December 29, 2011
Celebrating with Confidence
After gaping at her for a second I said, "Yes, that's true! I was always either incredibly overconfident or incredibly underconfident." The truth of her statement hit me like a lightning bolt and the effects have stayed with me ever since. I wonder if the fact had only just occurred to her as well, or if she was just waiting for the right time to tell me. For some reason, since I turned forty, I have made leaps and bounds in the confidence department. It mostly has to do with not caring so much about what other people think. Of course, I still do care, but I think it is fair to say it no longer rules my life.
Most of my life, I have struggled to stay on track with what I am supposed to be doing. I still find it hard sometimes not to compare myself to other people, not to think those with the better 'things' have the better life. I have struggled to maintain a steady confidence in my abilities and when I was younger would often be crushed when I didn't succeed to my own ridiculously high standards. I sometimes even thought things were not worth doing unless I could be as good as the best at them. I honestly do not know where I got these notions, but I think my pride was at play a lot of the time. It was years of working on my nearly twenty year marriage, raising four incredible children, and seeing various projects through, both paid and volunteer which finally made the difference for me. I realized, at long last, that any success in life for me would be achieved by a slow and steady climb.
There is a lot to be said for confidence, and confidence in one's purpose in life is the most important kind of confidence. I am not talking about the self assurance that makes one walk around as if one owns the world, I'm talking about that deeper, intuitive knowing inside that I am steadily climbing toward the light in my daily work, whatever the result - which gives me a sense of calm when the going gets tough. I am much less liable to entertain rash decisions now or waste time worrying about things I have no control over, and that feels like an achievement in itself.
2011 was a good year for me. I joined a singing group and I wrote a blog post that got 187 views in two days. I did good work for the arts council and grew a semi-decent crop of garlic. I saw my eldest son off to Europe, and all but conquered my long held fear of winter driving by successfully getting my younger son and myself safely home during a snowstorm. I enjoyed many, many good times with friends and family, and good health overall. There are plenty of things I did not accomplish, but I choose not to think about those right now.
During these times of upheaval in our world, it is becoming more and more important to realize our potential for good, no matter how small the results. To discount, or lose confidence in our contribution simply because it may not bring us fame and fortune or big-bang results is to lose a bit of our humanity. True, life can be hard. We do have to battle (mainly ourselves), but I believe if we keep at it even our small achievements will be well worth celebrating.
On a PBS station out of Seattle, travel guru Rick Steves made an excellent point during one of the episodes of his popular program Rick Steves' Europe. He said one of the things he noticed about Europeans on his travels was that, in comparison with North Americans, they really knew how to celebrate life. He said most North Americans were so bogged down by work and ambition that they forgot to take the time to celebrate the truly good things in life and the fruits of their labour, like food and family, friendship and love. This Christmas season I decided to think like those Europeans and make more time to celebrate. We worked hard to make our house 'fair as (we were) able, to trim the hearth and set the table' and then invited friends for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and this evening. Our friends seem to feel the same way, for we've had four invites for this weekend.
The following are the closing remarks in an open letter to subscribers from the CEO of OurStage.com, an organization that helps promote up and coming musicians. His words inspired this blog post today.
"In closing, I hope you get to take the time to share a few days with loved ones and tune out from all the stress, hardship, and worry of day-to-day life. No matter the perfection portrayed in the media, the cold truth is that life is hard for everyone: rich or poor, fat or skinny, old or young—no one rides this bus for free. We all have to earn it. So, if you're in the game and still climbing the mountain, you are a winner. I hope you can take some time in the coming days to relax and celebrate your achievements this year before you dive back into the battle in 2012."
I wish the same for you.
Happy New Year!