Getting Older Has Made Me Wiser But Surprisingly Less Confident
What does it mean to be confident anyway?
There was a girl in a very Catholic high school who had two (or was it three?) piercings on each ear, a leather choker around her neck and a stack of multicolored anklets on one leg. Her cheeks were stained a deep plum-red, lashes curled and brushed black despite the school’s no makeup rule. She refused to wear socks, styled her uniform incongruously, and pretty much broke many of the rules in the school handbook.
That girl was, well, me. Confidence to me then meant open resistance to rules (that made no sense, like uniforms) and deviance. I asked enough why’s in religion class to get me a C- and challenged basic school policies (again with the uniforms) that resulted in frequent trips to the principal’s office.
In college, I traded in my piercings for subtle stud earrings, retired my Nancy Downs-esque choker and swapped those Rasta anklets for silver rosary jewelry (still worn around the ankle). My makeup piled on to include bling-y eye shadow and heavy black liner. My uniform? Socks weren’t required, (oversized) sunglasses were allowed, and on Mondays and Saturdays we wore casual. But the best part had to be the school’s lack of policy on styled hair. Yes, you could come to school with a shaved head or blonde hair and you’d be met with no more than a few raised eyebrows and no trips to any school authority’s office. Confidence became less about physical appearances and more about principle because for one, giving in to gay urges can lead to suspension. So despite the school’s extremist Christian views, I embraced my sexuality. What’s left of my energy was spent visiting animal shelters and struggling to be vegetarian for the sake of said animals.
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My early to mid 20s were spent working my (second) dream job, living what I thought was my best life, smoking in fire exits and getting drunk on red wine. I took pride in being excessively blunt and didn’t care whom I hurt. Platonic and romantic relationships were thus fleeting, but my biggest heartbreak was over losing friends. Material things helped me cope with the tears, grief and loss. But Rousseau was right and contrary to what my then oft-intoxicated self might think, money can’t buy happiness, not even your own.
My confidence was founded on a job that held more power than it should, material wealth and knowing the “right people.”
It was only with age, three jobs later and motherhood that I realized I was wrong to confuse confidence with disobedience or recklessness. Self-assurance anyway is built on a modest appreciation for one’s abilities and qualities. It is neither loud nor aggressive; bold but perhaps not irreverent.
Indeed time and age have made me a little wiser. But less confident? Maybe so if my definition of the word were still the same in my younger years. Today, I can say and accept that I may not be all that talented as I thought I was. However, I work hard, always and have never lost the desire to keep learning. As one of my favorite editor’s once wrote, “talent is nice but not necessary.” My days aren’t spent obsessing over what I could have done differently. Sure, I obsess over the future sometimes, but who doesn’t think about what lies ahead anyway? And finally, after a few years of hiding in body-shaping swimsuits, I feel braver to step out in a two-piece bikini that show off my less bouyant chest, stretch marks here and there, and a stubborn flab I like to call my pouch—a pouch that once housed and fed the tiny human that is my son.
Confidence is one day realizing that after years of wanting to be something or someone else, you’ll look out the balcony of your medium-sized apartment and think, ‘I am where and with whom I want to be.’
Art Alexandra Lara