(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?