One of the things I’ve never had is confidence. I wilt easily. I have spent my life making sure I am out of other people’s way, whether that be a church or in traffic. My sweet boss from my last job managed to get it on every performance review: “You have no confidence in your work.” Yes, I know. I’m accustomed to being wrong and defaulting to someone with a louder voice, more experience – basically anyone but me.
There was a girl in my high school named Kristen who was the most confident person I had ever come across. Her dark hair resembled a squirrel’s nest, her teeth could have been a dental case study, and her figure would best be described as lumpy. She was, in a word, ugly. More so, she had a grating personality to go with it: loud, slightly obnoxious, and a really annoying laugh. I say this not as an insult, but to say none of this registered with her.
No one would have given her a second look. But in Kristen’s mind, she was a runway model. She walked – no, strutted – through the hallways of high school as if she was a tall leggy blond who had modeling agencies breaking down her door. The football players did their best at making fun of her, mostly by imitating the annoying laugh she had. To a less confident girl, it would be torture. But to Kristen, she saw it as flirting. She’d laugh and smile and say, “Oh stop, you’re so annoying!” while giggling, egging them on. The old saying of “all press is good press” summed up Kirsten’s outlook on life.
“They’re not flirting with you, they’re making fun of you,” I wanted to say, but never did. She acted like she could have her pick of any guy and simply chose none of them. She eventually got a boyfriend in another town and used this fact to remind all the popular guys she was off the market. The entire school knew about Kristen’s boyfriend because she managed to bring it up in every conversation.
Even the cheerleaders – who were beautiful creatures – did not possess an ounce of confidence Kristen had. Kristen did what she wanted when she wanted and yes, she said what she said. You can see yourself out if you didn’t recognize her awesomeness. Everyone threw obstacles at her and she just stepped right over them, laughing as she did so. No one defined Kristen but Kristen.
While I made high honor roll every semester, Kristen did not. Nonetheless, we worked the same job in high school. I remember struggling with a procedure on the computer, but Kristen picked it up right away and then explained it to me several times when I couldn’t get it, with her usual confidence, but never once talked down to me or rolled her eyes at my gross incompetence.
I wonder how she got her confidence. Was in inborn? Did life put her through a crucible and this was the refinement? Here I am, twenty some-odd years later, and despite all the life experience, do not have the confidence of teenaged Kristen.
I wonder what she’s doing now. I wonder if her confidence has grown over years or if life squashed it out of her?
Here, on the cusp of forty, I need more confidence in all areas of life. I live like I’m still in my twenties, yet I’m experiencing hot flashes regularly now. Social media reminds me to sit down and shut up because I have the wrong outlooks on all the hot button issues of the day.
A more confident me would channel Kristen, but I am so darn sensitive to everything, my instinct is to get out of the way and camouflage into the background.
But then again, maybe that’s where the Lord intended me to be: out on the periphery like the desert mothers of the early church.
In permaculture, the margins are the key to everything: it’s where the most diversity comes out and is the reason the interior does so well.
As I continue to build up the soil in my garden, I hope to build more confidence in myself, even if it’s only above a whisper, to stand tall and step out of the shadow and into the sun.