Confidence is not something we readily talk about yet it is what enables us to succeed in all areas of life. We seek confidence without really realizing we are doing so and there are so many influences affecting that one simple most important part of us.
When I was in first grade the teacher at the beginning of each day instructed the class to form a single file line and pass by her desk. She examined us. Looked at our fingernails. Made us open our mouths to see if we had brushed our teeth. Looked at our shoes checking if those were polished. Checked our hair to be sure it had been washed and combed. In one corner she had created what she called a “pig pen”. If one of us did not measure up we were sent to the pig pen to stand for a long period of time before the class, which always snickered at those of us sent to the pig pen. Invariably I was sent along with two other girls. Really poor girls who lived in a ramshackle old service station. Their living conditions I can only imagine were not great yet they were very sweet girls. Sisters.
One was crippled, a result of a disease, yet that did not prevent the teacher from sending her to the pig pen along with her sister and me. We were the usual three. It was mortifying and to this day, even in my older years the affects of that daily embarrassment remain with me.
It more or less destroyed each day and more or less ruined what little confidence I was trying to build at a young age. She had no clue nor did she care what I may have gone through before stepping on the school bus. She didn’t bother to know. She sat at her desk in her superior, larger-then-life stature beaming at us. Enjoying our misery and embarrassment.
If it had not carried over to my home life, I may have been more readily able to overcome the insecurities the pig pen prompted. There wasn’t time for any type of encouragement or acknowledgment, both parents were under the burden of trying to run a farm. Just the two of them. There just wasn’t time to be bothered much even though I feel they intended well. There was always tension which the teacher had no way of knowing that perhaps I had been awaken at the wee hours of the morning hearing my Mother loose it in her high pitched screaming voice. Belittling my Dad who would take it just so long. Then a fight would ensue. Talk about affecting how a child views the world or the day. Who cares if the nails are not perfectly clean or the teeth brushed…the morning was something to try to survive. Boarding the bus was a dread. School was a dread although I so loved to learn new things. To read. I would do my best once on the bus to find a way to clean my nails, adjust my hand-me-down clothing to be as perfect as possible. All in an effort to maybe just maybe not be sent to the pig pen.
Success comes sometimes without confidence however it is much more difficult to obtain. People want to be around confident people. People who know who they are and their talents. Yet most talented people are multi talented and that brings about what to do with all that talent thus somewhat confusing and conflicting to one’s confidence.
Then there are those who are born to wealth. They seem to arrive with confidence. Seems to run through the bloodline. One time I attended a seminar with a good friend born to wealth. Fortunate enough to live in a trust fund thus no real worries. The seminar was led by a well known motivational speaker. We both read his book and while my friend did lack a bit of confidence, it was nothing by comparison to others. The speaker walked up and down the aisles selecting people to come to the stage. The quest was to find those who felt they were aristocrats, others who viewed themselves normal every day people. It was to demonstrate how one feels about themselves. How to gain confidence. I had so hoped he would select me. I had reached a level of success…wore the clothing. Had manicured nails…yes clean nails. Had a perfect hair cut and generally felt I looked the part of the aristocrat. Certainly a long way from the pig pen of first grade. My friend on the other hand was not even as well dressed as me, yet he did have on a very expensive belt. An expensive shirt and such. The speaker selected him with out hesitation not even giving me a glance. I felt I had been sent to the pig pen again. And of course on stage….my friend was identified the aristocrat as he was born.
Living in the south of the United States, the common thing one does when meeting someone is look them over from head to toe. It is subtle yet it is done and one such as me, is very, very aware of the appraisal. It is as if one is deciding whether or not the other party is worthy of their conversation. Their time. Their friendship. It is clearly a sizing one up. It doesn’t happen so much in the other parts of the country or Europe where labels and trappings are not a determination of character value.
Then there are the subtle things that people do without knowing. They gain a bit of success and suddenly no one else is capable. No one else is a good writer. No one else is as important or as well known. They forget to reach back for the very ones who walked beside them to gain that success. It harms the confidence of the one who offered the path. It seeps in as a bit of belittlement which tarnishes the confidence one has as a writer, an artist, a business person. It is really sad that some can not gain success or come close to it without feeling the need to present themselves as better then others.
It is quite common in the small town where I currently live. There is the befriending of people until they have what they want or need, then that person is tossed aside as if to be set out for trash day or sent to the pig pen. It is after all the South. It does a number on the confidence of a person yet with each day, we must remember we are each special and each has abilities.
We must discover those abilities daily and even if we have to walk alone, we must do it with our heads held high. Our shoulders back. We must realize that those who belittle us, those who use us, those who enjoy our downfalls or snicker if we are in the pig pen, it is those people who are not worthy of our time. Nor are they worthy of enjoying our talents, our successes, our money…they are unfortunately like that first grade teacher having the need to feel superior. And then again maybe they lack, truly deeply lack confidence. So we must walk our walk with a smile and compassion knowing we have been the very best to ourselves and to others. In the end that is where confidence lies…..it is the knowing we have done all we can do and we have done so with grace. With compassion. We have reached back for those who have helped us along the way and we, without insecurity can support them on their path, as well, regardless whether or not they pass us on the path. It is the knowing who we are. It is not the teacher with the painted fingernails pointing to the pig pen. Or the friend who is making mega bucks who forgets your name. Or the guy who is suddenly published yet can not acknowledge any help. Or the people who sought ones help only to get it, then offer no thank you or further association. It is not any of them. It is only being true to oneself and living a life of fulfillment spiritually, intellectually and compassionately. That is where we find confidence.