I spent a good portion of my life being afraid. Afraid to be noticed. Afraid to make a mistake. To disappoint. To not be liked. I wouldn’t make conversation with people I didn’t know. I was uncomfortable speaking in public. I rarely raised my hand in class as a child from grade school all the way through college and even as a grad student, for fear of being “wrong.” I distinctly remember defending my thesis as a political science student to my advisor/professor and the chair of the political science department. Terrified doesn’t even begin to graze the surface. It was horrible. I was a shaking mess throughout the entire presentation.
Looking back, I cringe at my behavior. I think about all of the opportunities I missed out on because of my fear. The chances that passed me by. I realize now that my behavior was simply a lack of confidence. I didn’t believe in myself. And I didn’t believe in myself because I didn’t really accept myself. For someone who isn’t afraid to speak their minds, to not put so much stock into what others think, to pursue opportunities, this might be hard to imagine. It might be hard to understand why it could be so difficult for some people. But, it was for me.
All this changed about 5-6 years ago. Contrary to what you’d expect, I didn’t have a pivotal moment where things came into focus for me. Rather, there were many factors that slowly began to shape me, push me, little by little. Here are a few things that immediately come to the forefront of my mind:
- Strength training: Without question fitness has changed my life. I grew up playing sports and enjoyed exercising through college, but it wasn’t until I hit my mid-twenties before I started to consistently incorporate strength and resistance training into my routine. I am especially surprised by the gains I have made in the last few years. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been in my entire life and that makes me feel proud.
- Running: I have always loved running, but I became dedicated to distance running when we moved to North Carolina (2007). Since then, I have completed a few marathons and numerous half marathons. I never imagined I would be able to run 26+ miles straight. Never. But, I know now that my body and mind are capable of incredible things. Nothing makes me feel more confident than completing a hard run or finishing a race. Putting in the work to accomplish a goal has truly empowered me.
- Surrounding myself with positive people: My husband, Matt, is a very confident person. It’s one of things that first attracted me to him. He’s sure of himself in a way that I could never be. He can voice his opinion without doubt or hesitation. He knows who he is and is genuinely happy. As with running, if you want to become faster, run with faster people. And if you want to learn how to be confident and positive, surround yourself with the people who inspire you. Matt, along with my family and friends, believes in me. No explanations. No excuses. Just acceptance.
- My children: Once when I was a little girl my mom picked my sister and I up from the day camp that we attended during the summer. She asked us how our time was and we told her about an older girl who was bullying us. She was driving away when we told her and immediately slammed on the breaks and reversed the car all.the.way.back. My sister and I watched in horror as she went over to the girl. My mother never told us what she said, but that girl never bothered us again. Now that I am parent, I’m not sure I would have handled it that way, but that was my mom. In that moment, I saw my mother’s fierce love for us. She would have protected us from anyone or anything. I feel that same intensity for my kids. That need to be a constant source of strength and protection for them. Forever.
- Counseling: I think it’s such a shame that therapy can sometimes be viewed in a degrading light. There’s a stigma that often comes along with counseling, but it should be promoted and encouraged more. Mental health is so important. I have seen a counselor on and off for most of my life. These ranged from therapists to life coaches. I fully believe in the power of counseling. There are times when you need to talk openly with someone; a person who is trained to listen and to be a sounding board for you. I have made some pretty profound discoveries about myself through counseling and some of these findings have steered me in the right direction on multiple occasions.
- Getting older: It’s good for something, right? I’m 32 and I can honestly say every year is better than the last. Each year I discover more and more about the person I am and my affirmations and values become stronger. My thoughts and understanding more pronounced. More importantly, I accept myself…completely.