How confidence works (in my head)

It dawned on me today that the fact that confidence feels a bit like a roller coaster to me is a win in itself. For decades I lived in such a low state, hating myself secretly all the time, that there were no real ups and downs. Just down and dramatically more down.

After years of exploring the downward spiral, learning to be compassionate with myself and buoy back up with my own love- I’m happy to report that there are lots of “ups” now too. Which is tremendous, really. Life is like that. Peaks and valleys. It’s nice to really feel those peaks now.

These days, the valleys sometimes feel deeper. I don’t know if that’s how depth works. I think you just keep digging through your own baggage to find another layer you didn’t know was there. But I don’t know if it’s actually darker in that next layer. Perhaps it’s the fact that I spend a lot of time feeling great that the lows feel lower in their juxtaposition. All I know is, there are still lows.

I’m learning to ride them like a wave, expect them without asking for them, learning what they have to teach me without setting up camp. Feelings are meant to come and go. I hope to live fluidly in my emotions without attaching them to who I am. But in case you relate and could use a surfing comrade, I thought I’d share what my confidence “cycle” looks like today. Maybe in 5-10 years this will look a lot different. But here is 34.

  1. Feel inspired to do a thing.
  2. Get really excited about it.
  3. Decide not to do it.
  4. Lay awake at night being smacked in the face with how much I have to do it.
  5. Psych myself up to do the thing.
  6. THE THING.
  7. I DID THE THING!
  8. Feel pride about the thing.
  9. Pick a part the way I did the thing.
  10. Start wondering who the hell I am to do things.
  11. Seek validation that I am the last person on earth who should do things.
  12. Recount nasty things people have said about me and things.
  13. Privately pout.
  14. Wonder why anyone is friends with me when I have the audacity to think I can do things.
  15. Figure it’s just a matter of time before they all finally hate me.
  16. Lay still on my couch recognizing that I’m in that fun, irrational place again.
  17. Force myself to move around.
  18. Start to feel forward moving again.
  19. Call a friend and laugh at this pattern.
  20. Contentment…
  21. Feel inspired to do a thing.

Sometimes I can get through steps 7-21 in a matter of minutes. It’s not always quite as dramatic as it sounds. But to be honest, sometimes I dig my heels in around step 11 and hang out awhile just because it’s so familiar there. I put really comfy couches there in my 20s and didn’t get up for many years.

What’s different these days is that while I’m not proud of the irrational places I tend to go when I’m feeling low on confidence, it’s no longer where I live. I know when I’m there, I can almost always point to what lead there and I know I’ll pull myself out. I even know how to work from that space as it’s no longer all consuming or scary to me. I’d prefer not throw a party from there, but I can write, I can walk, I can be still and listen. All valuable and productive things.

Most importantly I know I don’t have to stay. That I’m not meant to move in, but to pack light and see where it takes me. And hopefully the less I stamp my feet at my own patterns, the more ease I will find wherever I find myself. Hell, maybe I won’t need all those steps anymore.

Now I’m just so dang thrilled I keep moving forward. Even if in spite of myself sometimes. I keep doing “the things,” even though I don’t feel 100% confident in my abilities all the time. Perhaps this is all a part of the big risk of putting yourself out there in any way. Of honesty, of creating, of not hiding anymore.

Whatever it is, I’m in for the ride. It’s much better than setting up camp in the depths of myself or shutting up the part of me that wakes me at night and asks me to be more. That nags at me to show all the way up, even if that’s the biggest risk of all.

To doing things anyway,

Erin Brown