For three years in a row, I’ve ruined my own birthday by being mopey and melancholy. Part of the problem is that I feel pressure to pack in as many fun things as possible so that it feels like I’ve celebrated the heck out of the thing. The other part is that I do not like getting older. I am 100% aware that both of these things are ridiculous and that I am capable of not doing these things, and yet–sigh.
One of my goals for next year is not to do this, but it isn’t the only long term plan I’m making.
Minutes before the Philadelphia Ugly Sweater Run on Saturday. Go me!
Last year, when I turned another year older, I was more than a little depressed. I’ve recently begun to feel like I am running out of time. There are so many things I want to do, and I am afraid that I won’t have a chance to complete them. With each new birthday, I feel like I am watching the years race by me, and all of a sudden, I can’t bear to watch them go. It’s all very disconcerting.
A dear friend and colleague of mine passed away this summer, two months after her fortieth birthday and a year-and-a-half after being diagnosed with colon cancer, leaving behind two sweet sons, ages six and four. I didn’t write about it here because I didn’t want to make it about me, but her illness and subsequent passing have intensified the feelings I mentioned in the above paragraph. It strikes me that my friend had no idea that she was middle-aged at twenty. And, it scares me.
Around the time of my last birthday, I decided to make a bunch of goals for myself as a way to counteract my apprehension. I had just finished my first improv class, and I loved it. I had just started my novel, and I wanted to finish it. Almost everyone I knew was running, and I hadn’t ever really broken anything more than a quick stride. I just wanted something more, and I decided that I was going to make it happen.
And I did. I took three more improv classes, and I finished the rough draft of my novel, and I ran in three 5ks. I started going to a local story slam, and I even got up there and told one of my own. I joined a writer’s group. I made new friendships and reconnected with old friends.
It felt great, so much so, that I want to up the ante in the year ahead.
I have never been a confident person, and if we’re being honest, I’ve never felt particularly good about myself. I am not saying this because I want anyone to rush in and tell me positive things about myself. This is no pity party. It is an acknowledgment that I am way too hard on myself, and it has gotten to the point where I feel the need to change it.
Even though I set out to accomplish my goals and felt good about myself in the process, it was not without setbacks. The last improv class I took was a CHALLENGE. I often felt like I wasn’t very good at it, and on some nights, I drove home in tears, convinced that I was just embarrassing myself in front of a room full of more talented strangers. My revisions on my novel are not going great, and I am overwhelmed and confused (and suffocating in about seven working drafts). I never get enough time to run anymore, and I feel like I am slower than when I started. I ran in my third 5k on Saturday morning despite the fact that it was freezing and early and all I wanted to do is sleep in and stuff warm, buttered biscuits in my gullet instead.
I could focus on all these negatives and then decide to give up on every single one of the things I set out to do, but one of my new goals for the year to come is to stop letting the things that don’t go perfectly–or that don’t even go well–seep into my brain and prevent me from wanting to keep trying. I am not going to tell myself that I am not good at things or that I’m not lovable or any of that other static noise that buzzes around my head. I am quite tired of feeling bad about myself, and here’s what I’m going to do about it:
Give myself a big, unrelenting, all-loving and accepting break.
And I’m going to allow myself to start feeling proud of myself.
I don’t think it’ll be easy, and I’m sure I’ll still struggle, but I want to work really, really hard on it, because I think it’s one of the most important things I could ever do for myself and for my Jude.
How do you build up your confidence?