Must be confident, love dogs

Confidence has never really been a strong suit of mine. My mom would immediately claim that comes from her, but regardless of where it comes from or why I lack it, the fact is I’ve lived the majority of my life scared to take a risk, comfortable playing second fiddle or being wingman. Even when I evaluate my role in most of the friendships I’ve had in the past, I’ve always been in a fabulous cast, as the supporting actor. Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that role–some people are just born to naturally lead the pack and steal the show. But being wingman doesn’t mean you should be any less capable or confident. You just play that role socially; a role which is vital in any group of friends.

Social comparisons aside, though, there’s something intangible about a man who lives his life with confidence. Some of the greatest icons of recent history have been men who weren’t afraid of themselves. Regardless of how you feel about FDR as a politician, you have to admit it takes some serious balls to lead a nation which has historically devoured weaknesses like, say, the inability to walk because of polio. Jackie Robinson was confident enough in his abilities that he dared to play baseball outside the negro leagues, and he became one of the most revered athletes in history because of it.
In the world I find myself in today, there’s little room for insecurity. If you sell yourself short, you end up standing in the road wondering what happened while the bus rumbles down the road in front of you. Back home, and I think more specifically while you’re a student, that same mentality doesn’t exist. Yes, there are always the top students who prove themselves early and often, but typically speaking if you work at it long enough, eventually someone will give you recognition for what you do. You’re paying to be there, so it’s not like there’s a boss breathing down your neck to be more productive, or a colleague vying for the same promotion as you. In the real world, you get one chance to make yourself look better than the next guy.

I can recall a whole lot of times, just since I graduated in April, when I’ve sold myself short for whatever reason. Honestly, part of it comes from an immature understanding of humility. Growing up, my concept of humility was doing just that–selling yourself short, or not owning up to your full potential. What kind of terrible sin it was to actually accept the fact you were the best at something, or you had unique talent at something! A good Christian doesn’t take compliments. If someone tells you that you did a great job, deny it and just say, ‘Oh it was okay,’ or ‘It was nothing, really.” It also stems from my self-esteem problems and feelings of inadequacy. For whatever reason, I’ve always been exceptionally sensitive to what I perceive other people think or feel about me. It doesn’t even matter if that perception is right or not, if I’m feeling that they think I suck at something, well then I must suck at it.

What is that?! Humility is dissing yourself? Not being confident in your abilities?

One thing I’ve always admired about Spencer Lloyd, a friend and longtime Chorale roommate, is the confidence he has in himself. I mean, he has confidence in himself to a fault. But the guy is not afraid to be talented at something, or to feel like he’s talented at something. He steps up to every challenge, and gives it his best. And for better or worse, you have to respect the guy for not being afraid to try.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from the great Nelson Mandela, who said,

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we powerful beyond all measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

How amazing is that quote for a person who struggles like I do? There are a lot of things that I’m talented at. I’m a good writer. I learn remarkably quickly, even if I’m just watching someone and not actually doing the work myself. I’m a great listener, and am pretty good at facilitating discussion in a group, even though typically all I’m doing is just asking the right questions. I’m a pretty decent musician. And if I had a better work ethic, there’s about 1000 things I could be good at if I worked at it. I mean, there are very few things I feel like I couldn’t do well given the practice and time to learn. So why don’t I live with that confidence?
I remember writing a while ago about how I felt like I never went through a rite of passage–I never had that moment where you shed your childhood and accept the manhood that comes with growing up. At the time, I was looking for some specific event to do it. I thought maybe if I took a trip somewhere, or did some specific thing, it would serve as my rite. And maybe there still will be a specific event that will happen. But I think more likely that rite of passage has something to do with not fearing the person God created me to be, and instead embracing that. I’m not sure how it happens, but I realize it needs to, and I want to begin the process of changing.

I’m just not sure exactly how.