Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I have con-fi-dence in con-fi-dence alone....

....trail off.  gaze stupefied at enormous house enclosed behind fancy wrought-iron gate.  Choke out Oh, help.  Start singing again, slowly and softly, then build to a rousing finale, "I have confidence in confidence alone, because as you see, I have con-fi-dence IN ME!"

 movie ID, anyone? if you don't know, the world has changed even more than I realized, grasshopper. That was Julie Andrews, in The Sound of Music.  If you haven't seen it, go rent it right now and brace yourself for two-plus hours of brilliantly sentimental schlock.  I just poked around on YouTube till I found the video clip-- there are many imitators, and the only clip of the real thing is very poor quality, so it took awhile to find it.  The movie may be treacly (Christopher Plummer called it "The Sound of Mucous"), but Julie Andrews singing that song is thoroughly, radiantly perfect.  Never more so than when she trips and falls out of the taxi while singing, "With each step I am more certain/everything will turn out fine...."

Oh, Lord, guess what movie we will be watching this weekend.  I haven't seen it in ages, and I do love it, sticky sweetness and all.

So, today's topic is self-confidence.  It's a tough one for me.  If you have narcissists in your life, or even people who are just preternaturally self-assured, self-confidence is not a simple subject.  It has never been something I've aspired to. (to which I've aspired?)  Why would I want to be one of those annoying people who have no qualms about themselves? who are utterly assured that they are always doing the right thing?
who just know that their opinions are all correct?  And is it healthy to ignore negative feedback?  The ability to handle constructive criticism is one of the hallmarks of growing up, if you ask me. Those kinds of attitudes may be adorable and appropriate for a kid, but I'm not a kid.

But you know, my lack of confidence is just silly.  There are things I'm good at, in addition to the things I'm not.  and I've also figured out that when you lack confidence, other people-- exactly those people I was describing in the last paragraph-- can use that as a way to manipulate you.

And anyway, I've been figuring out over the past month or so while reading other people's blogs that my skewed definition isn't what most people mean by self-confidence.  What they mean is what Julie Andrews does in that song-- she's flaky, goofy, naive, tripping all over herself, and yet she's putting up a brave front, she's ready to take on the world.

So.... maybe I've been wrong.  OK, I admit it.  I need to re-think this.  If I ditched my old definition and came up with one that worked, what would it look like? 

Yesterday I did something unusual for me.  I did a presentation in front of my Ulysses class, and I wasn't all that nervous.  In the past, I have had an utterly paralyzing fear of public speaking.  If I'm going to stand up in front of people and talk, I have to have a script-- I have to know precisely, word-for-word, what I'm going to say, because once I get up there, my brain refuses to function.  My hands shake.  My voice wobbles.  I'm terrified.

But this time, it went astonishingly well.  I was a bit nervous, my hands a little trembly, my voice not quite steady, but nothing like the near panic attacks I've experienced in the past.  I was so, so proud of myself that I was grinning like a maniac all the way to my next class.  It was a small group-- there are only four of us taking the class, and we've been in class together for the last six weeks, so they're not strangers.  And it was on a topic that interests me and that I was comfortable with.  So it was great practice, a perfect low-pressure environment.

Maybe I could change my definition of  self-confidence to encompass not knowing what the hell you're doing, but being willing to try anyway.  Rather than something brittle that you hide behind, it could be a basic belief, maybe even trust, in myself.  I may fail, but I can handle that.  It's not going to keep me from trying.  Ha.  Maybe for an Eeyore like me, self-confidence means being confident that I will survive failure, not that I will succeed.

What does self-confidence mean to you?


  1. Oh my friend I have struggled with self-confidence all my life. Never feeling that I did a good enough job at whatever I happened to be doing. Always comparing myself to what others were doing and wearing. How great their marriage was when mine so wasn't at that time. And then I got a bit older. And I felt a bit more settled in my skin so to speak. And I found, if I said yes occasionally to something that I knew I didn't have the skills for I could accomplish the task anyways. And then I hit about forty and said, "Ah Fuck It!" I am likeable, I am humorous, I am sarcastic and caring and I like myself and all my giggly parts.

    That doesn't mean that I don't have times of severe self-doubt about my ability to do something. I am going through a period like that right now. I think we all have those. But that doesn't negate the fact that I am, in most respects, a more self-confident person than I was growing up.

    I have grabbed onto my menopausal 50s and I am not letting go. You can have my menopause, and my gray hair, when you can pry it from my cold dead hands.

  2. Great post Barb. Be so prepared that confidence drips off you, that's my motto and if all else fails, my fervent prayer HELP! usually gets answered. Cheers, as for downsizing - wow, don't know if I can do that yet. Good luck to you.

  3. Congratulations on that speech you gave! How wonderful for you to have done this. Really cool.

    Not sure about self-confidence, I am much more familiar with self-doubt. ;)

    I know who I am, I'm just usually convinced it's not enough.

  4. Debbie--I felt very self-confident when I was working full-time before we had kids. I was good at it, and was a valued employee. But although I've had several part-time jobs since then, I've never found a good fit where I had that external validation again. I think I have also reached the "fuckit" stage, though-- it just took me a few years longer than you. :-)

    Thanks, Carol. I think for things like the presentation, preparation is the key for me, too. But for general life stuff, I'm trying to learn to be more positive. re: downsizing-- I'm actually kind of looking forward to clearing out a bunch of this CRAP. My house is too full of stuff.

    Julie.... yeah, I know what you mean. Self-doubt is my familiar friend. And it means that we're not narcissists, right? So I'm not ever going to let go if it entirely. It's good to question yourself at least sometimes. But I'm starting to believe it's OK to own the things I'm good at, and to use that as a jumping off point to be a little braver about trying new things. (Easy to say while I'm sitting here at the computer with nothing new to try.)