Like many others, the last few years I have decided to pick one word to be my focus for the year. For 2018, my word was ACTION. The word was a deliberate choice. It is funny how when picking the word, I had one thought in my head of what would happen, and how now I realize the word was picked for an entirely different reason.
As I mentioned when explaining why I picked the word ACTION, anxiety has ruled my life as long as I can remember. I manage it well these days, but it is always with me. By picking ACTION, I was ready to not let my anxiety stop me from soaring to new heights and reaching my full potential (whatever that is supposed to mean). While I am not saying that by taking more chances in life I haven’t experienced good things… I have. For example, I have been fortunate to speak and lead numerous presentations on mental health and self-care at work and it has made my heart sing. I have continued to take ACTION in being a voice for suicide awareness and prevention.
What I didn’t expect was by taking ACTION I would realize what was truly holding me back in so many situations… my lack of belief in myself. A few events the last three months were the catalyst for a depth of self-reflection… self-reflection that is not fun… self-reflection making you honestly look in the mirror and admit what you see (not what others see)… self-reflection that hurts before you feel better.
I have known most of my adult life, my self-confidence has been problematic. It is not something I go around and announce on a loudspeaker… Who wants to admit they think so little of themselves? I remember a few weeks before graduating with my Ph.D., one of my favorite professors was talking with me. We were talking about my future and he said something that has stuck with me for over a decade. He stated my biggest obstacle has always been my confidence. I looked at him and knew he was right and it hurt. I appreciated his honesty. I appreciated his ability to see the truth lurking below layers of perfectionism.
His words have continued to haunt me over the years, but especially in the last few months. A few disappointments at work and in my personal life has caused the band-aid over the wound of my lack of self-confidence to be ripped off. And it has been painful… embarrassing. Who wants to admit at age 39 they continue to struggle to believe in themselves?
As I was mentioning this journey to a supervisor and someone I deeply respect she mentioned how I don’t come across as not having self-confidence. She then stated that must make it worse because no one knows. She is completely right because since no one knows, I feel the need to keep up the illusion… this is what I have done my entire life. When I feel a lack of self-confidence, I continue to work harder, try harder, become more perfectionistic to cover up for my lack of what I perceive as my ability.
As I was reflecting on my word ACTION and the pain of the last few months, I realized the purpose of choosing the word ACTION. It wasn’t just about me taking a few new opportunities or risks in life… although that has been a positive thing. ACTION was my word because it is time I start to take ACTION regarding my lack of self-confidence. I really don’t know what it will look like, but I believe being open about it is a start. It is time I stop avoiding the self-reflection it will take to start to practice self-acceptance, self-compassion, and grace towards myself. It is time I start to believe I have worth not because what I do or say, but just because I am me.