The idea that you start to realize your full potential in your 30s, becoming more confident, sure of yourself, and thus more attractive, is one that I believe that many of us hope for. When I turned 30, I hoped that some magic switch would be flipped, and I would wake up feeling good about myself. The morning of my 30th birthday, I felt a sense of disappointment; self confidence can’t be turned on and off just because you get a little older.
That said, I know that I have come into my own in the last 5 years. I find myself speaking up, asking for what I want, need, or think is right without worrying about how others might perceive me a lot more. My biggest risk in taking care of myself is when I got the guts up to leave a job that I knew would not make me happy in the long run, as I recounted in my previous blog posting.
When I was younger, I was much more averse to putting myself out there for possible rejection or worse, indifference. Perhaps you are the kind of person who has always spoken up for yourself, and I say, “Kudos to you.” But if you’re like me, and I’m guessing there are a lot of people who are, you haven’t been comfortable to brave the world of chance too much. My deepest fear was, and if I’m honest with myself, still is, that I will be rejected or passed over because of who I am. Step by step and risk by risk I’m getting over that.
Recently, I’ve taken a couple of other risks that make me understand how far I’ve come in terms of my self-confidence.
The loss: I had an internship in San Francisco with an organization that works on a premise and with a goal that I can put myself 100% behind. If you don’t know me, I am the kind of person who works best when I’m putting my values into practice. For a few weeks, I had been contemplating proposing a paid communications position for myself. I believed that with my skills and passion, I would be an excellent fit for the organization. The only drawback was that I had only been doing communications for a short amount of time. An inspired thought popped into my head one night: there was another intern who had more practical skills, but didn’t have my educational background or knowledge about communications. That next morning, I asked her if she would be interested in joining together to propose a shared position with the organization. We put our heads together and came up with a strategy. Within the week, we made our pitch.
Sadly, a couple of weeks later, I received an email explaining that I did not have the skills for the position. In addition, I could choose whether or not to continue on with the internship. The other intern got a part time job. This was a huge blow to my ego for a number of reasons, but I won’t go into them here. The bottom line is that right away, I knew that I needed to be proud of the fact that I put myself out there; I would not have done something like that two years ago. While I still have some emotions about how the exchange took place, I can say that I am happy that I did it. The blow hurt, but I can bounce back.
The win: This story might seem silly in comparison to The Loss, but it makes me realize that you have to celebrate the victories, no matter how small, and move on from the losses as quickly as you can no matter how big. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a rash in one area on my back, just under the tagless label on a maternity bra that I bought in December. I told my husband that I thought that the rash was related to the tagless tag (a printed label somehow ironed on the inside of the bra), and he dismissed it. It seemed like a coincidence.
However, the next day I decided that I would do a quick search to see if anyone else had the same issue. Lo and behold, there was a whole thread of complaints related to this particular bra and people’s allergic reactions. I called the store where I bought the bra and spoke to the manager. Her response was a little surprising, “If we returned everything that people had an allergic reaction to, then…” as if my reaction wasn’t important. She did tell me that I should contact corporate, so I did. Soon enough, I had a corporate representative speaking to the bra manufacturer, a bra manufacturer calling me to try to understand the issue better, and a new bra. Perhaps my complaint will make a difference for someone else. I sure hope so.
I’ve hear that it’s the little things that count. Appreciate the little things, people always say. I understand this more and more. Sometimes we don’t win the big battles. Sometimes we don’t get what we want. This only makes the times that we put ourselves out there and get something in return sweeter.
Maybe it’s this realization that creates confidence. I know that I want to grow older gracefully, to be proud of my accomplishments, and to bask in the satisfaction of having achieved something good. Perhaps this means working on celebrating all the victories and moving on from wallowing in self pity.