“You look so good. Professional.”
I respond automatically. “I’ve been trying.”
That’s the god’s honest truth. For a while, I wasn’t trying. I lived in the land of jeans and sweatpants with my hair in a ponytail solely because I could. I’m starting to change, and I see that but I don’t know how to articulate it. I don’t know how to put into words the person that I’m becoming. Confidence is a difficult concept for me to understand.
I allow myself to be bound by my circumstances. I claim that I want to be more but I often fail to give myself that opportunity. Case and point: last week I was eating dinner with someone and we were having a conversation about teaching and issues that come up in the classroom. She mentioned a problem that she was having and I suddenly found myself talking in regards to solving the issue even though I probably had no business doing so. After I had been talking for at least a minute, I realized WHO I was talking to and clamped my mouth shut with a hasty apology—I was certain she knew better than I did what sorts of things would solve classroom issues. Surprisingly, she encouraged me to continue. It occurred to me then that I maybe know a thing or two about, well…things. There are many times where I doubt this.
It is easier for me to be unconfident because it’s what I know. When I was younger, I was made fun of for the clothes I wore or my makeup or the way I did my hair or really ANY number of things about my person. My friends would chastise me for speaking when I wasn’t spoken to, for trying to force myself into conversations where I had no place being. I went from high school to marriage; my (now) ex-husband tried to force me into a box of his creation and seal the lid, and I went along with it. I didn’t see another option. His voice was the strongest that I knew and the one that I was supposed to be listening to.
Now, however, I have many awesome people in my life. I wear decent clothes on a fairly regular basis (with the understanding that it’s because I want to look nice, not because it is required as was my previous thinking pattern). I wear crazy colored tights and glittery shoes and I do my hair and I try. Because I care more. I have people in my life who think that I’m amazing, who appreciate the fact that I have my own thoughts, who support me in my decisions, and who just want me around. I’m trying to reach out and make connections and be a real, whole person.
Here’s the thing though. It’s still his voice that rings the strongest. It’s still the thought that I don’t fit, that I never will, that I will always be in the shadows. No matter how many times someone tells me that I am awesome or strong or amazing, no matter how many publications I get or successes I attain, I still hear him telling me that I’m not good enough. I’m not working hard enough. I’m not doing the right things. I, the person who I am, the real me, am not enough.
I am different though. Sometimes I wake up and find myself afraid of the day, like today, and rather than caving as I would have with him I tell myself that I am not afraid. That I am stronger. That I am better. I fake it until I make it, as my very wise advisor has told me to do so many times. I hear his voice, and I tune it out. I’m starting to forget what it sounded like. I am detoxing from the box that he built for me and making a life that is my own.
I want more moments like I had the other day at dinner. I want to know that I know what I’m talking about. I want to be sure of my abilities on my own terms. I want to be my own person who can listen and interpret but not absorb absolutely everything. I want to be confident.
Most of all, I want the only voice inside my head to be mine.