Confidence. Obviously some people have it and some don't. Some appear to have it while they sincerely tremble inside. Some are fortuitously born with a very solid backbone. (Though less than you think because the actions of many are to prove they don't really suffer the contrary.) Others have it pounded into them through necessity. Then there are those, like myself, who reach a limit on their own anxiety and its whole-life effects and in a desire to change have to chip away at the towering wall solidly cemented with fear, rejection, skepticism, doubt, shame, confusion...
You'd think that change would be simple. Someone who could not empathise may just believe you need to simply do it. But boy, is it a process! A long, extensive process of forgiving and letting go and replacing thoughts and changing habits and believing.
When I was young I was very full of fear. Public washrooms. Driving. Raw meat. Meeting new people. Authority. Accidents. Failure. Being misunderstood. Men. Most definitely men. The constant bombardment of what if and what are they thinking made the idea of living in the moment unfathomable. I don't even think it was something I was capable of achieving. I recall being afraid of teachers or fellow students. The thought of passing older children in the hallway filled me with terror.
But what did they see? Probably a snob. An overachiever who had high standards but poor performance. Unreliable. Unenjoyable. Probably someone that they assumed didn't want to be part of their lives. Probably not the feelings I really felt. And, oh, I feel for those who truly tried to get past my foggy bulwark.
And so rejection continued and so did my anguish. When I moved from one town to another at 11 years old I was taunted about my clothing, my family, my belly. I wasn't fat, but I wasn't active. My life went downhill that year and I actually became suicidal. I really felt that no one would miss me. I truly believed I served no purpose at all.
And this was before the tumultuous teen years even started. Oh, the emotions! I made stupid mistakes. Cried out in my actions. Tried to comfort myself by poor means. I attempted suicide at 17 and had brief counselling. At 20 I started going to church and when I was 22 I went for intensive counselling. I found it extremely difficult to talk about myself. Every emotion I'd felt in my life I had categorised under anger and loneliness. I didn't even know what I thought. It was a slow process of opening all the doors that I had closed.
Bit by bit the bricks fell. Sometimes one step forward and two steps back. Sometimes the brick needed a crow bar. Yet, thankfully there was were times I encountered a leap forward in faith. The path was difficult. Very bumpy. Intermittently, I truly felt I was going crazy. For so very long I wished I could see into the future and determine if all the work was worth it. Was there hope? But if I just paid attention I would see the light slowly increasing.
I started to be more involved in relationships. (Wow, I even committed to a partner in marriage. God bless his patient soul.) I found some great women to challenge me who would look past my tears and my capacious selfishness. I started to take more control of my future. No more complaining I can't if I am not going to make an effort to figure out how I can. This is probably the factor that continues on the most. Every day. Don't wallow in it. Give it to God and figure out the next step.
A great step in progress was being able to enjoy the lives of others when it did not benefit me. To have joy for another's new child, new job, new marriage. I found my career at 28, married late, longed for children for a lengthly time. As others received I needed to have the confidence to know that it does not mean less for me. My God has a river of blessings and not just a pie to portion. I have a future.
Each position I've had in my life has pushed me forward in my itinerant growth. Working with the public. Working with great bosses that believed in me (or just needed me to step up) and pushed me toward my ability. Answering the phone. Canvassing for volunteer. Helping someone else achieve their goals. Trying something new. Serving in church. Becoming a step mom and a step grandma. Being there for a friend. Communicating. And most importantly, honesty with my faults.
I can barely remember the deep feelings I had when someone used to ask me a question. I know that by exigency my answers used to be very short. I hated any eye contact. I could barely think my heart would pound so hard. My mind would go blank.
Now I have moments where I am in a crowded room and feel like an outcast. But I look back and think, I am here. I am not scared or anxious. I can breathe. I am able to look someone in the eye. I can genuinely smile. I can really hear what someone is saying about themselves. I am able to answer a question. I have come a long way.
I hope to improve enough to be comfortable with conversation and to have a better memory. I hope to improve enough to really forget about myself and what I look like and whether I have made a mistake. Life is way too short.
Parenthood seems to be my last step in my growth. It isn't about me. I have to let go of apprehension to focus on her growth. I don't have the option of time to try on a hundred different outfits anymore. I realise that I don't look as good as someone else but I am not a fashion icon. I want to feel comfortable and look good but if someone is going to judge me because I can't afford good shoes then I need not care. If someone is going to toss me aside because I didn't spend an hour on hair and make up then I don't want them.
Each day is an opportunity to grow. And I want to continue because I physically have experienced the disparity between living in hell and living in peace. I have truly felt the pain of wanting life to end and in contrast the comfort of true love and appreciation. I now see the amazing creation I once failed to experience. I now love the uniqueness of everyone I meet because I can see their lives replete with individuality.
I honestly believe each person can have more. More joy, more peace, more hope, more love, more adventure, more life. It's waiting. Take a hammer to that wall. With tenacity, not just a little tap or push here and there. Roaaaar. (Or Hi-YAH! Whatever your preference.) Because it's worth the effort.