Stephanie has invited me to do a piece about confidence. Am I confident enough I wonder? Go on then!
Confidence, I have recently learned, comes from one’s self esteem and feeling of self-worth. This is developed in (about) the 4th year of life when we experience how significant we are to our parents, or care givers. To be dear to someone, to have closeness and connection. Eventually, through adolescence and then when we become adults, we learn that we can create this very connection with ourselves, and become self-aware, to believe in ourselves, to support ourselves, stand on our own two feet.
Of course, we all know the notion of “having one’s confidence knocked”. That is when we momentarily doubt our self-worth. Mostly because of a situation or circumstance where we, erroneously, compare ourselves to others. We forget our own significance within.
The good news is that confidence (self-esteem, self-worth) can be learned and can be expanded upon, and the brain circuits that harbour our self-love can be built and strengthened, like a muscle. We do this through trial and error, and eventually mastery. Mastery is the time when you try something and it works, you have conquered the task you have set for yourself. You have proven to yourself that you can do it.
Alcohol, as we all know, is a crux to many that gives an illusion of confidence, a potion that can temporarily take away uncertainty, anxiety or pain and give an impression of something else. Take away the alcohol that one is used to, this likely creates the same old fears we tried to mask in the first place.
That is when your mastery starts. You learn to acknowledge your own significance, that you can be fierce, that you are worth the full human being that you are, with all your experiences, all your trials and tribulations, your strengths and weaknesses. Warts and all.
The confidence to put down the booze and look hard at who you are is scary, and it was for me like I had to learn to walk again. I truly felt like a bambi stumbling around in the forest, trying desperately not to fall over. But like a young child or animal, I tried all the same. And found I can hold myself up. And with that, I could move, and explore. And the more I explored, the steadier I was on my previously shaky pegs. A certain stubbornness to carry on appeared within me.
I mastered standing up and I liked the feeling. Initially I kept that to myself because I was not sure if I was to tumble the next day. I did not, and with each day my determination, and my curiosity increased.
After a while I had the guts to tell my friends, my people- hey, I do not drink, anymore. This was met by most with a ‘good on ya’, by some with a weary smirk, by others with ‘come on Caro, just the one’. But mainly it was greeted with love and encouragement. So, I connected with like-minded people, drew strength from my tribe and those who love me and could eventually put my head up in the air and walk tall.
I do not drink.
I dropped the ‘anymore’ because that had connotation to what once was. I do not drink had a fabulous ring to it. A powerful, mysterious, energetic allure.
As time went by, I noticed that my mind and body also picked up on confidence. Away fell tiredness, grumpiness, irritability, gloomy thoughts, ever looming self-doubt.
In their place came clarity, alertness, energy, a sharp view of who I was, and what I wanted.
The body followed suit, skin grew smoother, hair less straggly, teeth whitened, thighs tightened.
I never much saw wrinkles in my face before but those that had been there now seemed to be part of me, and they were beautiful. They suddenly marked my wisdom, my experience.
With time not spent drinking, being drunk or hungover or mulling when the next drinking session is coming along, suddenly there was plenty of opportunity to discover what else was out there. I started dating ( with medium success but got the one or other high fives out of it, the jury is still out there in this one, but never mind), got myself a (foster) dog and with that learned how to chat to people I met on endless walks, started running again, tried out new and old sports, started and stopped singing (seriously, it’s better that way) and I went on a reading Odyssey. I looked forward to catching up with friends & family for outings, dinners, or anything totally awake, happy and with the knowledge that I could drive myself home. That is because the evening was out or, when I was (at times) slightly bored of (drunken) people repeating themselves or becoming, erm, dull. I attended meetings on time, remembered important dates, remembered mostly everything I needed to do, and did it. And I slept, boy, did I sleep! I still do make sure I get my sleep.
I found confidence to speak my mind, to be sad, to be fearsome, to be ecstatic, to be me. I found courage to jump and leave my old job that was dragging me down, sapping all my soul, and start afresh. I accepted I can live with less money, all I need now other than essentials the odd new jeans or trainers, and time and money to travel. I was like a kid in a ball pool that suddenly encountered colour, texture, touch, smell all at once.
Two and a something years in, I look back and cannot believe how much I have gained. Freedom, soul, resilience, knowledge, courage, compassion, laughter, energy.
Of course, there are days that are shit. I cry. I am tired. I fail. I berate myself. I drop in confidence. But they are few, and when I notice that something is not quite right, then I look it in the eye and do something about it. I act, and I take responsibility. Do I still have to address areas in my life that need adjusting? Afraid so. Do I have to acknowledge that I am at times not the person I wish to be? Absolutely. Do I sometimes disappoint? Probably. Do I make mistakes. Sure. But that’s life. As ancient wisemen say, life comes with pain and suffering. But what I now know, by giving up the booze, is that it’s a whole lot more enjoyable to wade through the rough when you have a clear head and a vision to match and spare love to give.
I am significant to myself, so I can now share whatever I have with others and learn from and get inspired by what is, and those around me. And that is who I like to be.