As I sat and read through more and more of my statuses from 4, 5, 6 years back I found myself repeatedly asking, “Where did she go?”
I disappeared from my personal facebook page for almost all of 2015. I was learning to juggle in the new circus of freelance writing, was planning a wedding, and had already felt like facebook was no longer a place where I felt safe and/or happy.
I’ve slowly been stepping back into the shallow-end of the facebook pool, but the water is still a little cold. It still feels like I might swallow some nasty water. And there are still people lurking in the deep end who are wearing plastic dorsal fins.
But something interesting happened. I started to read through old posts I wrote years ago, back when I was in college and graduate school. It’s been a bit like peering into the windows of your neighbor’s living room. While you recognize the people, they look utterly foreign in this new intimate environment. I seemed so much happier, so much more open and free.
Something happened in these past few years. Something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to and have spent way too much time trying to figure out. My confidence shriveled. Like a dried apricot left on a hot sidewalk in summer, I curled into myself and tried to protect what little tender flesh I had left.
There have been some large life changes in the past few years: graduating from grad school, beginning a new relationship, starting multiple new jobs, moving across state away from my community, quitting my job to start freelancing, getting married. For the anxious mind this continual spiral of changes and uncertainty has left me feeling drained. The undercurrent of all these bold steps has been fear. I am so genuinely tired of being afraid. And large external changes have been at the core. But I also know, like dew sticking to leaves and grass around me for many mornings, that there’s a specific experience that I’ve been coming back from.
Someone in my life, at one point, had some problems with me and chose to outline these problems. Much of what they said were some of my deepest insecurities and uncertainties. Though a lot of what they said was false assumptions, a lot of what they said was true. Particularly about my weaknesses. And to have someone fully reinforce that yes, just as you suspect, there are people who truly dislike these aspects of you, left me like the soil in the earth after a meteor strikes. Like they knew exactly which buttons to press, as if peeling back the skin on my stomach, pushing their fingers against my rib cage, leaving the opening to heal half-assed over the coming days.
And this, combined with the large shifts in my external life, left me embarrassed of my inability to maintain my confidence. Even talking about my struggles with confidence here, in this small blog, leaves me feeling embarrassed. I believe in holding my head high, in choosing compassion and kindness, and taking steps forward toward growth. And on most days, I remember this.
I know this is something we all struggle with, at one time or another. Whether it’s confidence in the workplace, with our friends, family members, or with ourselves, it is a tide pool that empties and fills over and over. Too much of it, and you’ll drown. Too little, and you’ll dry up. And balance, finding that perfect degree of confidence, is so so desirable and seemingly unattainable.
Pay attention to what you pay attention to. Are you on facebook all day? Snapchat? Who are you interacting with on a daily basis and how do they make you feel? If you notice certain people leave you feeling crummy, give yourself permission to take some space. It doesn’t have to be from a place of malice, just a place of self-love.
Pay attention to where your thoughts are going. Anxiety can create a constant loop of negative thoughts, obsessive thoughts, or fears or concerns. Disrupt this loop. Create a knee-jerk response thought to the negative ones. For example, if you find yourself thinking back to the cruel thing your ex once told you, immediately start playing your favorite music video in your head. Over and over and over again. Disrupt with happiness.
Pay attention to how you think about things. Are your thoughts coming from a place of fear? Defensiveness? Self-pity? Confinement? Anger? Work really, really hard to continually readjust your thoughts to be compassionate and patient. Feeling frustrated and hurt by someone at work? Work your ass off trying to understand their side and remembering they have hidden demons as well.
Delete anything that repeatedly leaves you feeling like shit. This applies to apps, songs, magazines, photos, and people. And remember: comparing your place with the place of others is like touching a rock at the base of a mountain and thinking you’ve climbed the whole thing.
Take continual steps in the direction of things that make you feel whole, warm, and supported. You deserve to feel like you’ve stepped out in the middle of a golden field, sun shining on your face, the clouds applauding your damn smile.
As I read through my old statuses, it was like reintroducing myself to an old friend at a party. I walked right up, shook her hand and wanted to ask, where did you go?