I’ve known for some time that one of my biggest personal weaknesses is my confidence, or more accurately my lack of self-confidence. For whatever reason, confidence is something I’ve always lacked to a degree, from my earliest recollections to the moment I’m writing these words. As I begin to do more reflection and self-realization, I’m finding that my lack of confidence has likely been the root cause of many of the things I’m unhappy about. It’s difficult to thrive in work, in relationships, and in life unless you are confident.
Whether it’s part of my personality, or just a bad habit I’ve allowed to become too strong, I have to make some changes in how I look at myself. Despite having an intellectual knowledge that I’m good at my job, I’m a pretty decent photographer, and my writing skills are above average, my emotional self tells me that I suck at life, I have no real skills, and anyone can take a decent photo these days – just look at Instagram for proof. It’s irrational I know, but it’s a mental block that I’m having to work through nonetheless. Every day I have to take a mental step back and tell myself that just because things aren’t how I’d like them, it’s no reason to belittle myself and not be confident. Most of the time I tend to be mentally focused on my weaknesses, and how to improve them, when I should be focusing some of my mental energy on my strengths. While I do have areas where I need to do some self-improvement, I need to remind myself that I do have positive traits and features. I’m not the most athletic, handsome, or adventurous man, but I’m kind, thoughtful, generous to a fault, respectful, empathetic, and mentally strong. As I’ve talked about in prior essays, while I lack the skills and hobbies that many of my peers have, I do in fact have things I’m skilled at and passionate about. Music, photography, wild places, good books, fire aviation, and my relationships with those close to me are just a few.
As I write this it occurs to me that perhaps my lack of confidence stems from the fact that I’ve always had different interests than most people around me. Even when I’ve shared broad interests with friends and acquaintances, I usually find that my specific interests are different. Take music for example. I’m passionate about good music, as are many other people I know. I have a large music collection, and I try to play the guitar with some skill, although I don’t have the time to get really good. Most of my favorite bands and musical styles are far from mainstream. I rarely run into another person in my social circles that enjoys grungy blues music from the deep south, or has an iPod where Chet Atkins, Leo Kottke, Les Paul, The Rolling Stones, Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler, and Christopher Parkening sit next to JJ Grey, Switchfoot, The Beatles, Alabama Shakes, the Avett Brothers, Sarah Jarosz, and the Zac Brown Band. I could write more examples about my taste in cameras, books, firearms, cars, or even travel, but I don’t need to. Since I’ve lacked a support network of people who share similar interests, I’ve grown less confident in my feelings about those interests. I’ve learned, I now see, to discount my interests as being somehow less important, interesting, or valuable than those of others, and I’ve grown skilled at hiding my deepest interests from others for fear of being different.
There lies the true cause of my insecurities – I feel ashamed of my interests and passions, and so I can’t feel confident about who I am, because I’m embarrassed to be true to myself. Even with my job I feel at times I can’t really relate with those who don’t understand what I do… as I’ve said before, wildland fire, and especially fire aviation, is something most people are clueless about. And if they don’t understand my job, how can they value it? And if they can’t value it, how can I value it? An asinine argument I know, but one I struggle with. How to convince myself that I have value, that my interests and career are just as relevant as the next persons even though they are different – that’s the question I’m having trouble finding an answer for.
So then how do I proceed? Well, I’m making great efforts to stop being negative about myself. I’ve realized that my lack of confidence has hurt me in ways I’m just now comprehending. I think back on my interactions with other people, personally, romantically, professionally, and I see countless times when my lack of true self-confidence led to not pursuing what I wanted, even if it could have been within my reach if I’d tried. I realize that to get what I want in life from here on out, I need to be confident. Confidence is key in life.
My new goal is to forget all my doubts, all my fears, to walk boldly and bravely out into the world, confident and accepting of who I am. I am indeed different from the other members of my social tribe, but that difference is not a weakness, it’s a strength. And in that strength I will find confidence to be a better person. I can only hope it’s not too late, and that maybe I’ll get a few second chances to make right mistakes I’ve made.
Until next time…