I had an epiphany this week.
Ok cool, we’re in for a light piece here.
Strap in guys, she’s going deep.
I’ve been struggling for years with a wish which wouldn’t come true. ‘I wish I was confident‘.
It started when I finally decided to take a photography course. Oh, and I am loving the course. I leave every class grinning and wishing it was longer. It’s 3 hours every Monday night, where we learn the basics of photography, with weekly projects to complete. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since 2010, but, I just didn’t.
“If I don’t apply myself, then I can’t fail.” – It’s almost like when people tell you ”You shouldn’t meet your heroes, because they’ll only disappoint you”. Only, my hero isn’t a person, it’s a passion.
The epiphany happened (Yes I know how it sounds, but let’s be uncynical for a hot second) when we were asked to write a ‘Statement of intent‘ for our work books. ‘Why are you doing this course?’ ‘What do you wish to achieve?‘ The task seemed simple – I knew exactly why I was there, but every time I tried touching pen to paper, I couldn’t say it. Too embarrassed to say that, actually, I want to be a photographer.
*Pauses my typing to take a breath.*
Even typing it here seems cringe-inducing, strange and… ugh am I gonna say it?… Profound.
I immediately hear the thoughts in my head-
”What will people think?”
”You know what people will think.”
”They’ll think you’re having a laugh.”
“Then a chorus of laughter will erupt all around you.”
”You don’t have the talent for this.”
”You’re not as good as anyone else in the class.”
”The lecturer probably feels sorry for you.”
But it’s ok, because they’re just some of my thoughts – they’re not all of my thoughts. They’re not ‘ME‘. (I can safely say I have Ruby Wax to thank for this – currently reading her book ‘How to be human‘).
And so this ‘confidence’ search thing snowballed.
One thing led to another – once I had opened my mind to accept new ways of thinking, things started popping up – A friend told me about a podcast, and half an hour later I’m listening to it. An hour into the podcast, one of the guests mentions a quote by Maya Angelou, and my curiosity takes me to Youtube (Basic millennial behaviour yaass). An hour later, and I am on a massive Maya binge, and I could cry with joy. Lighbulb moments were exploding in my mind, and a rush of peace was inducing a calm fire in me.
I don’t mean that in an artsy metaphoric way. I genuinely felt physically energised and warm. And no, I hadn’t accidentally peed myself – same feeling, different outcome.
One quote in particular resonated with me – and it’s still echoing through my thoughts all the time-
Maya Angelou on having a sense of yourself – ‘… so that when you walk into an office, you don’t go alone. Bring your people with you. Bring everybody who has loved you, with you‘.
I realised that for all this time, I have been evaluating my sense of self from the people who have wronged me, made me feel like nothing. I realised that for some stupid reason, their opinions had mattered more to me, than all of the people who have loved me, and championed me. I’m laughing internally as I write this, because… like DUH?!
I was always a confident child – and when I say confident – I mean, imagine an only child who just wanted to be centre stage singing and dancing. (You’ve probably either pictured Verruca Salt or Honey Boo-Boo, I know – but soz not soz, that was kind of me) I was always a performer. I loved having all eyes on me.
Then somewhere at the end of Primary school, something changed.
Without going into it, or pointing fingers, I basically lost my immunity to negativity. People’s cynicism and jealous digs slowly gnawed away at my sense of self. This week I realised that I was holding onto every dig, every nasty remark, every eye roll, as if they were truths, even though I knew deep down that they weren’t. For some reason, the negative voices are always louder than the loving ones.
By the time I left secondary school, I was a complete mess inside. I had no sense of self. And this whole time, I’ve been ‘searching’ for my confidence, as if it was a priceless beret I’d misplaced on the school bus. I blamed those people and events for stealing ‘my confidence’. But no, it was courage that I had lost. I wasn’t brave anymore.
It’s about having courage, not confidence. Personally, I think confidence is what others perceive in a person. I’m not even sure that confidence is even a thing anymore. To quote the incredible Maya Angelou again-
“It is upon you to increase your virtue, the virtue of courage – it is upon you. You will be challenged mightily, and you will fall many times. But it is important to remember that it may be necessary to encounter defeat, I don’t know. But I do know that a diamond, one of the most precious elements in this planet, certainly one in many ways the hardest, is the result of extreme pressure, and time. Under less pressure, it’s crystal. Less pressure than that, its coal, less than that, its fossilized leaves are just plain dirt.”
And just like that, I released myself from being a ‘victim’ of my past. Confidence isn’t a thing. I don’t want to be confident anymore. I just want to have courage. I just want to impress myself. Like hearing that louder thought in me, my people, my champions with me. And I know what they’re saying-
“Go on mate, press that publish button. You’ve got this.”