Now that we have been traveling together for six months, can I get real with you for a moment?
I am not fearless.
I have fear. I have doubt. I get insecure. I get nervous. I worry. I am shy. I am cautious. I am uncertain.
I am guessing some of you do not entirely believe me.
How do I know? Because you have told me. You have said things to me like:
“You always seem so confident.”
“You are such a strong woman.”
“You do not know what it is like to have anxiety.”
“You always seem to have it together.”
As a child, I was the one who hid behind my mom’s legs, eyes toward the floor and sucking my thumb in the presence of strangers and even family friends. I was the one who had to have my sister stay by my side when we were dropped off at a babysitter’s house because I cried for my parents. I was the one who called my parents from summer camp because I was so homesick that I wanted them to come get me.
It was just over ten years ago when I thought, “Maybe I do not have to be that person I have always been. I do not really like her. I am always angry. I am always afraid. I do not want to be those things anymore. What if I can actually choose who I want to be?” And so started a life of self-discovery.
How does one change from living a life of angry fear to calm confidence?
If you read the updated “About Me” section of this blog, you will see that I had to walk away from what I knew about God and start over. Around the same timeframe, I also had to walk away from what I knew of myself and start over. I had to start by giving myself permission to change. I also had to give myself permission to make mistakes and forgiveness in the moments when I reverted back to the “old me.” This was not a quick process. It took time.
In the beginning, I struggled to figure out how to react differently than what had been my norm. So, I tried a third person approach. With the goal of being a “Woman of Confidence,” I would look at troubling situations and say (sometimes out loud), “What would a Woman of Confidence do in this situation?”
I no longer wanted to throw vocal, red-faced temper tantrums to get my way. While this had been an effective tactic up to this point in my life, I recognized that it was an angry response that often hurt other people. A woman of confidence does not look to hurt other people to get her way. She does not manipulate situations to get her way. She does not stir up drama to get her way. She handles situations with a calm integrity, sure of her voice and her own self-worth.
Before I allowed myself to react, I pictured my imaginary character, “Woman of Confidence,” responding to my scenario. Does she walk tall, slumped forward with head down or stomping forward with clamped fists? Does she yell at the top of her lungs, immediately start crying apologetically or keep an even, calm voice? Does she fiddle with her clothes, cross her arms or keep hands calmly clasped in front of her? Does she think through her response and keep an even tone, start yelling or whisper nervously? How does a “Woman of Confidence” respond?
I had certain situations where I had to ask for time to think about how to respond, only to get back to him/her a full week later in an appropriate manner. Some situations, I had to simply walk away from and not respond at all. Other situations, I had to apologize and ask for forgiveness for my reactions and try to respond more appropriately the second time around.
Did you know that “Do not fear” and “Do not be afraid” is listed in the Bible 365 times? That is one verse for everyday of the year. But my question often remains, “I cannot just turn off fear. So, then what?”
Additionally, many Bible verses say “Take heart…” or “Take courage…” or “Be strong…” as reminders on what to do when I get afraid. But recently, I read a version that said, “Be brave” which gave me an entirely different response.
Even when I cannot turn off fear, I can be brave. Even when anxiety, doubt or insecurity overcomes me, I can be brave. Even when it feels like my world is falling apart, I can be brave.
So, what does a “Woman of Confident Bravery” do? She sets her mind for understanding, unity and compromise. She envisions how she will handle herself in the situation no matter what the other person says or does; she is not responsible for their reaction but she does have self-control for her own. She takes a deep breath, squares her shoulders and bravely walks upright (even when she wants to slump or stomp) toward conflict. She keeps her hands in front of her in a welcoming, non-defensive manner. She keeps a steady tone. She asks questions to understand. She does not argue or debate; instead, she listens and looks for unity in the response (sometimes it is a really small unity). She is willing to let go some of her own wants or expectations while maintaining her boundary of integrity to preserve relationship because she is not bound by pride or arrogance. She does not need to be right or push her own agenda. She is not offended by difference of opinion or viewpoint; in fact, she welcomes it because it leads to larger unified accomplishment if both parties are willing to brainstorm resolution.
I am not perfect in doing this. I still tragically fail, especially when I am caught off guard and the other party is pushing for an immediate answer. But a “Woman of Confidence” is willing to humble herself to apologize and ask for forgiveness. She picks herself up and tries again because confidence stops at nothing. Bravery does not give up. Sometimes it needs a cheerleader to do these things but they must be done in order to move forward again.
This has been important for me on this journey, especially in traveling solo. How will I respond when my flight is cancelled? How will I respond when my accommodations fall through? How will I respond when I cannot find someone who speaks English? How will I respond when I my plan does not happen as expected? I have to look at fear in the eyes and choose bravery, otherwise I never should have left home. The more I practice, the more confidence comes naturally. The more natural confidence comes, the freer I am.
“Tell those who are terrified, ‘Be brave; don’t be afraid. Your God will come with vengeance, with divine revenge. He will come and rescue you.’” Isaiah 35:4
“Be strong and courageous. Don’t tremble! Don’t be afraid of them! The LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He won’t abandon you or leave you.” Deuteronomy 31:6