Confidence is an Inside Job
By Deborah Blackwell
A whole lot of us have a little problem with confidence. On the outside, we can present as strong, confident, and accomplished. But inside? Totally different story.
What’s behind the confidence conundrum?
When we moved into our new condo, we were invited to a poolside gathering complete with delicious food, cocktails, and the perfect background jazz. It sounded like a nice event, but I didn’t know anyone except my husband and one neighbor. I met her on our third day there when our cat escaped and I called the manager, who sent an email alert to all the residents. Within minutes, she was at my door to help. I knew then, we were compatible.
So I went right over to her at the party, and thanked her again for her assistance. When we started chatting, she asked me a loaded question.
“What do you do?”
I couldn’t answer, “Well, I am an abuse survivor who lived to tell about it…mother of a grown child on the autism spectrum…and a self-employed, lost professional soul when it comes to an official job title.”
So instead, I told her I’m a writer trying desperately to make a living.
Her interest perked right up.
“Oh how ironic,” she said. “I need to hire a writer!”
She was the vice-president of communications for a renowned medical facility. It was a bit intimidating. I do have a degree in communications, but morphed from a working professional to a stay-at-home mom of three, raising a child on the autism spectrum. I lost my confidence when my life took a few drastic turns of catastrophic proportion, including fallout from a hellish marriage. It had been a long time since I worked in the “real world.”
But I didn’t want tell her that, so I proceeded to proclaim my credentials, through the eyes of an externally confident beholder. I talked about myself as if I was someone I admired, who had exceeded expectations at every turn. It wasn’t the highlights of my career, it was the highlights of me, as if life was my career.
Turns out, authenticity builds confidence.
It worked. She asked for my resume.
Inside though, I was still nervous. My lack-of-career-path resume would now be in a pile of premiere applications. It depicted me as the underdog who bases her credentials on life experience instead of work history.
I was hesitant, but clung to that little bit of confidence I found, and sent her my resume. Besides, she was my neighbor and I would see her for years to come. Confidence was now tailgating me.
She loved it. Not only how unique it was, but how it showed “exactly who I am.”
In that moment, I owned my individuality, and dropped my feeling of defeat. I believed I was worthy of being on the playing field, regardless of situations or circumstances, especially the past.
Belief in who we are, without exception, creates confidence. Even if we don’t yet feel it.
I discovered being the underdog has some advantages. We aren’t tied by reputations or the pressure of being the best kid in the class. There’s freedom to express ourselves without intense risk, and opportunity to be more creative in how we showcase who we are. We can be flexible, innovative, and our authentic selves—the gold standard of existence.
Sure, things that sap our confidence will creep up. For me, it was the fear of returning to the workforce after years of being away. The stamina it takes to deal with commuting, the learning curve, office politics. But those types of technicalities always sort themselves out.
Because confidence is always inside us, even when we think it’s all but disappeared.
Sidebar the story you tell yourself, dig deep, and just believe.