Confidence is a funny thing. It’s something we all wish we had more of. In some areas you can be supremely confident, completely certain of yourself, whilst in others you can be utterly insecure and totally vulnerable. Or you can be completely insecure but masquerade convincingly as confident.
My children, my eldest daughter and my step son, manage to hit these marks in both confidence and insecurity in totally opposite ways.
Miss Rose is incredibly confident about talking to people. If someone comes to the house to visit she is not shy about talking to them. When she met her Aunty Laura she climbed into her lap and immediately began an animated conversation about Rainbow Dash, Shopkins, and the wonderfulness of being a girl. There was no shyness, no insecurity. She simply embraced the opportunity to befriend someone.
In many ways this is a sign of her confidence, but it masks a vulnerability and insecurity. She is not completely secure in herself and this gives her the eagerness to please, the desperation to befriend people. It’s a cry of “please love me”. It’s the need for validation. If you like me, I have worth.
My step son might appear insecure. On the same visit from Aunty Laura he didn’t want to talk to her, preferring to keep to himself. He sat alone watching TV. It appears like shyness. But it’s not. He’s not hiding, quivering behind the sofa too scared to come out like I did as a child. It seems like a choice made through fear but on the contrary, it’s the opposite.
Instead of being shy Z is completely secure in who he is. He neither needs to impress nor befriend to feel validated. If you don’t like him then it’s your problem. If he wants to chat or play or charm he can and he will, but if he doesn’t he won’t just because of social niceties. He’s fine. He is who he is and he likes it, and he has no interest in putting himself out to try and win favour.
What passes as confidence in Rose is rooted in a deep insecurity, whereas what passes as shyness in Z is actually a total confidence.
I was neither as a child. I was both completely insecure and completely shy. I cared desperately about what people thought of me and wanted them to love me and approve of me, but I was too shy and insecure to go out and seek it like Rose does. As an adult I still have that insecurity and lack of self worth, I still seek validation from others, but now I am closer to how Rose is in seeking it but it’s far more of a mask. I will assume the role of someone chatty and confident but sometimes to an obnoxious amount, talking over people and internally begging myself to stop, but being completely unable because in the role of the confident and charming person I wish I were I have become lost. Drowned in my own desperation to be approved of, begging myself to come up for air.
Another area they’re reversed in is on our trips to a soft play centre. When we get in Miss Rose is abandoning her shoes and scaling to the top of the play frame, clambering enthusiastically over foam mounds, scrambling up nets, and then launching herself down the tallest slides with a weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee and a huge grin. Then attacking it again. She has no sense of danger, no fear. She just runs, leaps, climbs and screams with glee.
Z is more cautious. More nervous. If he gets up to the top he won’t go down the slide, fearful of what might happen on the way, scared of how he’ll land.
Miss Rose, being the eager to please little person she is, will take time going back and forth with Z, finding him things he’s comfortable doing, offering guidance on how to conquer some of the tougher obstacles. His face looks horrified as she launches herself face first over something then pops up again, goofily grinning and assuring him he’ll bounce.
For a little girl so anxious about human relationships and how she’s percevied, she is completely confident in tackling any physical challenge. She will try new food without hesitation, throw herself onto a trampoline and assume she’ll survive, and climb to the top of the climbing frame without working out how she’ll get down again (often with me scrambling up after her when she realises she actually can’t).
For a little boy so totally secure in who he is and absolutely not concerned with needing to be validated by the opinions of others, he’s very nervous about the physical. He’s concerned for his physical well being, genuinely terrified of food that looks different or might get him messy, and won’t attempt anything unless he knows how and when he will be able to end the experience.
I wish I had Z’s personal confidence. I wish I was as totally okay with who I am as he is. I wish I could say “fuck it, I’m just not interested today” if people were demanding of me, wanting me to entertain them, giving me looks of disapproval if my performance doesn’t meet their standards.
I wish I had Miss Rose’s bravery. I wish I could attack things with the belief that I’ll survive that she does, with the assumption that if I’ll figure out how to get back and if I can’t then someone will come and help me like she does.
Unfortunately I have neither of their strengths. I have all of both of their weaknesses. I think I’m too old now to change, to grow and learn and develop. But they might be able to. Miss Rose might learn that she is valuable and completely okay as a person even if not everybody likes her, Z might learn that he can try new things and not come to any harm.
But even if they don’t, I am grateful for the areas they are secure in… grateful and a little envious.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!