Confidence. A belief in oneself. The idea that you have the ability to meet the challenges of life and succeed. Realistically knowing your capabilities and feeling secure with the knowledge of what you can achieve. It is something I still struggle with today.
On Monday morning, around 4 a.m., I finally finished entering the Nebraska Press Women’s annual communications contest. A few hours later, I made a post on Facebook that I had finally done so. It was a relief and a frustration, mainly because I entered one day before the early deadline. Last year, I entered twenty-seven days before the deadline.
I was personally frustrated because, for the past few months, I’ve had a hard time completing everything I wanted to write. It’s all in my head and ready to go, but I can’t seem to sit down and focus to get the words out. I mentioned in my Facebook post that, even though I entered into a lot of categories, I didn’t think I would place in anything.
It wasn’t a post for false accolades or pats on the back. I honestly think this way. I never think what I do is good enough. I can attribute this to years of childhood trauma as well as moving through the adult workforce where supervisors only seem to find fault and rarely provide praise. Any confidence I would have had was beaten out of me long ago. I don’t have much confidence in myself or my work and my self-esteem is kind of shit. It’s only in the past few years I’ve recognized this, but it’s going to take a long time for me to think, “Fuck yeah, I did that and it was awesome.”
A friend responded to my post with the comment, “You put so much of yourself into your work, there’s no way you’re not going home without at least one award.” I thanked her for her kind words and then jokingly asked her if she could mail me some of that confidence. No problem, she said. On Friday, my box of confidence arrived in the mail.
Before I even opened the box, I started crying. It made me smile. The words outside the box made me smile. When I read them, I read them in her voice. I absolutely loved that the box was sealed with masking tape. Inside was a bunch of awesome stuff.
I love everything about my box of confidence. I thanked my friend, yet still felt like, “thank you so much,” was inadequate to the gift I had just received. This feeling also plays into other emotions that I’m just now learning how to deal with.
I have spent so much of my life trying to cope with ongoing trauma or just trying to muddle through to the next day, I never learned a lot of social skills many people take for granted. They’re either still missing and I have yet to learn them or I have to tell myself over and over how things should be until it becomes innate. These are the things most of you learned growing up and having friends.
One of the biggest things I am still struggling with is that people actually care for me. I guard myself more than I should, but lessons learned before I was old enough to legally drink, told me I couldn’t trust anyone and that people always wanted something from me. It’s not fair to put those old lessons on people today, but I do. Sometimes, I catch myself doing it, but most of the time, I don’t realize I’ve done it until later.
A couple of weeks ago, another friend sent me a gift of some awesome Star Wars socks. I hadn’t spoken to her in a while and I forgot she reads my blog. She saw my post about Star Wars. They came at the right time and cheered me up.
The past two months have been a bit difficult for me. I’ve been having trouble with emotional regulation and nightmares. I’m still sleep-deprived, which makes dealing with your emotions more difficult. The socks reminded me that there are people out there who care and are thinking about me even if they don’t interact with me on a regular basis.
Another friend asked me out to lunch a couple of weeks ago. She surprised me with two boxes of Farina. She remembered I mentioned I was out and you can’t buy it in Scottsbluff. Her son was on a work trip to Rapid City, South Dakota and picked me up two boxes. Again, thank you and a hug didn’t seem enough, but it was all I had.
I spoke with a close friend a week ago who understands my PTSD all too well. I reached out and just said I wasn’t doing well. Sometimes it kind of sucks that we have this mutual understanding, but it’s extremely helpful when something happens because I don’t need to explain things in detail. My friend gets it and we can just get right down to working out the problem. He gave me the confidence to get through the next few days.
I also spoke with another friend who knows about childhood trauma due to her professional work. We talked for a couple of hours, but mainly I wanted to ask her one question. Although I spoke to her on a Friday, she provided me with enough confidence that I was able to discuss with my therapist something deeply painful that I’ve stuffed down inside for more than four decades.
I’m still processing everything from that session and probably will be for some time, but I fucking did it and got through it even though it ended up being one of the shittiest weeks I’ve ever had.
I’m also still trying to figure out why all these people like me and why they have done nice things for me. Another part of my brain thinks, “Fuck it. They like me and that’s good enough.” That’s a big step from the past where I would automatically think they only did it because they wanted something from me.
I’m not looking for compliments or congratulations. I am truly trying to figure out why people like me and/or want to hang out with me. It’s not as simple as knowing and accepting. It’s much harder than that.
Also, fuck trauma for rewiring my brain when I was a kid. I can’t go back and change the past. I can only progress forward and work on learning all the things I missed out on during my formative years.
I’m going to keep the actual box of confidence. It’s not just the stuff inside that was awesome. It’s the idea behind it. It’s the thought that someone thinks so highly of me they do something to make my day better. It’s something tangible to hang onto in the tough times because I beat myself up so badly then.
I’m also going to think about all of this right now as I eat my bowl of farina while wearing my Star Wars socks and putting stickers in the most awesome dinosaur book around.