Throughout my public school education, I had gone to five different schools in three different towns. For all but one of those schools, I came into it not really knowing anyone. Yet, somehow, by the time I left the school, I had grown deep friendships which I still look back on fondly. I don’t remember ever feeling truly lonely throughout those years.
Yet, between starting college and where I am today, there was a change in how I related with people. It was no longer easy for me to create such deep friendships.
I had friends move away to different parts of the world.
I commuted from home to a state college, where I was hardly involved in anything besides my classes.
My church was small and growing smaller, and there weren’t many people my age.
My one job was a babysitter, so I had no co-workers to get along with. My other job was a math instructor at a company, and it seemed like everyone knew each other but me.
There were many times that I broke down, sometimes angry with God, that I felt so lonely in life. My husband had been with me through all of this time, but aside from him, I erroneously felt like nobody wanted me to be their friend. I felt like I wasn’t good enough.
This line of thinking showed up in other aspects of my life. Looking through my college transcripts, I realized how my grades dropped in relation to the seasons in my life and how I felt less and less like I belonged somewhere.
Things started to shape up after Joshua was born. At that point, motherhood had given me a new sense of purpose. But, still, I found myself wishing that I would belong in other parts of my life.
At the beginning of the year, I realized that all of these things stemmed from my own lack of self-confidence.
I wasn’t good enough.
Nobody wanted to be my friend.
Everyone but me has it together.
Nobody sees what I do and compliments me.
I was filled with self-pity as a result of my lack of self esteem.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized these things:
1. It comes from myself.
For years, I had been looking for someone to validate me. I wanted someone to call me their friend so I could feel good about myself. I wanted someone to see what I had accomplished and be genuinely amazed by it. I wanted to know that I was good enough in the eyes of others.
Yet, self-confidence has nothing to do with anybody else. It begins with me.
Looking back, I realized that I did have many opportunities to get connected with others at work or school. There were skiing trips and lunches with the staff at my job (albeit, they were on Sundays during church). There were oodles (oodles?) of clubs at my school. I had even joined one for a semester. But I found it hard to go back. I saw plenty of familiar faces at school each day but did nothing to further the relationship.
These things were all out of my comfort zone.
I remember thinking “I’m a nice person. I’m a good friend. Why don’t people see that?”
I realized I had to step out of my comfort zone for the first step of confidence. If I believe that I was nice and a good friend, I had to show it, regardless of what the other person might say. Chances are, it would make them feel pretty good, anyway.
Once I took that first step into the unknown, to be the first one to reach out to someone instead of waiting for them to guess that I’m a nice enough person to get to know, I realized how much fuller my life could be.
2. I don’t need to advertise it.
Sure, stepping out of my comfort zone was a conscious decision. Sure, I had to choose to be confident in the person I was. But I didn’t need to read a thousand encouraging quotes on it, let alone post them all on social media within an hour.
I didn’t have to tell everybody, “oh hey guys, I’m choosing to embrace who I am, so watch out world!”
No, I simply exuded it.
I know it did because of how my relationships with others grew. There wasn’t a switch that was flipped, but I know that allowing myself to be the person I was helped for people to be able to connect with me, and it’s made a world of difference.
It was only after making that conscious decision to not be afraid to be friendly that I realized people did see me. They did compliment me. They told me things that I had wished I heard for years before that. Whether or not people saw that I was trying to be more outgoing, they saw me approachable enough to encourage me in many ways.
3. It does not mean I am not broken.
I think the biggest realization that I’ve had about self-confidence is accepting every part of me, flaws and all.
Back when Ethan was born and nursing all the time, I would scroll through Pinterest to pass time. There, I was able to easily find perfect pictures from perfect blog posts about perfect moms and their perfect schedules for their perfect kids. It crushed me.
But I had realized one day that no matter what it looked like, we are all human, and I doubt that those moms feel like they’re perfect. I know that because I felt far from perfect. I felt very broken and I knew I couldn’t be alone.
And yet, in the midst of that brokenness, I found I was able to accept the person I was. That is what made me confident. My ability to go through a (very occasional, perhaps hypothetical) day with no tantrums and with a clean house and dinner on the table by 6 makes me feel accomplished, but it doesn’t lend to my self-confidence.
4. It does not make me self-sustainable.
If you are reading this as a self-help post, please stop. This is not a post how developing self-confidence has made me such a happy person.
The truth is, it’s still a conscious decision to step out of my comfort zone. I have flaws and I certainly don’t have it all together.
In fact, through this whole process, I have realized all the more how much I need to rely on Jesus.
For so long, I had looked to other humans and have quietly sought affirmation and validation. My first step was realizing that I didn’t need any of that to be confident.
But after I realized I did not have to be dependent on people, I was able to depend on my God.
He is the reason why I am here today. He is the reason why live where I do with the precious family I live with. He is the reason I am able to accept my flaws. He is the reason why I rejoice, because it is not my lack of self-confidence that defined me or the dirty dishes on my sink that defines me. He saw who I was in my lowest points. He died for me because somehow, when I didn’t think I was worthy enough, He knew that I was. He reminds me that no matter how I feel, we are all His creation and I should never feel less than because I am not.
As I said before, I don’t have it all figured out. I am not perfect nor do I claim to be. But God has created me for special purposes and I will not let a sense of false humility stifle me from doing my part to shine. It is because of Him that I know my validation is so far beyond what others think of me. For that, I am confident.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV