Confidence Is Hard

I like to consider myself a creative type. There are few things that give me the kind of satisfaction that I get from taking nothing more than an idea and turning it into something tangible. In a lot of ways, that is exactly the inspiration that led to me starting this blog. Just today, I’ve spent the better part of the last two hours staring at a blank page with the intention of filling the space with words that will get some kind of reaction out of you. As anyone who has attempted a creative endeavor such as this knows, it can be a daunting challenge.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m only doing this to satisfy my own ego. After all, it’s not like I’m writing for an established publication. I have no deadlines to meet that aren’t self-imposed. I barely even have an audience at this stage of my development. When I first decided I was going to start writing a blog, it was designed as a purely self-fulfilling project. I enjoy writing. I think I’m pretty good at it. So why not just write for the hell of it? If nothing else, it would be good practice.

But then I wrote a post that was read by a lot of people (by my standards), and one that everyone genuinely seemed to enjoy. It was this one. It wasn’t one of my sports takes. Not one of my thinkpieces on society or politics. It was literally just a post detailing part of my life story.

My biggest takeaway from the feedback I got on that piece was how many people found something in it that resonated with them personally. I found a way to inspire, even if it was completely by accident. I remain extremely proud of that post, almost entirely for that reason.

I’ve written a lot since then, and nothing else I’ve posted has even come close to replicating that moment. That’s not to say that I haven’t gotten a lot of positive feedback from close relations and strangers alike. I’m always grateful to anyone who takes the time to read and comment on my work, because if I’m being honest with myself, I recognize that I’m basically a nobody in the grand scheme of things. But there are times that I wonder if that piece is always going to stand out as my one-hit wonder. My Mambo No. 5, if you will.

But then I wonder, why is that? Where does that fear come from? Why even entertain the idea that no matter what I do, I’m destined to be average? What I’m realizing after having conversations with many other creative types is that this is a feeling that is shockingly pervasive. It’s an offshoot of something called impostor syndrome, and it seems as though not even the most talented of us are immune to the grip it can impose.

Impostor syndrome has a pretty general definition. It’s essentially the self-imposed feeling that you are a fraud, even if you have evidence to the contrary. You feel like you don’t deserve your own accomplishments. Even if other people think you’re talented or admire the things that you do, you feel like you’ve somehow duped them into thinking that way.

The weird thing about my experience with this is that it hasn’t been constant. There are days where I’m actually quite full of myself. I’ll look back on things I’ve done and think to myself, “Wow, I really knocked that one out of the park. I’m so fucking good.” But the next day, I might look back at that same thing and think, “Is that the best I can do?”

It sets me up to put more pressure on myself for the next thing I do. Sometimes it’s helpful. That pressure can lead to me doing something even better. Oftentimes though, it’s an unnecessary burden that causes me to swing for the fences, and as any baseball player could tell you, it frequently happens that when you do that, you miss horribly.

Maybe you’ve been there too. I’m willing to bet at least a fraction of you have. Some days you’ll wake up with the kind of energy that has you ready to take on the world. You feel like you have the Midas touch. You can’t miss. But other days, you wake up thinking, what if I’m actually dog shit at this thing that I claim to be good at?

For me, confidence has always been a very fickle thing. But over time, I’ve found ways to fight back against doubt when it starts to creep in. Sometimes, I’ll just talk shit out loud, even if no one else is around. Actually, especially when no one is around. It’s amazing how powerful it can be to gas yourself up. The more conviction I have when I talk about how good I am, the more I believe it. Sure, there are days where that conviction is almost entirely fabricated. But even when that is the case, I find that it can be so helpful to just pump a little bit of air into my own tires.

If it’s true that we can speak things into existence – which I believe it is, at least to an extent – then tearing yourself down is one of the least productive things you can do during your moments of weakness. I don’t know exactly when it was that I convinced myself to stop doing that, but I can tell you that since then, I’ve been much better off for it. That’s not to say that I don’t have moments when I’m down on myself, but when those moments come, I feel more prepared to deal with them now.

I think part of my struggle with confidence has been the fact that I’ve been trained to believe that ego is a bad thing to have. And certainly, no one likes an egomaniac. But a healthy dose of it is not only good, it’s downright necessary. Think of some of the most successful people you know. I’m willing to bet that many of them are confident in themselves to the point that their confidence can sometimes present itself as cockiness. That might rub some people the wrong way, but I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being cocky if it’s justified.

So maybe that’s it. Maybe I feel like I haven’t yet earned the right to be confident to the point that I can truly flex on you. But you can bet your ass that I’m gonna get there. I’ll get there even if it takes years of hard work, which frankly, it probably will. What keeps me going is that I know that my ideas are strong enough that if they’re executed properly, they are going to leave an impression.

So here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna go ahead and put this post out into the world and hope that you find it to be helpful if you’re like me and you find yourself having to go toe-to-toe with your own self-doubt on a regular basis. Next, I’m going to come back again next week and continue to create. I’m going to continue to train my sights to focus on improvement instead of perfection. Perfection doesn’t exist, so why seek it? Instead, what I seek is to be unapologetically me, and for all of my work to be good enough to satisfy my own standards. There will be times that it may fall short of yours, and that’s okay.

My need to be a people pleaser and to be liked by everyone has gotten in my way. I realize that. It doesn’t mean I’m going to combat that by being a dick. At least not on purpose. That’s not who I am. But it does mean that I’m going to try to give a little bit less of a fuck about how well my posts do or how many feathers I might ruffle when I post things that are opinionated.

For all intents and purposes, I’m just getting started. I’m going to try to make it a point to embrace the building process more. There will be days where I’m less confident in myself than others. But at the end of the day, I know I have what it takes. And by the way, so do you. Don’t let yourself get in your own way. Just keep putting in the work. You’ve got this. Let’s climb this mountain together. I’ll meet you at the top.

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