Etymology: from Latin confidentia, from confidere ‘have full trust’
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” -Marie Curie
When you are born into a huge family, people often say strange things to you as a kid. Things like,
“God bless your mother! She must be a saint!”
“You must be Catholic!”
“Didn’t your family have a television?”
“The winters must have been cold that year.”
As I get older, these are somewhat humorous statements. Everyone was dancing around the issue of all those babies!! As a child, though, it sounded like a subtle way of saying: you were a mistake, a burden, or something the Pope made happen. In short, you weren’t necessarily wanted.
Now every kid has their issues. Only children and oldest children feel the weight of the world on their shoulders to perform and often feel the need to control. Middle children (of which I was one of the 10 in my family!) feel like they are overlooked, and don’t even get me started on the baby! As many things can, this perception took a toll on my self-esteem growing up. I wisely learned to mask it as a desire to do great things just to be noticed and deemed worthy. It was, in some ways, a gift. I was a reasonably good kid, straight A’s all the way, and an overachiever. My parents had it pretty easy because secretly I was afraid that I might be a burden to them.
I have wrestled with the other side of this perception as well. It translated into something our society is also attached–the art of perfection. If I am perfect, if I achieve great things, if I look the right way, maybe I will be worth my place. Perhaps then, I will be worthy. So you run after love in all the wrong places, take jobs you don’t enjoy, shop trying to fill the Swiss-cheese holes in yourself, or give your time away for free. We all have ways to numb those sore spots in our life. Fortunately, I have often turned to meditation and creative pursuits like writing to do my soul work. I also have a thing with shoes…the higher, the better!
After much reflection, I suspect that the whole dream to run for office was also a manifestation of that energy. No one else but my dad got into politics, so it was one-on-one time and attention with him as well as the idea that I could save the world from its malaise. Whether that be war, poverty, injustice, or just growing up through the 70s, I had lots of reasons to think that would be the ultimate calling. I could be a hero and transform the world! What I was looking for in all these efforts was to discover my Confidence. I had to learn to have “full trust” in the purpose of my life beyond what I tried to do in the external world.
After my campaign experience was over, all the time and money spent for nothing, I felt like I lost a lifelong friend. I mourned for many, many months after. Part of that sadness was the reality of what I experienced, and that is a whole other book how corrupt the process is. But in a real way, it was about saying goodbye to the idea that I would never be what I thought I needed to be worthy. I was sad that I felt I had to put myself through that in the first place, but on the flip side, I was the loser in the race. Having to wade through that dichotomy was not a swift process. In the end, the grace of Confidence was there with a message. You have been all you needed to be all along. I just needed to trust it.
When one experiences major setbacks or life-changing situations, it can feel like you have to relearn who you are. Long ago, I had a friend survive cancer, who said after all he lived through, he couldn’t go back to life as he knew it. He was forever changed. When it is the death of a loved one or a dream, divorce, or tragedy of any kind, not knowing who you are can be so overwhelming on top of the grief you are trying to get over. Con-fidere…to come with faith when you have no evidence that there is a resolution for the puzzle in your mind is one of the hardest things we have to work through. Even though it is cloudy, a rainbow will appear, and you will find your path.
I cried my way through the next election cycle. My heart was too tender even to see anything about who was running or winning. I’ll never forget coming home from work that day and looking up in the sky over my home…across the sky was a majestic rainbow. All my angels were conspiring to let me know it would all work out; something else was waiting for me. Later that fall, I was walking next to the ocean, and I have a ringing ear that makes it hard to hear at times. In that ear, I clearly felt the words “you will be compensated.” I couldn’t imagine what that meant, but for a kid who has been searching for meaning, how many more signs did I need to know I was enough? We all are enough.
The process of life and the humans we encounter can shape the lenses through which we see our world. The dynamic process of uncovering why you are here in the first place sometimes is elusive. Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist, and writer talked about the Hero’s Journey that each of us is on–the call to adventure, refusing that call at first, initiation into it, meeting and defeating our demons, and returning to tell the story. We have to enter the places we most fear, because as Campbell stated, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” By entering into the cave, we discover that grace of Confidence that pushes us further. We realize we have all we need inside us.
This is hard stuff to accept in a culture like ours, which seems so driven to get more and be more. It is challenging to emerge from experiences without victory. It was the most lonely time I can ever remember, but in one magic moment, I realized I had found a treasure. My son, Jack, on the way to school one day openly said, “Thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to go on after failure.” Fighting back the emotions while he got out of the car, I felt that presence. That amazing presence–Confidere…Confidence….with full trust that we are always on a journey to self-revelation, and to find those self-evident truths within ourselves that unite us with all of life. We are continually being compensated as long as we are willing to stay open long enough to let it shine through.
Challenge: Find a space where you can have some quiet and time to explore your heart. Close your eyes and envision that cave in your life you may be afraid to enter. Really observe the feelings that arise within you. Ask yourself, what might be the treasure waiting for you. Breathe deeply. See yourself taking that first step knowing you can trust that you will find it. The journey will be worthwhile. You are worthwhile. Open your eyes and write down what you saw. Make ready for the journey ahead! You are worthy of this journey!
Photo Credit: Vince Moro, Chadds Peak Farm