No matter how happy someone may seem, they have moments when they question if they can go on. No matter how confident someone may look, there are times when they feel unsure and insecure. And no matter how strong someone may appear, they have days when they feel like they’re falling apart. Never think for a moment you’re alone with your struggles. You’re not a mess. You’re human.
Maybe I should tape it to the wall.
This was one of many scattered thoughts I had when I received my first writing rejection email. After some initial interest from the publisher, followed up with a request for the full manuscript, the final response came back as a firm “not a fit.”
On reading this reply my mind digressed to a vision of all the writers before me and with me, all of their many rejection letters piled up as some messy fortress of paper. I know some who collect these letters like flimsy badges of honor, a reminder of their own grit and perseverance.
Well considered, I decided the tape may be a little too dramatic.
I took a few days to lay low instead, retreating inwards to lick my wounds. Although mentally prepared for the very high likelihood of this exact scenario, somehow when it actually happened, it stung in a few places I hadn’t quite anticipated. And there was something else there, something on the periphery that I couldn’t identify at first.
All of the momentum that I had about my writing up until that point seemed to temporarily disappear, some trick of evaporation. The air was captured from my sails and the boat of my life was drifting about in some eerie, windless sea. Suddenly I felt deeply lost, overwhelmed by the weight of my inertia and self-doubt.
With no compass, no guide, for days I watched this boat list, overtaken by some strange confidence impasse.
This can happen to any of us.
Often triggered by some event, rebuff, loss, divorce, or change, this sudden experience of rug pulling leaves us in the air, questioning ourselves, our lives and where we are going. It can also happen at any time we just feel stuck, when our life is pressing us to make a shift, but something persistently keeps us an arms length from action.
Now if you are in the midst of a deep loss, there will be no surface-scraping, simplistic way out of the pain you are feeling. You may need to patiently lay down in the dark for a while. My heart rests with you there.
In fact any kind of significant blow to your self-confidence requires a lot more than a few tidy paragraphs of reassurance.
The work of believing and trusting in yourself is a journey of authenticity, which you will only find at the sacred crossroads of your humanity and divinity. Knowing and continually returning to this place within you requires a certain kind of yearning and devotion.
So I offer you no neat boxes or easy explanations for this. No shortcuts. What I extend now are some breadcrumbs, starting points of curiosity to move you forward:
Move to the ground of a larger perspective.
This was the first thing my inner wisdom told me after this recent rejection letter experience.
Walk your butt to higher ground, girl.
Hike that mountain and sit there for a while. Do not attempt to gloss over your feelings in some form of impatient stuffing, but cradle those feelings with a perception of the larger cycles of your life.
Let the expanse of the view from the top remind you of who you are and what really matters. Let the stardust in your veins burn a little, sparking a memory of where you come from. With the sight of an eagle, let your vision reach the broad open spaces of your life, the edges of possibility. There are updrafts waiting for you there.
Learn from your self-talk instead of letting it suck you down.
We may not feel it at the time but there is actually more intelligence and clarity to a confidence crisis than we may initially perceive. It unflinchingly brings to the surface what our confidence truly rests on, what it has always been resting on, exposing its real strength.
Or weakness for that matter. It gives us the opportunity to once again mine for jewels in our own swamplands, to do the dirty work of exposing our stories, beliefs, and the thought patterns that act as our biggest influencers.
Surprisingly my brief confidence crisis completely bypassed all of the usual negative chatter of the “you aren’t any good” variety and went straight to “why bother?” Why bother with this entire endeavor at all?
Beyond the initial blast of discouragement, I could feel some wisdom seeping through. Because for the few months leading up to this submission I had been pushing myself too hard, meandering away from my center. I could feel that it was actually exhaustion more than anything else that was really fueling this “why bother” feeling.
What flavor of self-talk is arising for you right now and what does its voice have to tell you about your true motivations? Seeing the deeper function in failure, it prods you to reassess and ask, “does this doing continue to feel worthwhile?”
Identify the voice of your ego.
Can you pick it out among the others? It is the part of us that gets particularly squirmy in these situations.
There is no doubting the overall purpose and usefulness of having an ego but sometimes it can turn into a serious overlord. Take time to discern the woundedness of your ego and the way its injured voice wants to influence you. Intricately intertwined with your ideas around success and worthiness, its disappointment will eat your insides out if you let it.
Because the truth is, your ego makes a lousy lighthouse and it might never feel quite satisfied with anything you do.
Practice self-love and forgiveness.
Yes, self-love can feel like such an overused, kumbaya word.
Yes, when you are in the throws of feeling like a terrible failure self-love may be the last thing on your mind.
But as you begin to slowly claw your way back to life, remember that self-love is always waiting for you. It rests in the shadowy fringes and unheard whispers reminding you that it never left.
The baby steps of self love, compassion, and forgiveness ask you to remember your small successes from the past. They wish for you to draw strength from these memories and feelings, to drink this fortitude into your core. Then they encourage you to take some tiny actions in your present life, to begin to rebuild the continuum of confidence within you. You must return to this continuum frequently, letting it grow with its own natural momentum.
Continue to cultivate a more genuine experience and expression of confidence moving forward.
So many of us are walking around with a confidence that is entirely based on the acceptance or praise given by others. These “others” might include your family, your friends, your co-workers, work in general, or the collective culture you swim in. Orienting, even unconsciously, from the power given by others ends up being an extremely unpredictable and fragile way to live.
We may think that we have plenty of confidence but with the slightest bump in the road we are suddenly shaken to our core, white knuckles grabbing for any meager reassurance we can find.
At the heart of this temporary lapse in confidence lies an opportunity to explore what authentic confidence really means to us. Not in its aggressive, overbearing, overcompensating version but a confidence that is truly rooted in your inner knowing and trust- a returning to yourself over and over again.
A few days into my own confidence crisis, an impressive wind storm moved through my neighborhood. Taking a walk in the forest after it had passed, I witnessed so many trees down, exposing the places where they were secretly rotting or weak inside. It was in this place, blown about and broken down, that I began to perceive the way my own storm was moving through me, cleaning, cleansing, and testing the resolve of my roots.
You may not perceive it at the time but you have been growing your inner resources while being sent adrift. In the helpful questioning that this disorientation brings, you have been presented with an opportunity to wisely sift. Like a gigantic comb working its way through your tangles and blocks, now you can more clearly discern the truths of your life.
Touching into the hidden strength contained in your roots, you know there will be more life storms, for there always are. But in the freshness that comes after these tempests, we find a deepening in our understanding and the hush of what remains within us still.