Self-confidence has never been a problem for me. It’s not overweening pride. It’s just a satisfaction with myself. I know the things I want to improve, but they are not core to my identity. I know I have inherent value mixed in with all my personality quirks and flaws, so nitpicking the details of my being for the sake of appealing more to others, whether through my appearance or behavior, never struck me as a beneficial use of time. I am who I am.
I assumed everyone else felt the same way. Turns out, they didn’t.
And suddenly I realized that the lens through which others viewed me was different than my own. They filtered my self through their assumptions, their biases, their frustrations and preferences. Suddenly, me being me might not be good enough...for them.
Happily, that didn’t send me down a rabbit hole of self-doubt, causing me to make myself into who they wanted me to be, breaking down my real self to produce a fake version that fit the acceptable molds. I still think that would be the wrong reaction to such exposure.
However, I began to fold in on myself, never fully trusting another person with all of me. A few more similar experiences and I developed a skill for reading between the lines for the real thoughts behind someone’s words. My goal was self-protection. I wouldn’t open myself up to that again, I thought. I will wait until someone proves they get it, the fact that I’m good just like this. Sure, many people say nice things, but how often do they really mean them? Or people avoid saying unkind things, but how often do they really think them?
I know why I learned to do this. But it’s wrong. I am wrong in how I read others sometimes, but I have a hard time believing it. After all, how can someone convince you that you misinterpreted them if you don’t trust them to speak the truth? And how selfish does it sound for your argument against them to be that they aren’t showing their care for you clearly enough?
After years of cultivating suspicion, it takes real effort to trust the words spoken by another and disregard my gut feelings of offense or uncertainty, harder still to trust their intention. I’m not sure how to slough off instinctual doubt.
I want to battle toward trusting, one moment at a time.