I have confidence in confidence alone.
I love this song from The Sound of Music movie and didn’t know until very recently that it was an addition to the original Broadway show. It’s hilarious to me that Julie Andrews decided the best way to sing it was to go completely nuts with “panic and fear and busy work.” I never saw it as panic so much as someone deciding to fight instead of giving up. The so-called ‘inane’ lyrics have always struck a chord in me, partially thanks to Andrews’ portrayal.
Seeking the courage I lack? Check. Whenever I have a job interview, listening to ‘I Have Confidence’ is one of the ways I hype myself up. Most (‘Edelweiss’ and ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain,’ hello) songs from The Sound of Music are an instant mood-booster, and ‘I Have Confidence’ is no exception. It’s gotten a lot of play from me this year. The power of musical theater aside, 2019 has tested my confidence time and again. And though there are only three-ish months left, I’m sure this year will continue to test me. Enter Julie Andrews’ least favorite song from The Sound of Music.
Now here I’m facing adventure, then why am I so scared?
I lived in the same city and the same house for 20 years. Moving away for college was a big deal, and I still ended up less than three hours away from my hometown. When I graduated, I toyed with the idea of getting out of Georgia. There was the promise of Maine, where my mom’s family lives, along with a piece of my heart. Washington, D.C. was a contender, with friends waiting to welcome me with banners and cake. Anywhere my twin and her husband moved to was always a good option in my mind – who wouldn’t want to be neighbors with their womb mate?
In the end, I stayed in the same 30-minute radius north of Atlanta for seven years. I hopped around from city to city and as every lease came to an end, I wondered if now was my chance to take that leap. Moving to South Korea was an even bigger move than I ever imagined. There was the issue of packing my entire life into two suitcases, for one. But more than the culture shock and clothing I left behind, there was the sneaking but growing panic. What did I just do? This is what I’ve always dreamed of doing, of getting Out There and Doing Things, so why did I feel so afraid? The answer was a two-headed monster: my fear of failure and fear of change on the offensive. If you hate change, a great way to test yourself is by moving to an entirely new country where you don’t speak the language and know less than .01% of the population.
With each step, I am more certain everything will turn out fine.
The best way I can describe my first two months in South Korea (and the month leading up to my move) is getting shots. It was like taking a big breath and holding it in while waiting for the shot to happen. I knew the pain would be brief and minimal, but the longer I held my breath, the more anxious I became. You might wait 15 seconds for the sting of the injection, but that’s more than enough time to imagine the worst possible outcome. And then the needle breaks your skin and it does just feel like a mosquito bite and a band-aid makes everything okay again.
A less-wordy way to describe it would be to say it was full of trepidation. What would come next? When would that needle stick? But a crucial part of being human is not just breathing in but also letting go, and exhaling. Now that I’ve spent two months holding my breath, I think it’s time I start to breathe out, too.
And while I show them, I’ll show me.
Plenty of people suffer from Imposter Syndrome, that nagging feeling that you shouldn’t actually be here and someone might find out at any moment and eject you from the building just like they do in that one scene from The Emperor’s New Groove. For me, it’s chronic. At some point in every job I’ve ever had, I’ve felt like this. “Fake it ’til you make it,” people say. Faking it should be pretty easy when you feel like a fraud, but it never is. Even if it’s false confidence, it still requires courage.
Instead of faking it, I tend to adopt a “prove yourself” attitude. In the same way Maria sings about showing she’s worthy, I work hard to prove my value. In the name of proving myself capable, I have…
- skipped breaks and worked off the clock to get things done
- internalized every performance review as a reflection of Who I Am
- taken on too much and simply worked until nine, ten, midnight to show that I can handle it
- and tons of other not-so-healthy actions!
It’s a self-imposed battle against an imaginary enemy. Nine times out of ten, the only person who thinks I don’t have it in me, is me. And I work overtime to prove myself wrong. So, even though my chronic condition has flared up slightly in my first month teaching, I know better than to let it take over. I’ve learned to ask for help, to value my time off and not take constructive criticism as a personal attack. I’m proud of myself for always wanting to do the best I can and I’m learning to source my confidence from that rather proving I belong. So, let them bring on all their problems. I’ll do better than my best.