There are several reasons my confidence quotient is low.
1. I’ve been battling breast cancer. And this beast can really take it out of you. Not knowing if I’m going to live or die kind of zaps the ole confidence, I must say. Yesterday, I saw my oncologist for my three-month check-up. She gave me a clean bill of health, but I still have my doubts. I can’t help but imagine that the cancer cells are still there, lurking until the next time I think I’m just so exhausted from the whole cancer experience that everything about me is low — my outlook, my physical energy level, my cognitive ability, and especially, my confidence.
2. My autistic child has been having trouble in school. Essentially, he was having tantrums. At 12, this isn’t pretty. I called his doctor, and asked her what to do. She had been prescribing him Prozac for his anxiety. “You know,” she said, “I don’t think Tommy can tolerate SSRIs. He had trouble on Zoloft as well. I think we should take him off all SSRIs and never go back.”
Long story short, he stopped Prozac about six weeks ago. And he’s doing much better! He’s calmer, less aggressive, and he’s getting good grades. No more tantrums. But I’m afraid the bottom is going to drop. What if his good behavior is a just temporary? What if he backslides?
3. I’m getting old. Instead of gaining confidence in my old age, I’m losing it. How can I be confident when I’m carrying around 50 extra pounds; my hair is greying; my body is stiff, and my memory is going? I’m turning into an old lady. Gone is the confidence of youth. Sometimes, all I had to do was say hello to a man, and poof, he’d ask me out. I didn’t have the confidence of Donald Trump, thank God. But I had confidence. When I was 25, I could do anything. I was fearless, and I made things happen. After college, I moved to New York City, then to Iowa, where I went to grad school. Then, off to Pennsylvania, where I took a full-time teaching position. The world was my proverbial oyster.
It’s just that life is so uncertain. How can one be confident in these times?
Beyond my personal story, there’s the current universe’s story. This is a world in which going to the mall could be a deadly experience. Even the city water might not be safe. And oh my goodness, what about all the natural disasters that might strike at any minute. Is it going to flood? Hurricane? Is the earth going to quake?
I’m not confident. Are you?
But don’t despair. There are ways to build your confidence. Below are some of my favorites.
This involves participating in life’s drama and pretending you know what you’re doing. This works for some people; it might work for you.
Some people need work a little harder and fabricate their confidence. For me, this starts early in the A.M. Look at yourself in the mirror, and do a Stuart Smalley. “I’m good enough; I’m smart enough, and darn it, people like me.” Recite your affirmations; whatever works for you.
Some people play music in the morning (or whenever) to help them build confidence. I love to listen to Joan Baez. “Everything’s gonna be all right,” she sings over and over. I believe her.
Here, one needs to develop a role model and watch him. How is he comfortable in his own skin? Watch how Lebron plays the game. How does Simone attack the parallel bars? Then, one needs to generate/imitate the person’s mannerisms that inspire confidence. Don’t be afraid to borrow gestures and expressions from other people. They’d be flattered.
Pray For It
This method is for the religious folks. If you believe in God, ask him to give you confidence and strength. He will do so. This is one of the main methods I use to acquire confidence and the strength to get through the day. If you’ve never tried it, I recommend it. You have nothing to lose.
This method involves knowing that being 100% confident 24/7 every day is impossible. Reframe the concept. So I’m not super-confident right now. It’s OK. I can still be effective in my own quiet way.
This is perhaps the most beautiful method of dealing with the lack of confidence. If you don’t have a lot of it, give what you do have away. Visit a shut-in. Work in a homeless shelter. Make someone else happy and confident. You’ll be surprised what happens. Your own confidence will come.
In conclusion, on closer inspection, I guess my current lack of confidence is ultimately a “first world” problem. I mean, I’ve got food on my table, clothes on my back, a roof over my head, a car to get me from point A to point B. Friends and family to keep me company. I’ve got it all.
Maybe, I should be confident. I can tell myself that the cancer is truly gone and that Tommy is truly on the right path. And after all, there is dieting and hair dye and yoga and crossword puzzles. I can reinvent my old self.
Confidence is only a heartbeat away.
I have to remember that.