The Journey to Confidence

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9


 

Confidence. We know we need it, but what is it? What does it feel like? Self-confidence is simply acknowledging that you are real and capable. After believing in God through His Son Jesus, believing in yourself is most important. If you do not believe in yourself or acknowledge that you are both real and capable, why should anyone else believe in you? Likewise, if you do not think you are worthy or necessary, no one else will think you are worthy or necessary…aside from God and your mother, of course.


Self-confidence is simply acknowledging that you are real and capable.

We need confidence as much as we need water to do anything meaningful in life. Water helps us to grow and mature into the people we are destined to be, and so does confidence. It is needed to apply for that next job that may seem beyond your qualifications. It is necessary for you to solve that problem that is hindering your progress. It is required for you to pursue your dreams and begin a new relationship. Confidence allows you to move from one phase of your life to another faster and with fewer regrets. Contrarily, not having the confidence you need can hinder your growth and progress just as dehydration can have severe consequences for your health. Remember, confidence is like water.

Confidence allows you to move from one phase of your life to another faster and with fewer regrets.

That’s why I believe that confidence is not simply something we achieve or a goal that is accomplished all at once and lasts us the rest of our life. Nope, I won't hand out Confidence badges at the end of this article. More work is required. More discovering who you are in God is imperative. Confidence is a journey. As a matter a fact, our journey with confidence begins as children. There were three personal attributes that I had to learn to be confident about very young: my race, my abilities, and my physical appearance.



Confidence is a journey.

While growing up in Tennessee, I was usually the only Black or African American girl in nearly all my classes. Why? I am not certain. However, I do know that students were supposed to be classified based on their cognitive abilities. Unfortunately, the classes proved to be segregated by race rather than aptitude. I think the only reason I did not get caught in the middle of our inequitable education system was because my mother was both a teacher and my advocate, and she made sure that teachers evaluated me based on my abilities only. One day, one of my female friends asked me why I was in “their class." Their class? I didn't understand what that meant. It bothered me most of the day. It was not until after lunch (after being with all the students and seeing my "other" friends for the first time that day) that I realized what the difference was. I was Black…different…not “one of them.” I was a foreigner in their country. It opened my eyes, and all the subliminal comments from my Black friends began to make sense to me now. "Why do you act white? "Why do you talk white?" "How come we only see you at lunch and PE?" They had been seeing what I had failed to see for a long time. I was treated differently than they were. I had opportunities they didn't have. My situation wasn't the same as theirs and that meant I was not the same. And now, my White friends wanted to know what made me different and privileged too. Why did I "deserve" a place in their class?


I just thought I was in the "best" class for high achievers. I made A's and B's and I tested very well in math and science, so that was all the explanation I needed. I didn't see race as others did because of a privilege that many of my friends didn't have: a loving family (and very close friends) of multiple races. You may not consider that a privilege but it definitely is, because a multiracial family teaches you at a young age that people of various races and ethnicities are more alike than different. You learn to celebrate differences and not to judge people for them. Plainly, you just love people. Aren't they still trying to teach that in schools??? Again...a privilege.


After I was awakened to racial differences in my school, I had to learn to be confident in my race, and I did that by believing that I was worthy of advanced classes and I deserved to be there as much as any other student. Little did I know then, race and being an “only” (the only person in an organization or group with a certain characteristic, trait, or attribute) would continue to be a major theme in my life. In nearly every school, workplace, or organization I have been a part of (except for church), I have been either the only African American or one of very few African Americans or the only American, single, Christian, non-parent, doctor, etc.. While I am aware that I will walk into a room and people may judge me by an attribute, I consider it a joy to prove their judgments, stereotypes, and labels are incorrect, flawed or irrational.


While I am aware that I will walk into a room and people may judge me by an attribute, I consider it a joy to prove their judgments, stereotypes, and labels are incorrect, flawed or irrational.

Next, I had to learn to be confident in my abilities. One skill that runs in my family is singing. I love to sing, and I started singing around the age of six years old at my church. (By the way, Black churches are a great training ground for confidence. Children don't have a choice but to participate!) In 5th grade, I fell in love with country music, and I got an opportunity to sing in a talent show in front of nearly 2,000 high school students. As an African American girl singing country music, that was quite an anomaly and students were sure to laugh. But my mama told me, "Even though they may laugh at first, it will be your confidence and your talent that will win them. So don't you worry. You just be you." It was my choice, so I chose to shine.


I wore a cute denim vest and jeans outfit, cowgirl boots, and cowboy hat, and I sung my heart out. That was the start of the confidence I would need to successfully perform numerous times at different events, to conduct presentations at national conferences, to teach multigenerational and multicultural classes, serve as a worship leader, and minister the gospel of Jesus in front of large crowds over the next 20 years of my life. I realized the key to capturing a crowd’s ear and heart was to just be myself. I had to believe that being myself was enough. I had to know that I was the right one for every moment I was blessed to experience. Don't get me wrong, sometimes being yourself is the HARDEST thing to do. We look at our mentors and others who do it best and think that being like them is best thing to do. But it isn't. There is already one of them, and the world grows tired quickly. So, go ahead and give it something new! Give it you.


Lastly, I conquered a lack of confidence in my appearance within the last few years. Gosh, who hasn't struggled with that at some point in their life? (To read more about this, read my article "You Are God's Masterpiece.") I believe that everyone struggles with confidence about his/her looks or body type nearly all his/her life. Whether before grade school and during college…before marriage, during, and after marriage…before giving birth and after giving birth…after 40 years old…after 70 years old. Does it ever end??? Clearly, it's a journey too, right? So, I guess I should say I am managing my confidence well in this season of my life. However, as I see the weight of the "Quarantine 15" (or 20, yikes!) packing on, I sense I will have to revisit this soon. How about you?

As you can see, no matter what your ideas are about me, I am no different from any other woman. Though I had a family who always told me I was beautiful, I have struggled with the idea that I really am beautiful most of my life...even after being a model during high school and college. In my mind, I was too skinny, my lips were too big, and my neck was too wrinkled. Kids made fun of me most of my life and there were times when adults would make comments about my appearance also, causing me to feel ugly and uncomfortable. Then I began to manifest my anxiety about those comments. For example, when I became an adult I avoided wearing lipstick because I did not want to bring attention to my lips. I wore baggy clothes so that I would not look so thin. I wore scarves often to hide my neck. However, around the time I turned 30 years old, I decided not to care anymore. Yes, it was simply a decision. Now when people tell me I am too thin (which one of my doctoral students told me last semester...Ugh!), I sarcastically respond with “thank you,” because finally I realize that being thin is just a part of who I am and I am no longer going to apologize for it. So, I started wearing clothes I like (Imagine that!) and I began wearing ruby red, burgundy, or plum lipstick nearly every day, nearly everywhere. I love my big, bold lips!


Even after coming to terms with my body type and my big lips, I still could not accept my neck for some reason. With every new person I met, I would wonder, "Are they looking at my neck?" Geez, it sounds ridiculous to type this, but it's nonetheless true. Well, I did that until last year when I met a man who helped me to see the beauty of my "imperfection". He said that it was my neck that first attracted him to me. I could not believe it! But after months of trying to convince him that he was crazy, I started to believe it too. My neck is unique and, rather than try to hide it or be ashamed of it, I chose to celebrate my novelty. I am no longer ashamed of my neck; I am only ashamed at how long it took me to accept me just as God made me. Now that I can accept me, I can teach someone else to do it too. Yes, your confidence becomes a teachable moment for those who doubt you (or themselves). This is one of those teachable moments. How am I doing?


Confidence is something we must build within ourselves with the power of the Holy Spirit - our Helper. No one else can be confident for us – not our parents, our best friends, our partners, our mentors, or our coaches. It is your journey alone, because it relates to your purpose in life. A purpose that no one else can fulfill but you. So, believe in yourself and then keep on believing in yourself. Never give up on the journey to your confidence. Keep going and keep growing. When there are times that you lack the confidence you need, do not be discouraged. Instead, create an opportunity. Times when I lacked confidence in teaching a new course, I became a better teacher; when I did not believe I could do it on my own, I acquired amazing mentors; and when I did not believe I had enough education, I got a doctoral degree. So, don't waste your inconfidence, rather use it as an opportunity to learn more, improve your skills, and humble yourself in the face of every incredible task.


Don't waste your inconfidence, rather use it as an opportunity to learn more, improve your skills, and humble yourself in the face of every incredible task.

Again, NEVER, EVER stop believing in yourself. You are amazing and you're needed in this world. Your experience is what someone else needs to encounter. Your story is what someone else needs to hear. God has chosen to use you to do His mighty work in the Earth. How do I know? You exist. You're breathing. Your sibling can't do what God wants to be done. Your coworker can't feel what God wants to be felt. Your friend can't say what God wants to be said. Only you can. You have the skill, the heart, and the words. God gave you all of it for a specific purpose He wants you to fulfill. Therefore, when we are weak and lack confidence in ourselves, you get God's special attention. The Holy Spirit working within you perks up and says, "I can do a perfect work now that Wanita (or rather your name) is not fighting me or standing in my way." That's how God's strength is perfected in us when we are weak. So, moooove...get out the way...get out the way (in my Ludacris voice)! We must acknowledge that we can't be who we need to be without God. He is our Source. God has equipped you for every good work He has planned for you. Therefore, you have every reason to be confident of who you are in any room, at any table, and behind every door. Now, go and help someone else be confident in who they are today.


Love God. Love Others.



Wanita with bold, ruby red lips

Question: In what areas of your life have you struggled with self-confidence? How have/are you overcoming that challenge?



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