“Doesn’t that sound like me?” My best friend Sarah looked up from her phone in between our monotonous task of packing my entire apartment into boxes. She was reading me the results from one of those extensive personality tests that you can take online, spending an hour filling in bubbles.
According to the test, her personality described a quiet shyness, her tendency to listen more than talk, and her heightened sensitivity to feeling misunderstood. As the words tumbled out, she blurted, “Here I always just thought there was something wrong with me—turns out that this is just who I am.”
I have taken far too many of those quizzes and tests. They range from the brilliant to the idiotic. What Harry Potter character are you? Who is your ideal mate? What does your favorite food say about you? What are your strengths and weaknesses? The list goes on and on.
Why have I spent hours plugging in answers to scripted questions in order to have someone tell me something about myself? That’s a really good question.
Today, society has made it very apparent that there is nothing more important than having yourself figured out. So much of what we do and our interactions with others throughout the vital teenage and young adult years and beyond are about identity. Not just the things you like, or how you cut your hair, but your gifts and flaws, your personality traits, how you carry yourself, and what you deem important.
That’s why, when they pop up on Facebook, or a class required it, or something, I cannot resist those silly personality tests. Just like everyone else, I still feel like life is an epic quest to find myself.
Understanding your personal identity is only half the battle, though. After four years of high school and four years of college, it seems I may have a pretty good grasp on what I’m good at, who I want to be, and the things I stand for. The trickier part—the part that still seems to be so elusive for so many of us—is not just understanding who we are, but liking it.
Self-confidence often seems impossible to figure out. There are so many big things that get in the way. There is the way we intrinsically compare ourselves to our friends, family, and peers. There are the impossible standards for our bodies, relationships, goals, and careers set forth by the society we live in. There is the norms of our friend groups, the pressures of our dreams, and the doubts that we will ever be good enough.
All of these hoops, all of these deterrents from having a healthy appreciation for ourselves, are lies. They just are. They demean, criticize, and crush.
Sometimes they are easy to spot and recognize how destructive they are to self-esteem and confidence. We know about the propaganda of Photoshop, the dangers of comparison, and the beauty in being ourselves. But there are other things that are draining your confidence that are much harder to recognize.
There are lies that come quietly, slip into our minds when we wake up and when we close our eyes, that masquerade as thoughts and as truth. All the while, like Sarah, they make us believe that there is something wrong with us…and that we will never be able to be confident in who we really are.
Lie #1: Life is a competition, and you’re losing.
It’s undoubtedly happened to everyone. You run into an old friend or acquaintance and you ask them how they are, and before you know it, the conversation somehow turns into a verbal wrestling match. Whether you are the culprit, or they are, every comment seems to be about one-upping each other, proving you are successful, happy, or accomplished.
We see it on Facebook all the time—we boast our proudest moments and hide the worst struggles. But there-in lies the problem. In seeing everyone else’s “winning”, we think that we are losing.
It goes beyond comparison to a zero-sum game. Because our peers are doing better than us, we aren’t just less, but nothing at all. Our confidence is shattered when we start to believe that we are on the short end of the measuring stick of worth and success.
And let’s face it—where life becomes some rivalry or competition between us and everyone else around us, where every undertaking becomes about beating someone or getting ahead, all that can result is exhaustion.
Lie #2 Being confident means you have to have it all together.
About a year ago, a mentor of mine told me she considered me to be an extremely confident person. I was absolutely shocked, because while I may have exuded self-assurance to the people around me, at the time I was heavily struggling with self-doubt.
Sometimes, the people who seem the most confident are the ones who struggle the most internally with loving who they are. Just like with the competition we all take part in, we also often wear masks to hide what is really going on behind the scenes.
Confidence is so easily equated with strength, with victory, or with knowing what you are doing. You have to be fearless, you have to be unshakeable, right?
Trying to have on the right face, trying to keep things from falling apart, when you don’t actually feel strong enough to take on the battles of the day is not confidence—it’s a show. A show with a doomed ending.[clickToTweet tweet=”LIE: Being confident means you have to have it all together.” quote=”LIE: Being confident means you have to have it all together.”]
Lie #3 Your shortcomings and mess-ups make you weak.
Just like Sarah always questioned her shy demeanor or other aspects of her personality, I have always had quirks that frustrated me. I talk too much, am uptight, run like a weirdo, and constantly make jokes that aren’t funny. I also am terrified to fail.
All of these things I have wanted to change. Just like someone who wishes for a new car or a new house to make them happy, I have sought to change myself in order to get rid of all of the things I didn’t like. Things that make me self-conscious, weak, or annoying.
But the truth is, no one wants to be perfect. No one wants to know someone who is perfect. Why? Because our shortcomings, our quirks, or weirdest personality flaws, are the things that make us human, relateable, and authentic.
We learn a little bit more about ourselves every day. We are true to the way God made us some days, and we bash and hate on ourselves the next. But of everything that I have come to understand about being confident in myself, this one thing seems to run true—[clickToTweet tweet=”LIE: Your shortcomings and mess-ups make you weak.” quote=”LIE: Your shortcomings and mess-ups make you weak.”]
I don’t want to just be confident. I want to be real.
I want to radiate that I am not perfect, I don’t always have it all together, and I don’t always win at the things I pursue…but I love myself anyways.
It isn’t the confidence itself that makes us strong, desireable, or successful. If we are honest, confidence comes and it goes. Sometimes we fall prey to the lies about ourselves and we beat ourselves up far too much.
No, what makes us strong is that we recognize instead how imperfect we are—messy, scared at times, and clueless—and choose to revel in those quirks and inadequacies. Life is not a competition, life is not a stage, and life is not list of what you have done right or wrong.
Life is a celebration. Today, celebrate in the truth that where you struggle is making you stronger, where you excel is making you shine, and you have a real head and a real heart to be confident in.