I used to think that confidence emerged from success. That if I pulled off enough, was rewarded and awarded enough, I would finally feel what I’d been missing in my life: a sense that I was enough. If I aimed high enough and got there, I’d find something up there that could give me the inner buoyancy that lets life seem easy, that could keep me afloat above all the things that dragged me down before.
In the course of pursuing that vision of confidence, I started a startup that failed, landed me in a tremendous amount of debt, and left me a little stumped. I had lots to show for it – shit, I did learn how to code after all – but I’d ultimately failed to do the biggest, scariest, hairiest thing I aspired to. After a couple years of tentatively pursuing more startup-shaped things, I decided to drop pretty much all of it. Something didn’t seem right about this path, or about the way I was trying to find my path. In hindsight, I was chasing a fantasy. Not just through startups, but in accepting my model of confidence as simply being the experience of finding success and accomplishment. I was chasing a fantasy where what I did could give me what I’d been deprived of and what I was continually depriving myself of: the sense that I was enough.
In hindsight, you can tell it was a fantasy, because I believed that if I just did the right thing, it would obviate all the needs I had and problems I felt before.
It’s a fair fantasy, though. You’d think a sense of self-worth could emerge from seeing your actions manifest and recognized as dope; just by calling it “self-worth,” it’s easy to see how you might get that idea. But a lasting sense of self-worth has more inauspicious roots, I’ve found.
Maybe, I began to wonder, I could feel like enough because I am, as a human, enough. Worthy, lovable, flawed enough. It’s a semantic truth; something obvious a priori. I could feel like enough simply because everyone is enough, and then I could challenge all the beliefs I have that erode my belief in my inherent self-worth. Things we all pick up from parents, or on the playground, or from your own internal critic, or who knows where.
I suppose that’s what I began to do, quite haltingly. The way it looked was: I was extremely stuck and depressed, and just kept fucking moving. I had a therapist who helped me keep things fucking moving. I ran down so many problems that I defied myself to no longer try to escape, but to live with, and work through.
The full list of said problems is not currently published, but is available upon request to interested parties.
Safe to say that none of those things got resolved with a tidy bow on top, even. Pretty much all of it I’m working through actively, even still. Even the Achilles surgery I underwent at the beginning of the year has ways of reminding me it’s still resolving itself – like when my scar cracks and reopens from physio.
The full catalogue of photos of my Achilles surgical wounds is not currently published, but is available upon request to interested parties.
In gleefully jumping into the rose bush, I seem to have developed a different idea of what confidence means. Now, I think confidence is an attitude, not a result: it’s the belief that you’ll make it work, no matter how fucked up things get. It’s the faith that you’ll get things right, eventually. It is about stumbling and it is about thriving, and everything in the middle.
Condifence doesn’t make the old problems disappear instantly. But they can disappear, in the way that if you travel far enough, you can find new stars in the sky. Embracing the deeply fucked up stuff you wish you could simply escape without work is really the only way forward, though. And it will only send you to a future where you have (different) problems, where people may still get mad at you, where you still want for things you don’t have.
I feel confident now. Not because everything is perfect, or because I accomplished something big enough to make all my past failures and successes seem small, but because I know that I can find my way to what matters, no matter how long or painful the path is to get there.
Why am I so sure of that? Because there is nothing and never will be anything at the outset. Only the struggle counts; in fighting, we find who we must become.