31 January 2007


This has been on my mind for a while.

I am a confident woman. I wasn't a confident girl. Something happened to me, somewhere between 7 and 13, that stole away my confidence, and I was a very shy teen. I wanted to not be shy, so I ran away to Europe, and lived for a year in Sweden.

When I got to Sweden, I decided that I was done, DONE, with being the nice shy girl in the corner, and I acted out in various ways, drinking, being a brat, until I started to slowly get more confident. I found that I liked being the center of attention, and some of the things I did to get that spotlight were downright dumb, but fun. I don't recommend the path that I took, but it worked for me.

I don't know what it was that stole my thunder. I can't point to one specific traumatic incident, one thing that worked against me. It was many; and I'd have a rather difficult time articulating them. (You understand, of course, that I fully intend to try to articulate them, right?)

One was definitely that I never felt pretty. I learned that people who started conversations with me by telling me how beautiful I was often wanted something, or wanted me to do something that I didn't want to do. So I mis-trusted anyone (with the exception of my parents, who I always thought were kind of obligated to tell me that I was pretty) that told me I was pretty. Awkward, ungainly, clumsy, dull, and mousy are all words I would have used to describe myself, had you asked me to, from the time I was probably 10 until I was around 20 or so.

I am a beautiful woman, inside and out, but I didn't believe that at all until about 9 or 10 years ago. In the final analysis, that's all that matters, what I thought, not what anyone else thought. The very idea of being a confident woman was pretty frightening to me. Hell, if you're an assertive woman, you're pretty likely to be tagged as a bitch at some point in your life. So if you think you're pretty, what name are they going to call you? Sure, there are worse words than bitch out there, but do you want to be called them on a regular basis? So the idea that I'm nothing and nobody means that I'm less likely to be harassed. Great line of reasoning, yes?

Another thing that made me less confident would be the secondary school I attended. There were a lot of really rich kids, and we weren't rich, so I felt diminished, somehow, by the signs of wealth and power around me. Not that I wasn't a happy kid, I was. I just hated high school, didn't everyone? I felt left out back then, and powerless, and that was a confidence sapper.

And then there was the bullying. Let's call a spade a spade and be done with it. There were a couple of bullies that I went to school with, but one in particular sticks out in my memory. You know how your mom always told you that the boy who teased you secretly liked you? Yeah, that's a lie. Sorry, but it just isn't true. There was a guy that just made my school life hell from about 5th grade until I left the school system in 10th grade. I don't know what happened to him after high school, but whatever circle of hell he inhabits these days, I hope it is a particularly nasty one. Forgive and forget? Me? Well, maybe not so much.

The last reason is really difficult to put into words, but I think it is something that many women struggle with. If you've ever heard the toast at a wedding about "Enough", 'May you have enough hope to keep you happy', et cetera, et cetera, then you will understand when I say that I never felt that I was enough. Good enough, smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough... so I embarked on a journey to change lots of things, trying to be enough. Maybe the problem was that I wasn't blonde...so I dyed my hair. Maybe it was that I wasn't smart; no, I always knew I was really intelligent and was never ashamed of it, so I tried not showing that I was smart, trying to dumb myself down a bit. None of that worked.

If I could go back and talk to my 15-year old self, I would tell her a few things. One, you're never going to use calculus, so don't worry so much about your grade in that class. No one cares what your high school GPA was ten years after high school, hell, five years after high school no one cares. Next, be confident. Be forceful. Worry less about other people's opinions. A lot less. Don't listen to anyone who tells you that 'you can't do that' because you can. I promise. This is going to be controversial, but I'd also tell her to get over herself and sleep with more people. I wouldn't encourage her to be a slut, or hyper-promiscuous, but I would encourage her to be a bit more....free-spirited. And I'd also tell her that life gets better. So much better. I promise.

Listening to: iPod random shuffle...Michelle Branch, U2, Powderfinger, Nickel Creek, Tori Amos


MotherMe said...

Oh, we are so much alike.... You say the things out loud I couldn't even think to myself! Love ya, girlfriend! ~mm

Lucy Arin said...

I know, right? Thank you!

This post has been floating around in my head for a while, and you and I have talked about this issue before.

If I figure out what causes that loss I will let you know!


The Wrath of Dawn said...

The same thing happened to me and I watched it happen to my daughters. Nine-year old girls are the most confident creatures on the planet and then we begin that downhill slide into a total lack of confidence and raging self-loathing.

Perhaps that's the age when we begin to tune in to all the misogynism around us and also start to feel the pressures to be as perfect as the air-brushed images we see all around us in the media, which we all know is impossible.

One of the joys of aging is you stop giving a damn what anyone thinks of you and just live.

Lucy Arin said...

Hi Dawn!

Thanks for commenting. I wish there was some switch we could turn off and make it not happen for other little girls.

And yes, I'd have to agree that is one of the joys of being a grown-up.