Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit. – E.E. Cummings
I can feel my self-confidence begin to drop days before the freefall. Doubt creeps in and surrounds everything I do. Routine decisions become challenging and my anxiety soars to the point my body feels it can’t endure the pressure. The signs of a self-confidence plunge are unmistakable: thoughts of unworthiness, persistent sweating and interrupted sleep all shout that my life is about to get off track.
When the freefall finally happens I feel powerless to stop it. It sweeps me away and takes me to a desperate, lonely place. The way back to confidence can sometimes seem impossible.
Looking from the outside, it appears I have everything I need. I have a wonderful family, my health is the best it has ever been and money is not an issue (more would be nice, of course). Living from the inside, I know there’s a different story.
Demons still roam and my shame is not quite healed. Today is my 48th birthday and I thought I would be in a different place by now and my confidence fully restored. But it doesn’t work that way. My self-confidence is still under attack. The good thing is at least now I see the enemy coming.
The freefall begins when I think I should receive something without having to ask for it. This thought was born several decades ago. I am an adult child of an alcoholic mother. Even though the disease has claimed her, the damage still exists in me; sitting there unclaimed and waiting for me to either destroy it or be destroyed by it. Maybe the right answer is to simply acknowledge it.
When I was young I thought if I did everything perfectly then my mother would tell me she loved me without any prompting. I would look for the words, expect to hear them and then feel the fall begin to happen when she made a difference choice. I can still see that little boy standing alone and not understanding why.
These wounds still cut deep today. If I think I should receive recognition or if my wife pulls away because of a distracting situation, I panic. I begin to see my world in just one color and my rational mind is overtaken by insecurity and self doubt.
My time is spent checking for any sign that what I want to happen is about to happen. I overanalyze remarks and dissect emails hoping to find a coded message of appreciation. I long for my wife’s touch even though she is right there holding my hand the whole time.
I fidget and find myself unable to relax because my energy is focused on manifesting what I didn’t receive as a child. When these things happen, the fall is complete. My self-confidence has crashed.
Six ways to come back to confidence
One of the gifts from growing older is we get to experience our personal challenges more often. Because of this, we can find ways to overcome them if we make the attempt. I have spent the better part of the last 48 years coping with the challenge to remain confident.
Just as I can see the fall in confidence begin to happen days before it arrives, I’m also able to see the way back to confidence a litter sooner and a little clearer now. When I fall, I rely on what I’m still learning to help me come back to confidence.
- Recognize my demons. Acknowledging my enemies is the first step to their defeat. My demons prefer to operate in darkness. When I pull them into the light their power begins to diminish.
- Feel my worth. It’s one thing to say I’m worthy, but to feel my worth is another matter. To do this, I consider one positive thing I did. I trace this thought from my mind and all the way to my heart. Once it arrives there, the action becomes more than something I did. It becomes a part of who I am – it becomes a part of my worth.
- Make the choice. Every day I get to choose confidence. Some days I feel strong and on other days self-confidence is missing. On those days, at least I have the choice to say, “What would a self-confident man do in this situation?” When I find the answer, I can make the choice to act with confidence, or not.
- Celebrate my humanness. I don’t want to be perfect, I just want to be Alex. When my confidence is lacking, I try to remember I don’t have to be perfect. Part of who I am is the mistakes I’ve made along the way. These mistakes contribute to my humanness more than the things I get exactly right.
- Practice. Self-confidence is not natural for me. It takes focus and practice. When I feel the slide begin to happen, I practice keeping my legs strong just like I did as a child when standing in the surf next to my mother. As a young boy, I would practice not allowing the wave to knock me down. Sometimes I would win and sometimes the force was just too strong. I still must practice.
- Save some medicine for myself. When I stop doing the things I know will keep me strong is when I get in the most trouble. Recently I took a break from writing. I blamed my work schedule, Andrew’s baseball games and being tired. When I do this, I play with fire. Writing keeps me centered. Writing is the medicine when I feel weak. After the most recent fall, I have committed that no matter how busy life gets, and after I’m finished taking care of everyone else, I will be sure to save some medicine for myself, too.
My birthday wish
Later today Mary Beth will remove my birthday cake from the freezer. She ordered it last week to make sure it arrived before the bakery closed for the Independence Day holiday. The cake will need to thaw before the candles are placed on it and I make my birthday wish.
When it is time, I will close my eyes and consider all that has happened and what’s to come before blowing out the candles.
I will wish my children always see their talent, beauty and worth. I will wish them a peace I’m just now beginning to taste.
I will wish my wife continues to find her passion and for the healing she deserves.
I will wish my brother and sister realize how much I love them. Sometimes it’s hard showing it because I connect them to a time I pretend never existed. Like me, they were innocent bystanders. And like me, it wasn’t their fault. I will wish them peace, too.
I will wish my father embraces the time he has left without regret and with the confidence to enjoy his life. I will wish he knows this is his time to do whatever his heart desires.
I will wish my mother finds the forgiveness that is waiting for her. I will wish for her soul to move into the light and to know, once and for all, that everything will be alright.
I will wish for all of these things, but I will save the last wish for me.
I will wish for the awareness to know I am loved and appreciated without having to ask; I will wish for the freefalls to be shorter and further apart and I will wish to come back to confidence so the little boy never has to be alone again.