Lessons in Confidence

My 6-year-old daughter came screaming into the house as I put the final dinner dishes in the dishwasher. The clang of the appliance gate clattering our dirty tableware met the front door of the house as it burst open with my child’s wail. Startled, I asked if someone had been hurt.

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My daughter sobbed through her story – a misunderstanding on a bike ride with her brother and it had escalated to a crisis. I have a sensitive child. She goes from happy kid to sobbing in seconds and it can be immobilizing for everyone. It’s often challenging to find the cause of it. It takes time for her to re-center. On the bike ride, she got her directions turned around. She got scared they were lost.

“I have a feeling no one in the world has ever felt!” she cried.

“And what feeling is that?” I asked.

“Confidence losing.” she said. More tears: big and fat rolling waves from a deep well inside. “I lost my confidence and I’ll never get it back.”

I felt the impulse to jump in and tell her that losing confidence is something everyone faces and it’s a normal part of life. I thought for a split second that sharing a story about all the ways I’ve lost confidence would help. In that moment, however, I decided to just let her feel it. I held a space for her experience. I tried to offer a compassionate ear and unconditional heart. She expressed her feelings and calmed down.

I have found (through a lot of trial and error!) when I listen during a meltdown instead of trying to fix it right away, we have helpful and solution based conversations. I know I’m helping her gain confidence. I refuse to make her sensitivity wrong. Instead, I hope to empower it.

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At bedtime, I shared with her a few times I’d lost my confidence, how I had to practice so many times before I felt confident. We agreed she can practice until she’s stronger.

The experience stuck with me. We hear a lot of disembodied motivational quotes and watch inspirational success stories, but how often do we think of the minutia? The day-to-day grind of practice and commitment required to achieve our goals and dreams? How quickly we lose our own sense of confidence and accomplishment over trivial things.

The process of idea to actualization can be a roller coaster of doubt and uncertainty. Sometimes we fail. We have to start over from the beginning or scrap a plan entirely. Sometimes the things we’re asking for do not happen. Some things manifest, but the results are so different from what we expected or hoped that we wonder why we ever even asked for it.

Lately I’ve come to a new understanding for myself. I don’t ever fail, no matter how it appears in the moment. If I don’t get the results I’m after, I know I can look at the situation from a different angle. I can let go and ask what else is possible. If I’m still working on myself and choosing happiness despite imperfection, then I’m never failing. It’s a judgement I’m no longer willing to abuse myself with.

I hope to be this example for my daughter. I hope that by learning this for myself, I can impart it to her.

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