Self-confidence is our greatest asset.

Katherine - Bellevue, Washington
Entered on September 17, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

We live and die by our self-confidence, or lack thereof. I believe in confidence of self and of others. I believe in sharing our confidences and strengths when others are faltering and in need.

Lack of self-confidence is a disease of great consequence that erodes at the structure of a strong nation and makes us all weaker by default. Unfortunately, it’s also a disease that starts as early as grade school, when children learn to care what others think. I was one of these kids who let my own scornful judgments and those of my peers affect me.

An outgoing and enthusiastic child who craved attention, the closer I grew to adolescence the deeper the playground insults impacted me. What does it matter that I consistently came in last in the 50-yard dash at the school Olympics? When I tripped over a hurdle during practice and nearly broke my arm my peers laughed. My growth spurt was much later than expected, leaving me short and “big-boned” as my family physician would infuriatingly repeat. My peers had less eloquent words for me. In essence I was an awkward and typical adolescent who had not yet come into her own.

So many others like me have revealed a similar demise of self-confidence that unfortunately has never fully been recovered. Each new story causes me to cringe and flush red hot with frustration as I envision being in that weak place again. What’s worse, I see others submitting to judgments that sap their strength slowly but surely. Sadly, I find their weaknesses infuriate me, which is solely a reflection of my own past struggles.

At which point does the coin flip? Where does the shift happen that allows one to reclaim their strength?

Those who are self-aware and want to see change reach out to others around them who are stronger, not as a crutch but instead to provide constructive help to build them back up. They hunt their strengths, believe in and capitalize on them. They stop wallowing and become proactive. And even more importantly, these could-be victims manifest their strengths internally and externally through their health, fitness and outlook.

As an example I once had the pleasure of observing two famous spitfires who embodied the essence of confidence. Ann Richards and Liz Carpenter engaged in a “Passing Notes” Q&A panel together at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders in Austin, Texas not long before Ann Richards passed away. Throughout the evening their astounding confidence leaked out in every word, every guffaw and even in every remark with the slight edge of self-admonishment. The entire room bathed in the comfort of their witty banter and in their security with themselves—all this from two women who stood their own while operating within sharply critical political circles. They spoke of strength, education and the pursuit of passion. It was cause for me to marvel.

A very wise and confident woman, my mom used to encourage me, “You have to love yourself before others can love you.” No truer words were ever spoken. I believe these are words by which to live. I believe in loving yourself, loving others and letting others love you for who you are.