As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, I have struggled with confidence for much of my life. I don’t think that highly of myself — and when I try to, it tends to backfire. I’ll attack any compliments or affirmation I give myself in my own head, going “yeah right” and offering a vigorous rebuttal that tends to land harder than the part where I tried to puff myself up.
I know it sounds exhausting. I’m exhausted by it too.
But it is what it is.
The good news is that I’ve found terrific relief by moving away from self-esteem-lifting efforts and embracing self-neutrality instead. It was a big gamechanger when I made peace with the fact that I could be just okay and still have worth. It’s true.
I found myself able to step away from those cycles of being compliment-giver and compliment-denier. The spinning nausea and sickness that accompanied this constant chatter.
Nah. No more. These days I think about my own self-worth as little as possible. And I tend to focus on connecting with other people or making something.
And since I moved cross-country not too long before the start of pandemic, I’ve spent the last few months finally making some friends. It’s always interesting making new friends, you see. They give you new windows into how you seem from the outside. And that can be quite invaluable.
One thing I wasn’t expecting was how confident I appear to people who don’t know me well. If I didn’t admit my battles with social anxiety and personal insecurity, observers would never realize. In fact, I seem very put together. And like someone who feels good about herself.
It Is Because I’m Strong Willed (a.k.a. “Stubborn”)
I asked the person who knows me best (my partner) about this disconnect — and they had some staggering insight into the matter.
“It’s because you’re strong willed,” they said.
“Yes.” With a little laugh. “Stubbornness can look an awful lot like self-love from the outside looking in.”
“What?” I said. “I don’t follow you.”
But as we continued to speak about it , the pieces began to fall into place. When you have a spine of steel that enables you to not put up with other people’s shit when they’re acting in bad faith, that looks like confidence.
It’s the same for when you’re able to hear your own inner voice about the events that are unfolding and trust it. Looks like self-confidence. Can even come off as high self-esteem.
I will say it’s weird from my perspective. Because when I take a stand, there’s no self-evaluation involved. There’s only evaluation of others and the world. And that’s why it doesn’t feel like self-love.
Perhaps on some level, it feels like self-protection? That’s the closest I can get.
(Although I find I’m often more eager to protect others than myself. I don’t typically feel a need to defend myself against attacks from people I don’t respect — and the people I respect rarely attack me.)
I suppose there’s a case there for self-protection being a form of self-love. Maybe that’s how it all ultimately hangs together.