In therapy this week, through teary eyes and a computer screen, I told my therapist: “There are so many things I want, I just don’t know if I can do them.” She asked me to clarify. Did I think I couldn’t do them because of finances? Is it that I didn’t know how to begin? Were the things I wanted to do illegal?
“I just don’t feel like I’m good enough,” I said. “Why do I deserve to achieve these things?”
“Well,” she said. “Why not you?”
I question my future a lot. Do I really want to be an actor? Sell a screenplay? Go after the old Hollywood dream? My questioning is in part to creative careers being seen as fruitless and also in part to me buying into that false narrative. Despite knowing creative careers are, in fact, lucrative, when you’re told often that you’re embarking on a lifetime of instability, you begin to believe it. But somewhere along the way, my questioning became due to a lack of belief in myself, too.
My teenage years were riddled with insecurity and a lack of confidence. I was bullied and teased at a very young age, either mocked for being overweight or for singing and dancing on the playground at recess instead of playing kickball. I was made fun of because I wasn’t a cheerleader. I was called a nerd because I was in theatre and art club. By the age of thirteen, I already felt jaded, dejected, and as though my existence wasn’t on par with others my age, because I was interested in different things. As I grew older and found people who embraced my differences, I became more comfortable with who I was, but I wouldn’t necessarily say my confidence grew. If anything, I became hyper focused on ensuring I blended into my surroundings and diminished my natural light that so desperately wanted to shine. I began to second-guess my decisions and question nearly every choice I made, often consulting with several people before making a final call.
I was tired before I was even fully grown, and I was facing a life of keeping my head down, begging not to be seen, while my soul cried out for the spotlight. And I operated under this way of thinking for nearly twenty-seven years.
I’m twenty-nine now, and my confidence is much greater than it ever has been, but it still ebbs and flows. Drastically. There are so many things that I want in this lifetime, things ranging from big Hollywood dreams to smaller, more intimate dreams, and all of them can be achieved. Sometimes, I just wonder if they’re capable of being achieved by me. And the more and more I’ve unpacked this in therapy, the more I discover that my lack of confidence—and my hesitancy to step into the spotlight—came from somewhere. Whether it was a comment from a teacher or the mean girl in school telling me I was worthless because I didn’t have pom poms in my hand, or my own family member questioning my career path, somewhere in my journey, our journeys, someone had the audacity to push us down and tell us we aren’t good enough. And while that’s tragic in and of itself—that people can be so terrible to others—the real tragedy here is we believed them.
“I was extremely confident in my 20s,” said Stephen. “Then a long-term relationship eroded that confidence to the point where I was second-guessed and second-guessed myself all the time.”
When we’re teenagers or in our early 20s, it’s harder to emerge from underneath the ‘protective’ shield of judgement and control. But we’re not teenagers anymore. We’re adults. So, what are we doing?
“Negative comments from others, failing or the fear of failing, comparing myself to others have all made me lose confidence in myself,” Megan says.
We’re playing it safe to keep others from projecting their unwanted opinions onto us, thus rejecting parts of ourselves that are begging to be seen.
“My confidence comes and goes. I started to lose it little by little because I listened too much to what other people thought and said about me,” said Anna. “As if their opinions were truth instead of my own.”
Somewhere in my journey, our journeys, someone had the audacity to push us down and tell us we aren’t good enough
The power we give people sometimes, and the power they try to steal from us, strips us of our confidence. If we ever want to achieve whatever we fantasize about at night when our heads hit the pillow, we have got to stop giving power away and redirecting that energy back into ourselves. But how?
For starters, we need to drown out the noise and accept that, at the end of the day, no one’s opinions on how to live our lives or what to pursue are worth ignoring our dreams, because their opinions truly do not matter.
Secondly, if leaning into the fear of failure and judgement from others got us here, it seems as though to get out of this, we have to do the opposite. We should be leaning into what makes us stand out. We should be giving our differences—our weirdness—air. And we do that by taking risks. It seems counterintuitive, I know. How does putting yourself out there build confidence when we’re literally walking into a situation where we could be rejected? Where someone could look at us and our work and say, “Why you?”
Because the other option is playing it safe and stifling what makes us different? The other option is pushing down our drive, our ambition, our dreams and not giving our weird space to breathe and flourish? And, yes, with risk-taking comes rejection, but it also comes with wins. But we don’t give ourselves the chance to win if we don’t take some scary leaps, too.
And we deserve to win.
Going after what we want is terrifying. It feels unnatural to put ourselves out there and risk rejection or embarrassment. But something even scarier than being rejected and something far more embarrassing than pursuing your dreams is being the one who stayed within their comfort zone and lived a life of regret.
With risk-taking comes rejection, but it also comes with wins. But we don’t give ourselves the chance to win if we don’t take some scary leaps, too
Don’t dim your light anymore. Don’t push down your wildest dreams and just hope they’ll go away. They won’t. Take it from me, a twenty-nine-year-old woman who, once again, is going for it. And you want to know why? Because I’ve finally had enough of people living my life for me. I’ve had enough of my confidence being dictated by people whose opinions don’t matter. I’ve had enough of saying ‘what if’ and I’m ready to say ‘let’s go find out’.
So, why do I deserve to achieve my dreams? Why do you?
The answer is simple: why not us?