Confidence. I have a love-hate relationship with this word. I love the idea of confidence and the powerful, stiletto-wearing CEO that pops into my head when I think of the word. What I don’t love is that the very idea of confidence often makes so many people feel less than. They’ve given up on the idea that they could ever be confident, because of pre-conceived notions of what makes someone confident.
I was – and often still am – one of those people. As a woman who grew up with vitiligo, I know what it’s like to struggle with self-acceptance, self-esteem, comparison and yes, confidence. To me, confidence always looked a certain way – skinny, tan, beautiful, happy, positive, charming, bold. I was none of those things. I was a shy, awkward, gawky girl with spots all over her body.
Fast forward a decade or more and today I’m still sometimes a shy, awkward and gawky girl. But my spots are gone since vitiligo took over my skin. And my confidence is in an entirely different place. In that decade, I’ve met the girls who are those things I thought you needed to be confident. And guess what? Standing here today, I have more confidence than any of them. And it’s simply because I reworked my perspective and understanding of what confidence really means.
Confidence isn’t conditional
Gosh, I believed this for so many years. If only I were prettier, I would be confident. If only I were cooler, I would be confident. If only I didn’t have spots, I would be confident. Listen closely to what I’m going to say next: this is a lie. Confidence is not conditional upon any qualifications. In fact, I’m willing to bet that there are people out there who have the qualifications that we seek who are still struggling with insecurity. You can be confident today, exactly as you are and who you are. Thinking that you can’t is an excuse that is only holding you back. Try finding one thing that you love about yourself that you can celebrate today – and go all in on that.
Confidence takes practice
How easily we dismiss confidence as something unachievable. You may think, “That’s something other people have, that’s not me.” Hello, this is your confidence calling! Confidence isn’t something you whip up overnight. It’s something that takes practice. Remember learning how to ride a bike? No one masters riding a bike without practice. The same applies to your new skin. You might not feel confident in your skin – but give it a chance and you might learn to feel confident. For me, confidence comes in baby steps. Wearing less makeup and then going makeup-free to the grocery store one night led to me feeling good about going to the gym without makeup on a regular basis. Take one small step towards confidence and see how it feels.
Confidence doesn’t always feel confident
For most of my life, I thought I wasn’t confident because I didn’t feel confident. But that wasn’t the case – I just wasn’t giving myself credit for having that confidence. Growing up, I would wear shorts and dresses even though the stares I would get made me uncomfortable. It was just too hot to wear anything else. From time to time, people would comment on how confident I was despite my skin – and I was always shocked. They didn’t know I had spent an hour panicking and crying before I left the house. I wasn’t confident – I just didn’t feel like I had another choice. Until someone recently reminded me that I did have a choice. I could have chosen to wear pants. I also could have chosen to stay home. But I made the choice to wear my shorts anyway – and that took confidence. No, I didn’t necessarily feel confident. But each time I wore shorts, I felt better about wearing shorts in the future. In other words, choosing the idea of confidence and acting on it inspired true feelings of confidence.
Confidence involves only one opinion – yours
I think the thing that I’ve gotten wrong about confidence for so many years is that I’ve looked externally for it. In other words, I turned to others for confidence. If I was surrounded by friends, if people said hi to me, if I got compliments – then I had confidence. But this way of seeking confidence is fleeting because the moment someone doesn’t say exactly the right thing, you begin to spiral inside. Here’s the thing: confidence isn’t about how others feel about you. Confidence is about how you feel about yourself.
Confidence is contagious
Have you ever noticed this? I had a gorgeous, life-of-the-party friend in college who just breathed confidence – and I loved that about her. As a spotted, uncomfortable twenty-something, I couldn’t have been more opposite. And yet, when we spent time together, I started standing a little straighter, being a little bolder and loving myself a little more. Spending time around this confident friend made me feel more confident. Her confidence was contagious. Who are the people in your life? Are they confident? Can you start spending time around people who are more confident? I wonder how intentionally putting confident souls around you might change your life.
Confidence doesn’t have to start with your skin
Growing up, I thought that I had to focus on loving my skin in order to find confidence in my skin. Yet I struggled and I failed to love my skin, time and time again. Then I decided to launch a blog about vitiligo and turn it into a business. It was the scariest thing I have ever done, and yet today I am a successful blogger with the confidence to tell a story. In other words, stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new that I had never done before gave me confidence. And as my self-confidence grew, so did my confidence in who I am – and the skin I’m in. If you’re struggling to find confidence, find even one way to push yourself out of your comfort zone and watch the benefits spill over into other areas of your life.
Confidence is a choice
Here’s the thing: you can choose confidence. Before you argue, hear me out. Confidence is a choice because it can be created and manufactured by taking actions that build confidence. You can choose to wear your shorts even though people will stare. You can choose to swim in a bikini even though you might look different. By making those choices, you are deciding to flex your confidence muscle and build the life that you want. By default, that’s confidence. Eventually you might even feel it too.
How do you think about confidence? Tell us in the comments below.
Erika Page is a writer and blogger with universal vitiligo. Based just south of Washington, D.C., Erika founded Living Dappled to create a community of inspiration and hope for girls and women living with vitiligo.