forward – kicking butt, stomping on toes, folding your arms and refusing to budge – until you get where you want to be and feel like you belong? Incredible and brilliant.

    I started snatching tiny bits of confidence ("I'm a great baker", "I rock this pair of jeans", "I can swear really well and creatively") and went from there. I figure it's like school, but better – nobody else gives you the gold star, you get to have the entire box to yourself. It's up to you if you use them or not.

    I realised how far I'd come when last week – in my introductory lecture for my new major – I looked around at the 400+ other people in the seats and thought to them "Pfff, you're not even competition. You're all just dust, behind me." No bravado, just confidence that I'm a brilliant student, I wasn't out to prove anything to them, and that I belonged in that seat, in that course, and in my life. It was a thrilling moment.

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  4. i think i found (am finding?) mine in doing things i never thought i'd do, and meeting people i never thought i'd meet who believe in that kind of me. being open to redefining ourselves seems to be one of the keys. and maybe just taking it…like kel describes. just deciding you are and going for it. then it's not like you're actually faking it, you just decide you have it and act accordingly. ♥

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  5. For me it has come, over decades, in stages, starting with learning to recognize God's love and truth and how that feels. From there it was, by trial and error, figuring out the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Next, the ever-ongoing process of learning the courage and timing to act when prompted coupled with gaining more life experience to do so with greater wisdom. And finally learning to measure my success not by the results of those acts or by people's responses to them but by how much I loved and how much I learned as I did them.
    The courage to keep this process going (which others tell me looks like confidence) comes from keeping in touch with the first stage and doing what I do, as much as I can, from that vantage point.

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