May 17th, 2005
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random notes on confidence

It is elusive.
elusive, def. hard to catch or grasp, as in: The solution to the problem proved more elusive than they first thought.
Flitting in and out in waves like the breath of an asthmatic person.
When it leaves your body you think it is gone for good. When it comes back, you can’t imagine yourself without it ever again.
It is the fuel that makes you walk down the street marvelling at your powerful existence. You can see people responding to that thing that has lit up your eyes from inside.
It’s absence is the thing that leaves you balled up in the fetal position sobbing and hoping your neighbors don’t decide to drop in just now.
You can fabricate it using external sources, but confidence that comes in this way is fleeting and riddled with holes like an afgahn quilt. Because once the external source is removed you are left with yourself once again. Many years ago I believed that a book deal would fix it all and I would never be lacking in confidence again. Not so my dears.
I have never met another adult human who didn’t struggle with feeling good about themselves in some way. I have never met another artist who does not at some point feel like what they are doing is futile, like their work sucks.
I have never met a child who was not proud of a drawing they did, eyes beaming with excitement, they care not for unimportant details, they will do another masterpiece tomorrow, and another the day after that. I have never met a child who was hesitant to tell you of their accomplishments. (Eight year old Samantha just rode up on her bike to tell me she was performing in a talent show tonight and we were invited to watch.)
Where does that self consciousness come from?
When did I begin making sideways glances at other women public restrooms? The roots of it all lie here somewhere. At some point we all start to notice that Julie Barnes has nicer shoes than me. At some point we start to feel that we will be better if we get shoes like Julie Barnes. And what we don’t see is that Julie Barnes goes home at night and cries herself to sleep because Mark Ryder called her ‘flatty patty’, a label that would stick with her the rest of her life as a small breasted woman, (her image of her sexuality forever tainted by an eleven year old boy who liked her but didn’t know how to say so.)
Life is funny that way. Some of our insecurities came about because someone was intimidated by our talents or abilities and didn’t know how to tell us the truth.
I will tell you now that I am unsure of how to lure confidence back when it wanes, as it is apt to do. I used to think that I knew the answers to these things, (it’s amazing how many people write me saying they are going through a crisis of confidence). It is a difficult thing to learn to love yourself. The person you are when all of the outside stuff is stripped away. I can think of a hundred quotes that offer cliches to this effect. None of them really work when you are on your knees for whatever reason.
The thing that is helping me more than anything else is talking to friends about what I am going through, sharing my humaness no matter how ugly it can be at times. I have not been able to do this well in the past. Lately I have been showing people sides of myself that were hidden for years. The insecure places, angry places, fearful places, sad places. Instead of forcing myself to project that confident front all of the time (I always want to show people how strong I am, often displaying my career accomplishments out in front of me as a distraction). Lately I have been saying to friends (I am smirking as I write this), “Guess what? I’m fucked up too.” I feel strangely freed by it, my relationships stronger. And it is a challenge of confidence that has pushed me to this place.
Oh the irony of it all.

 
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