Since project reverb in December, I realized I haven’t actually written that much about myself. Mostly it’s been commentary about things I’ve come across…things that illicit a reaction. But this has been something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. And so…I share :).
I grew up having very little of it…confidence that is. And I’ve ever been very good at verbally expressing myself. I’m an emotional, fairly sensitive, person, and once I get into a discussion that taps into that side of myself, I can feel the heat rising in my body, and the clouds overtaking my thoughts. I literally cannot think straight. I’m so overwhelmed with the emotions and how they physically manifest in my body, that having a coherent, intelligent discussion in that state (or more likely an argument) are generally out of the question. It’s part of the reason I was a debate judge and not a debater. I was very good at analyzing other’s arguments – as a spectator – but not very good at publicaly presenting my own :).
I’ve always been plagued by what others might think, or how someone might perceive me. It’s gotten exceedingly better as I’ve grown (alhamdu lillah), but I’ve always worried if I was smart enough, or pretty enough, or polite enough, etc…you get the picture 🙂 I wondered these things because instead of focusing on all the times someone made me feel positive about myself, I obsessed over the (thankfully) fewer times people didn’t. In retrospect – it probably led to a lot of problems – not just for me, but for others. You think you’re sparing someone’s feelings by not being direct and honest about your own, only to later realize the harm it can potentially cause for everyone involved. Not to mention, I think it made me sort of a doormat for a long time…
Often times, in a more personal context, I’m too distracted by the tears streaming down my face (in anger or sadness, or sometimes…for no good reason! (stupid hormones!)) that I’ve lost all hope of saying anything meaningful, and am easily overtaken in a discussion. The end result is I feel even less confident in myself and my own thoughts – because I may have started out having the better argument or ideas, but I was just so frustrated at my inability to express them that I ended up feeling like an incompetent (emotional) fool. I think I also censure myself because I’m worried I’ll say something I can’t take back, which I guess can be a good thing, at times. In all honesty, there are really only a handful of people I can be completely open, and honest and vulnerable with…that I can speak to without fear of judgement – where the words flow effortlessly (and coherently :)).
Surprisingly, the only place this didn’t happen was at school (grad school in particular) or work. Maybe it’s the formality, or the lack of that personal context that made me a different person in those environments. I think that’s part of why I miss(ed) it so much once I stayed home. I really struggled with this for a long time, (perhaps I still do on some level). I was assertive and I miss being that confident, intelligent, well-liked person. When emotions aren’t involved, I could think on my feet – I could articulate about what I know. Now, my brain feels like mush. Maybe it’s being distracted, maybe its being out of practice, or maybe it’s just that my life experiences currently revolve around my little ones and being at home, and as amusing as one story is about my kid getting a bead stuck up his nose, I’d like to spare people (particularly those who don’t have children – and who don’t care), all the other “stories” about my kids. Honestly, even I get sick of it. I LIVE it, I don’t necessarily need to rehash every detail. When I’m with other people (mother’s or not), I want to feel like there is more to me than just this one aspect of who I am. But I find that once I’m in those situations, particularly with people who are at different phases in their own lives, I am at a loss, and I can feel my confidence slipping away because I feel like I have so little to offer.
I remember (years ago), when job interviewing, I gave some pretty damn good interviews. Even I was impressed with myself! It was almost…fun, and it really helped my confidence, because I know on some level, in some place, I could be that person – the one I so often admired in other people. Maybe when I’m arguing with my friends or family or spouse I’m a babbling idiot, but at work or creating & presenting a project I put every effort into – I could be a rock star if I wanted. But alas, I no longer belong to either circle, which isn’t to say that you can’t be confident and strong and assertive being at home or being a mother. But for me, I guess for a long time, I couldn’t figure out how to be without those outside things. Those were easy markers for me, and it came naturally in that particular context, and when they were taken away (by my own willful doing) I personally struggled to find an alternate way to fill that void.
So…I write 🙂 Privately and publicly – because it affords me the luxury and the time of expressing myself without the outside pressure of thinking on my feet while dealing with my emotions. I think that’s why I love writing so much. I know I’m not terribly good at it – and I envy those who are, because it’s a talent I greatly admire. But, ultimately, it was never about that. The more I write, the more confident I am in my thoughts and ideas – and that, thankfully, those thoughts and ideas even exist! 🙂 When I first started blogging, I found myself censuring myself a bit. Actually I still censure myself because somethings are too private to share. But I found myself worrying about what my writing would convey about me – would I sound stupid, or frivolous, or too dark, or would I sound like a fraud – talking about things I was certainly no expert about. In my first few attempts at public writing, I found myself editing and re-editing – like I was writing some sort of academic paper or formal document. I wanted to get it “right”. But I realized, this wasn’t about other people and it wasn’t about perfection – it was about me – flaws and all. I think what’s left of the perfectionist in me had a hard time with that – admitting flaws. Not worrying about it being “just right”. Not dotting every “i” and crossing every “t”. There’s a beauty and freedom in accepting one’s fallibility & vulnerability (and being ok with letting others see it)- and realizing they can co-exist with all the wonderful things about you as well. One doesn’t necessarily need to negate the other, and over time I found myself caring less and less about what others think, and focused more about figuring out, organizing, and unveiling my own thoughts – to myself first and foremost, and to others second.
And once I started doing that – I found it so…freeing. The more I had a medium to express myself and practiced organizing my thoughts, the more confident I became in the fact that I can HAVE and express intelligent, thoughtful ideas – and do it in a way that still is true to who I am. It’s funny how something as simple and inconsequential as a blog – probably one that not even many people read 🙂 has had such a positive effect on other aspects of myself. I found it inadvertently lead me down the path towards other fulfilling, confidence building “actitives” as well…thankfully some that are also of help and benefit to others iA, which offers a different type of satisfaction and reward altogether, alhamdu lillah.
Ultimately, I’ve come to the realization that it’s so important to nurture anything – any outlet for expression…no matter how futile it might seem, that gives you some level of fulfillment and confidence in yourself. I never really gave much credence to hobbies before. They seemed inconsequential, something you do when you have the luxury of time. A perk – but not a necessity. But I realize they’re so much more than that and in some ways an absolute necessity – especially for mothers, and even more so for mothers who stay at home. The self-sacrificing, while noble, is not just physically, but emotionally exhausting and it takes its toll – and the fruits of one’s efforts won’t be seen for years to come iA. And while that’s easy to logically wrap my mind around, it makes day-to-day life really difficult. Anything that you get to practice, anything that can transform that effort into excellence, anything that helps you express yourself, that instills pride, anything that provides you with small doses of perfection in an imperfect world, is necessary for nurturing one’s being. Small doses of what seem like selfishness, actually make for a more selfless person, and in this case a selfless mother. For me, that’s one I’m still struggling to convince myself about. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s a truth I keep reminding myself about.
So that’s the lesson of the day boys and girls 🙂 With so much negativity around us, everyone needs an outlet that allows them to see themselves in a positive light. And subhan Allah, the confidence one gets from even the smallest of tasks ultimately shows through in other aspects of one’s life. So practice your art, your craft, your cooking, your baking, your writing, your sports, or whatever outlet brings you self-satisfaction – and brings you closer to knowing something about yourself, and enjoy the confidence and pride that expression and embracing something to the point of excellence bring.