Growing up, I was a confident girl. I organized kickball games in the cul-de-sac where I lived. I memorized and recited the Declaration of Independence for a speech meet. Once when I spent the night at a friend’s house, I recruited her two older brothers to do relays with us up and down their hallway.
As a teenager, I was the captain of my volleyball team. I led a small group in my youth group. On the morning of my 15th birthday, my mom took me to get my learner’s permit, and I drove home from the office on one of the busiest highways in town.
Confidence was always something that came naturally to me. My transition to college, however, was a difficult one. The number of people on my campus overwhelmed me. I missed the familiarity of the people I had grown up with. Early adulthood diminished the light I possessed in my adolescent years.
The scary part was that I didn’t know how to make it brighter again. I had begun to lose my way and with that, my confidence waned.
So I tried moving to another country. The women native to my new country of residence were extremely beautiful—not only in their looks but also in how they carried themselves. They wore heels to run errands on Saturday mornings and fake eyelashes to work. They greeted me with embraces and cheek kisses, and they fussed over me when I visited their homes.
Slowly but surely, I found myself comparing myself to their version of beauty. Comparing myself to them extinguished my light completely.
Comparing myself to [these women] extinguished my light completely.
Years later, when my daughter was born, I threw all my energy into teaching her how to hold a spoon, then on how to take her first steps and how to say “please” when she wanted something. Early motherhood was so demanding that it was easy to ignore my insecurities and the feeling that I was living less than whole.
A few months before my daughter’s third birthday, my world fell apart. I was met with one of life’s unexpected blows, and my heart was broken. At first, I cried, I asked why, and I let myself be a victim. After a few months of this, I thought about the life I wanted to create for my daughter, and I decided to move back home.
Soon after returning home, I played in an alumni volleyball game for my high school team. During the game, I served, jumped to block and bent my knees enough to dig. For those few hours on the volleyball court, I felt my confidence returning. For a moment, I remembered what it was like to be 17 and the captain of my volleyball team—17 and confident, 17 and alive.
I smiled the entire game. I knew what it was like to live diminished. I wanted to live again. I wanted to light a new fire in my bones, body and heart.
I wanted to live again. I wanted to light a new fire in my bones, body and heart.
It has been a few months since the volleyball game. Now, I have a new job. Every day that I am there, I am surprised by how much I like the job and how much I like the people I work with. I wake up early to write and pack my daughter’s lunch for preschool. I make my lunch for work, and after I get off work, I take care of my daughter until she goes to sleep. As I make my way through my daily routine, I am finding my way again.
Just as my daughter watched me play in the alumni volleyball game, high-fiving me during time-outs, I know she is watching me in life. Watching me pack those lunches, seeing me go to work and hearing me say that I am tired but still choosing to take care of her. My daughter is watching me put one foot in front of the other, even when it’s hard. She is watching me choose to live again.
Instead of “living with a broken heart,” I think of it as living because of the broken heart. The broken heart was what propelled me forward, opening my eyes to a full and beautiful life that, for a long time, I had only been living halfway.
The broken heart was what propelled me forward, opening my eyes to a full and beautiful life.
I once was a confident girl. Then, I became a confident teenager. This is the year that finally, I became a confident woman.
Have you ever gone through an experience that crushed your confidence? How did you find your way again?
Image via Tony Li