I’m going to be honest. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life feeling insecure. I have always admired those lucky people (often Leos) who go through life upbeat and smiling, sure that everyone they meet is going to love them. And they are usually proved right, since who can resist a warm personality and a bright smile? But I am a brooding Scorpio, and I seem to have been born with a reserved, distrustful air about me. From nursery school on, whenever I was forced to walk into a room full of strangers, I was timid and shy, not at all confident that whatever I had to offer would be well-received. 

 I’m still not very good at mingling with strangers at cocktail parties. But I have gained confidence, over the years, in my worthiness as a human being and in my ability to interact gracefully with people, whether I know them or not. In part, this is just a function of age and repeated practice. For example, when I was a young teacher just starting out, I used to get very nervous about walking into my classroom, even after I’d been meeting the same group of students for many weeks. Those nerves have dissipated over the years, as I’ve gained confidence in my ability to share my knowledge, speak from the heart, and handle whatever comes up calmly and thoughtfully. 

It’s the same with public speaking before large audiences, which used to give me panic attacks. Engaging in the process of purposeful memoir helped me remember the source of my irrational fear over speaking up on stage in front of a big audience. As I worked on the childhood section of my memoir, I remembered that in sixth grade I had been assigned to the role of narrator in the school play. I was required to memorize large chunks of text that I had to recite between scenes, all by myself in the spotlight. When the time came to perform before the assembled parents and other students, I froze and totally forgot my lines. The teacher prompted me from the front row and I recovered…but the feeling of total panic stayed with me, ready to pounce whenever that kind of scenario came into my experience. Writing about it in my memoir was a perfect example of alchemy: I saluted my own courage in continuing to get up on stage, and transmuted my fear into the recognition that hey—I got this now!

Think about your experience with confidence over the years. Are you one of those lucky people who was born confident? Or are you, like me, more of a self-doubter? How has your natural inclination served you? How has it challenged you? The process of purposeful memoir will help give you a realistic portrait of your strengths—about which you should be confident—as well as those aspects of yourself that may still need growth and improvement.

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  1. Lynn

    Thank you for sharing your vulnerability about confidence Jennifer. There is a wonderful message in your blog post. I, too, am a self doubter and it often undermines my self confidence. From social gatherings to public speaking, I struggle holding a conversation at a party or speaking to others behind a podium. I’ve learned to get through it so others don’t notice much, but I notice it when I’m tongue tied, rush what I have to say or my voice shakes. It’s an ongoing battle to overcome (or at least manage).

    Funny thing is, on the inside I’m a very confident, outgoing person; it just all falls apart when I’m in a spotlight!

    I appreciate knowing that I’m not alone.

    • J. Browdy

      Yes, that is one reason that gathering in circles to share our stories is so important, Lynn! Purposeful memoir is not just for memoirists; it’s a potent intentional practice of self-inquiry that can benefit everyone!