Since sometime in high school, I have been relatively confident. Not overly so, at least not usually, though I know some would disagree. To me, though, it was automatic. I was unselfconscious in the most literal interpretation of the word: I didn’t really think about my person, I just operated. I thought this was normal and had little patience for those whose self esteem did not enable this attitude. I was irritating.
So now, mostly on the other side of my recent identity crisis, here’s what I’ve learned: It was much easier to be confident then. A person, like the old me, who asks whether these shorts come in a size zero, is less likely to have body image issues than one with two small children, a full-time job, and four different sizes of jeans in her dresser, none of which really fit. Back then, I couldn’t have imagined using my current Skin Care Arsenal; I went to bed with my makeup on, far too late at night. I wouldn’t believe I would have occasion to hear a Victoria’s Secret (probably well meaning) salesperson say, “umm, have you lost a lot of weight recently?” while measuring me. Attention from random men was annoying and commonplace then. Now, on the rare instance that this sort of thing happens and it’s not because I have driven off with a sippy cup on my roof or something, it cracks me up. I would be suspicious of it if it weren’t so funny to me.
Getting older is harder than I thought it would be. But when I mentioned this to a single friend a couple years ahead of me, she said, “But why? You have a great job and a beautiful family.” It occurred to me that, for her, turning thirty was a whole other thing. To her, it was a stick to measure her personal life against, and she wasn’t where she had thought she would be. At thirty I am married to a man I love far more than I did on our wedding day five years ago who walks alongside me as we raise our two healthy, bright, and hilarious daughters. I have the type of job that is called a career. I am beyond grateful for all these things and aware that there are also many other things I thought I’d be by now but am not. I guess, now that I realize what my confidence was back then—blissfully effortless—I wish it were that again. It isn’t. I don’t know that it ever will be.
Confidence to me, now, is both quieter and louder, bolder and more humble. It is learning to mother my kids without second guessing everything, without feeling like I have to explain my choices. It is owning my decisions. It is working in a male dominated workplace without being passive or shy. It is not comparing what I have, what I look like, where I am. It is treating others with kindness; investing in them wherever I find myself regardless of who they are and what it looks like. It is cutting my hair however I want, wearing what makes me comfortable, even if it’s so last year, and taking care of myself for myself, not only for the benefit of my husband and kids. It is choosing who gets my limited time and efforts without being bullied into commitments and relationships that are only draining. It is embracing my relationship with God and its implications in my life and community without being a slave to what someone else has told me it should look like. It is learning what it really means to love, without condition or reservation, without a backup plan.
Sure, it is lines and marks on my face that weren’t there ten or even five years ago, inches unintentionally lost or gained, fewer shopping trips or followed trends, and, sadly, many fewer new pairs of shoes. But it is also real, untidy relationships and the power to express and take responsibility for my thoughts and needs. It is the maturity to realize that compassion is not for the weak. It is learning to let go of the need to have it all figured or settled, becoming comfortable with the silences. And I am thankful for another year of being a work in process.