The day I realized I had found my own confidence was the day I realized I didn't need another human's validation.
Anyone who knew me even a few years ago immediately notices a difference. They say I seem more confident. The other day, a friend from high school told me I used to be like sunshine, happy and naive, but now I am the sun. This is honestly one of the best compliments I've ever received! There's really no better way to describe my transformation.
I used to be so shy, it crippled me. There was this fear that if I raised my voice enough for people to hear me, they wouldn't like what I had to say and would reject me. I felt indebted to people who wanted to invest time in me. A sad way to live, right?
It was painful, too.
Every moment was filled with worry. Worry about what others would think of me. Worry about if they would like me. Worry about how genuine they were when they complimented me and said they wanted to be my friend.
I was wary when people complimented me, but I was also grateful. I clung on to validation like you would a fleece coat in the dead of winter. People-pleasing became my M.O. If you wanted something, chances were, you'd get it from me. For years, I suppressed who I was. I didn't give myself or the world around me a fighting chance to know me.
My superlatives were the "shy, quiet, sweet girl."
I felt like I didn't even have a personality. When questionnaires asked how my friends and family would describe me, it was embarrassing. Meanwhile, everyone around me was discovering who they were. My insecurity would feed on validation but only be temporarily satisfied.
In high school, though, I thrived. People knew my name and a superlative was added—"the smart girl." I held tight to this. Smart meant something. I joined as many organizations as I could and chased ambition, but that eventually left me drained and empty when I entered college.
I realized I had molded myself into this image I wanted everyone else to see, to approve of, instead of being myself.
That begged the next question: Who am I?
I've always believed in change. We're always changing. You're not the same person today as you were two years ago. Since high school, I've been pushing myself to find confidence. I always knew you could like yourself whether or not others did, but it wasn't until the last year or so that I actually believed this.
Now I've found my own version of confidence. Maybe I'm not the most extroverted person in a crowd, but I've discovered how to allow my inner voice to speak. Wiser people tell us that the moment we stop caring what others think of us, we're free. There's a difference between knowing this and living it.
There eventually came a day when someone validated me, and I noticed a shift. Instead of feeling grateful, I felt appreciative. There's a subtle difference. I appreciated their thoughtfulness, but I didn't need it.
When questionnaires ask how my friends and family describe me, I feel confident in a real answer. Right now, at this moment, I know who I am.
Now that's memorable.