PJ
September 30, 2015 8:00 am

All my life, I’ve been confident and labeled so in every way possible. I’ve grown up in the same town, with the same people my whole life, and so my peers have a pretty solid documentation of my actions to base my “confident” title on. The thing about being the “confident girl” is that once you’re labeled, that’s kind of it. Your title is quite set.

When I was a kid, teachers always said I talked too much. Every single report card said that I was “too social,” and “works a little too well with others.” My issue was shutting up, and I didn’t want to. I’ve always been good with people, and I pride myself on it. I know my strengths and weaknesses, and play to them, but I’ve always just accepted that I was confident because that’s what people called me.

Being confident is strange because there are so many aspects to it. I never really cared whether I was the most popular person because I was already happy and everyone seemed to like me. I didn’t need to wield the scepter because the townsfolk liked a common man better. I think that, along with not being bothered by popularity, came a certain disregard for most things. I didn’t care whether or not I fit in with every stereotypical high school thing because I was my own person.

But, at the same time, as I advanced in school I saw that most of my friends were smarter than me. They got better grades, and, on paper, were better students. It started to change the way I did things. I told myself I didn’t care what they did, didn’t care whether or not they did better than me, but I know I did care.

What I did, and still do, is shove all those scared, nervous, insecure feelings as deep down as possible and avoid as much as I can. When I used to hear the phrase “fake it ’til you make it,” I always thought it was so ridiculous. Why would you overcompensate and act like somebody you’re not? And yet, I act like I don’t care about grades, about being an oddity and not fitting in, about all the same fears and a few of my own. I just pretend they don’t exist.

Everyone is terrified, and there is so much pressure to do the “right” thing. And I don’t mean the morally right thing. People have a preconceived idea of how your life is going to be, before you yourself even know. My whole life I’ve been trying to work towards this goal of being the best at school, and it turns out I’m just not that great. I’m good at a couple of things, and we all have our talents, but I’ve been labeled the confident one, even though on the inside, I’m grappling with the same self-doubt as everyone else. Confidence isn’t about who can yell the loudest, and it shouldn’t be so easy for us all to pretend that we’re A-OK.

Life is weird. You might look at someone and think they have it all figured out, but they probably don’t. Someone once told me I was a really good public speaker. This was in sixth grade, and because of that, in Junior High, I joined the Speech and Debate team and began a lifelong love of public speaking. Would I have done that if someone hadn’t suggested that I was going to excel at it? Not necessarily. Someone also told me once that I “cleaned up nicely” and that they approved of my cleaned up look. Instead of prompting me to start caring about my looks more, it had the opposite effect. Ever since that moment, I’ve never wanted anyone’s opinion on how I look. I’m still coming to terms with all of the ways other people’s perception of me, and how they choose to share those perceptions with me, affect the person I become. 

Things change you, for better or for worse, and they add to your overall character. The way we deal with them is up to us, and “confidence” is just another tool to combat insecurities. We have to make peace with who we are. When we make peace with who we are, faults and all, then we’re not acting, we’re being. That’s what I’m striving for on a daily basis. 

(Image via iStock.)

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