As I've been learning to be kind to myself in September and think better thoughts in October, my anxiety levels have gone down significantly. It's a huge relief, especially since our house started falling apart this month (the living room ceiling actually started caving in after a heavy rainfall). Thankfully, no one was hurt -- we were actually in Brooklyn when it happened -- and we have found a lovely place to live in while everything is being repaired.
It seems, though, that the anxiety was just a symptom of other things that are going on inside of me. This month especially, I realized that I have a deep issue with feeling confident in myself. This will probably come as a shock to anyone who has done any nation-building with me, because I'm passionate about my ideas and have a strong belief in them. But when it comes to believing in me, I struggle.
When I am feeling confident, I can do anything. I take risks, I embrace people, I do my very best work. When I am feeling insecure, I'm lucky to get out of bed in the morning. And because my confidence is so closely tied to my work, rather than deeply seated inside myself as a human being, it comes rushing in with the waves and leaves when the tide goes out.
This month, I asked my fellow nation-builders what makes them feel confident. I got over a hundred responses, and they were absolutely brilliant. I'm going to try some of them this month, and I hope it helps make for a more confident me in November. I'd love for you to join me, if you have a similar struggle. (And if you don't, please email me and let me know your secret!)
Here's to the happiest of Novembers,
You are the only person who can give yourself what you need to be exactly who you are. As amazing as the people who know and love you are, they can't do that for you. And the people who don't know you? They can't even begin to do that for you.
What do you need to be the best you? Time to think before reacting? Time for a dance break in between intense work sessions? To stop doing things that zap you of your energy?
Think about what you need today. And go get it.
the You who makes space for you
(P.S. Thank you Kylie Bellard for pointing me to this beautiful poem by Mary Oliver. It makes my heart swell every time I read it.)
by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.
I know it's so comfortable to stay in your pjs for half the morning. (And who's going to know anyway? That's what working from home is for.) But today, wear something that makes you feel great, right from the get-go. And put your dancing shoes on, even!
See how good that feels? You are even more amazing than that.
the You who looks goooood
(P.S. Thank you, Roz Duffy, for sharing this idea to boost my confidence today. The biggest of hugs!)
It is true that every person has a story. It is also true that there are 7 billion people alive on the planet right now, all with their own stories.
But no one has your story. And it is a story that only you were made to live (and perhaps, to tell).
Living your story isn't selfish...it is possibly the most generous thing you can do with your life. Today, notice the story of your life, and the part you are playing in it. What does the leading lady (or man) of your story need to do to travel the wilderness, slay the dragons, and become the victor they are meant to be?
the You who is leading material
You've always been great at asking questions and figuring things out. You'll spend days just thinking about a problem until it's resolved. But you have to admit, that kind of problem-solving can be draining (not to mention its anxiety-enlarging effects).
Today, practice letting yourself do something else when you have a problem. Go for a walk while listening to some great music (to keep your head out of it). Watch a movie you can really get lost in. Do something to give your mind a break from the thing you're trying to figure out.
Because questions are good. Even unanswered ones.
the You who is curious
P.S. Thank you Ali Shapiro for sharing this quote with me. I need this so much. Here's the whole thing, for posterity:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
Today, when you're thinking that someone might perceive something negatively about you, embrace it. Picture that person like one of the nuns in Maria's convent in The Sound of Music...one of the ones who called her a flibbertigibbet (what?) or unpredictable, flighty, or even a demon. Those nuns had no idea what they were talking about. Maria is awesome.
So are you.
the You who is perfect in your imperfections
Your body language changes the way you feel right now. Today, pay attention to how you're sitting and standing -- are you making yourself tall, expansive, and active, or small, retractive, and passive?
For a bonus, read this excellent piece by Lauren Bacon, then watch Amy Cuddy speak on the science of how our posture can change the way we behave, which changes the opportunities that may come our way.
the You who is ready to rise
Using your gifts to create something that didn't exist before...that is special. That is winning. As Alice Walker says, "You can have people agree that you've won, and that's nice, but the real joy is to have done it."
Today, pour yourself into making something you love. And let that be the victory. (Bonus level: watch this inspiring interview with Alice Walker...thank you Dr. Barbara Ellermeier for sending it to me!)
the You who is already there
Music moves you. Today, pick a song that makes you feel optimistic, confident, and alive. Some possible choices:
Oh, and don't forget to dance. :)
the You who is inspired
P.S. Thank you Cairene MacDonald for your piece on How to Make a Mix Tape, which inspired this -- full of power songs (and other songs for playlisting your day!).
Whose opinion really matters? Pour into those people today, instead.
the You who is loved
Sometimes surrender is the sweetest feeling. When you're no longer fighting for your life or your place in the world, gratefulness and contentment has room to land around your shoulders. And isn't contentment no more than a quiet confidence that you have enough, and that you are enough?
What can you give up today, to give yourself the gift of surrender?
the You who rests
When you are living what you believe, you stand tall. When doubters come, it doesn't phase you because you know you're on solid ground. But living what you believe can be scary...it's much easier to travel the safe path. Sometimes you don't even know you're doing it.
Think about your life. What do you believe about work? About family? About relationships? About spiritual life? Are you living true to your beliefs? What would it take to start?
the You who is true
Sometimes physical objects can serve as a reminder of who you really are. Today, find a small object that reminds you of your truest, most confident self. It could be a piece of jewelry or a picture or a small ceramic thing -- just make sure it's something you're not already used to having with you.
Carry your small object around with you today. Let yourself stand a little taller and smile when you notice it. Mostly, that's all it takes.
the You who remembers courage
Who makes you feel like a better, more confident person when you're around them? Think about why that is. Maybe even write down the qualities they possess that inspire your best self.
Either spend time with that person today or send them a note to get together soon. And be on the lookout for more people like that.
the You who shines
Who do you put on a pedestal? How do you tend to act around them? Are you reluctant to approach them because you assume they have enough people vying for their attention? Do you clamor around them in hopes that some of their stardust will rub off on you?
Today, think about why you react the way you do. How would the best version of you respond?
the You who is rising up
Do you feel more confident when you've made a decision, or when you've left your options open? If deciding feels good, spend some time today getting clarity on the path of whatever feels unresolved to you. If leaving your options feels good, think of something that feels restrictive in your life, and then brainstorm about how you actually have choices.
the You who knows best
What have you said you were going to do? Do it today. Man it feels good to be a gangster.
You're always moving on to the next big thing...I love that about you. But in the process of spreading your wings, you forget how much you've already accomplished. You downplay your past in exchange for what lies ahead.
This is a pattern that won't change without intention on your part. The next height will seem small once it's staring you in the face, and you'll lose your appreciation for what it took to get there.
Do you have a gratitude journal? Great. (Or if you don't, it's a good day to start.) Today, also start writing down your accomplishments. In addition to the big things ("finished my thesis!"), also take note of the smaller things that may make even more of an impact in the long run ("dropped everything to play trains with my two year old"). Leave a trail of your greatness so that you can see it blazing next time you find yourself in the dark.
the You who flies higher
It's okay to need some validation from the people in your life every once in a while -- we all do. But wouldn't it be great if you already had all the validation you needed? Wouldn't it be great if you could just collect it all in a jar and save it for a rainy day?
Actually, you can. The next time someone emails you and says "Hey, I really appreciate you", print out the email. Decide on a place to collect those pieces of affirmation so that you can be surrounded by them. That way, you will always have all the validation you need...you won't need to go looking for it all the time.
the You who is 100% awesome
What do you like about yourself? Your smile? Your intelligence? The way you intuitively understand how people feel?
Find a way to remind yourself of these things today. If you're a list-maker, make a list. If you love Pinterest, create a board for yourself. If you love to draw, sketch it out.
Never forget what's right about you.
the You who is whole
How do you contribute to the daily experience of the people around you? How are their lives better because you are in the world with them?
Document the way you help other people to live better every day. Be specific. Think about your best friend, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your parents, your boyfriend...whoever is close to you. Then think about the people you work with, hang out with, or see on occasion.
You are important to so many people. Don't forget it.
the You who is needed
How heavy are your commitments right now? Do you feel motivated by them or dragged down?
Today, take a look at all you're committed to, especially if something feels heavy. See what you can do to lighten your load and give yourself confidence that you have what you need to do each thing well (including heaping doses of enthusiasm and excitement).
the You who is able
What are you afraid of? What thoughts are behind that fear? Are any of them unproductive and holding you back?
What new, more productive thoughts could you replace them with that also feel true?
the You who is brave
How do you talk about the negative events that you feel responsible for in your life? Do you say "I failed" or do you say "that strategy wasn't for me"? Do you say "I suck at that" or do you say "I'm good at a different thing"?
Today, think about the most recent thing you contributed to that went wrong. See if you can tell it differently.
the You who tells better stories
What is it like to be completely, 100% you? Find some time today, maybe even 15 minutes, when you commit to being totally yourself. No "shoulds", no acting the way you think other people want you to act. Just you.
the You who is the only you there is
What is your greatest strength? Find a way to operate in your strength today, especially when you feel the most vulnerable.
the You who is stronger
Do something hard today. Do something that you've been putting off or something that you're just not sure you're capable of. Then stand proud because you know what? You can do anything.
the You who is more than capable
Take courage today. Remember that you always do your best, with the best intentions and a pure heart. Even when you're not perfect, and you disappoint people, or you become disappointed yourself, it's not because you're a bad person.
Don't be so hard on yourself.
the You who is a brave heart
Thank you for who you are. Thank you for the complicated you, the idealistic you, the you who sees possibility everywhere you go. Thank you for the you who reads too much and thinks too much and cares way, way too much.
I'm grateful for you.
the You who can't be duplicated
What makes you feel completely and utterly alive? Going for a run? Working on a new idea? Brainstorming your way through a problem that used to deplete your energy? When your body is buzzing with life, you forget your doubts, your insecurities, and you just glow. Find a way to glow today.
the You who is incandescent
You have enough time to do everything that needs to be done today. You have enough intelligence and enough resources. You had enough yesterday and last month and last year, and you have enough today. Today, relax in that knowledge.
Let yourself be the kind of person who is confident that they have enough to handle every day with ease.
Love, the You who is laid back