I open file after file and skim: these are ideas, paragraphs, fragments of short stories in draft form. Some beg to be jettisoned in entirety. Others drift, hoping to be saved.
Some of the pages are dated, others are not. Some are decades old, others as recent as a few years back.
But I doubt my capacity to take these tales where they deserve, to finish them to my satisfaction, to finish them at all. I back away from that secret corner in which they reside in shadow, and instead I give my attention to a project folder. In this, I am a proven commodity.
As the second pot of morning java sputters in Mr. Coffee, I stop in front of a small rectangular mirror that hangs by a nail on the back of a door. It is ornately carved in gilt, not to my taste, and one of several remnants of another life that eased insecurities and worsened them, until I crawled to a ledge, caught my breath, and stared them down.
I wipe a smudge of liner beneath my right eye. I push a few strands of hair away from my forehead, studying the effect, then moving them back again, covering the deepening lines.
I turn away to fill my cup, knowing that accepting my appearance includes seeing the negatives before the positives, though I’m happy enough that I perceive the positives at all, considering the number of years that I did not.
Doubt and insecurity can cripple us if we let them. So we must not let them. They can also motor ambitions. For this I am grateful.
Overdoing (Over) Confidence
Popular culture would have us fake it until we make it, bolster bluster over vulnerability – unless of course we can make a buck with the latter if not the former.
Likewise, we are expected to eschew our doubts and advocate the advantages of Confidence In All Things. Generally, I agree that leading with an upbeat approach is helpful, when not taken too far: extreme exaggeration of abilities is a risk; self-aggrandizement is disagreeable company; knowing who we are and where we come from, regardless of the face we present to others, is my preferred mode of behavior.
And still we sip our coffee in the mornings and avoid treading where insecurity holds us hostage. Or we dare to fight back, we mutter to ourselves in the glass, we opt for bangs or the ponytail or even the shaved head, but one way or another we make a decision.
We may choose to peek at files that unravel our resolve. We may dare to confront the demons of both success and failure.
Psychology Today reminds me how insecurity and doubt can undermine the simplest tasks.
When one is insecure about oneself, it is due to a preoccupation with not measuring up to one’s perception of others, or other uneasiness that causes self-doubt.
This same article speaks of self-fulfilling prophecies, and I think of fear and its poisonous fruit. Fear, always fear. A woman’s fear, planted young, so often the saboteur.
As for not measuring up? Yes, I know that much. I’ve rebuilt the broken places where I can and did my damnedest to facilitate healing in my children, and their confidence in who they are.
As for me, I’m confident in my work skills, confident in my parenting, confident in my ability to love. Perhaps that is enough.
Insecurity as Instigator?
Though written in the context of romantic relationships, the Psychology Today article reassures me that doubt and insecurity may be beneficial. This, too, I understand.
Insecurity serves a purpose… Most importantly, a reasonable level of insecurity about oneself or a relationship can lead to reflection and self-improvement.
At times, I’ve viewed doubt as a life skill, my growing dose of skepticism as healthy and protective.
But that is another phenomenon – the radar, the response to external forces. This is self-doubt. Can I harness it to fuel courage? Must insecurity bar the gate to belief? If I can master confidence in one area, why can’t I in another? Can I manage the degree to which I doubt so I may prevent its paralysis? Can I use fear of not measuring up to try harder, to work smarter, to persevere so I will measure up – even if the critical voice that holds me back is always my own?
I dispense with the morning routine as quickly as possible. I turn back to the files seeded with stories. I cordon off two hours to tinker, to edit, to write – just for me. Doubt and insecurity, as usual, my companions.
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