I gathered up all the loose furniture I could and pushed it into a pile against the door in my motel room in an effort to create a (flimsy) barricade. I was sitting on the bed sobbing. Terrified. Alone. Somewhere in the middle of Appalachia. Just turned 21.
Just that morning, I had gotten in my Nissan Pathfinder, hit play on the epic playlist I created, and left my parent's home in Maine. Where was I headed? The wild west. I had never been to Colorado before, knew of only one distant family friend who maybe lived in Denver (but wasn't really sure where that was?), and I had certainly never been to Vail, which was way up into the mountains, and my ultimate destination.
I had gotten a job at a restaurant there because a few months prior, I had filled out an application just for fun with some friends. We were working at a summer resort on the island of Martha's Vineyard, just off of Cape Cod, and a winter resort (Vail) had sent out a recruiter to find some seasonal workers. My friends decided to go fill out applications and pick up some free branded swag, and then we went on with our day, never expecting it to turn into anything.
Weeks later I had a quick phone interview, got the job after that, and then suddenly things became real. Am I really doing this? I guess I'm moving? I mean I have nothing really holding me here, it could be fun? But then things got REALLY real when I found out that at the last minute that none of my friends would be making this move with me: they were all foreign (Jamaican and Scottish), and did not get approved for their visas.
So. There I was. Moving to a place I had never been and couldn't even point to on a map, where I knew precisely no one, all by myself. I skied once before in high school and hated it. Why was I doing this? I kept thinking of the photo of Vail on that poster she showed us: twinkly lights sparkling at night. Seemed warm and welcoming. I think I'd like it there? Maybe it would work out?
It all seemed like fun and games until I was in that motel room alone, and the weight of this risk hit me like a ton of bricks. I was terrified. WHAT AM I FUCKING DOING?
I managed to get some sleep that night and hit the road again in the morning, and after a couple days of driving, sketchy rest stops and cheap motels, lots of nerves, anxiousness, and many moments of desperate, shaky, fearful, tears, I hit the foothills and began to climb into the Rockies.
My fear melted into absolute astonishment, and then excitement. Being an east coaster, I had never seen anything like these mountains before. I. was. blown. away. The tears kept coming, but now they were of sheer awe.
I made it to Vail, moved into my employee housing (read: dorms), and began the most amazing chapter of my life. I met my best friend in that apartment that night, I met my husband a few months later, and I had the time of my life exploring the Rockies and the great American Southwest. And I even learned how to ski. Suffice it to say: It more than worked out.
So what does this story have to do with confidence, you may be wondering?
This crazy jump out of my comfort zone did something pretty amazing for me, beyond the bff and husband and fun memories.
Looking my terror straight in the eye and saying "I can do this"; feeling the rush of adrenaline as I took the leap; ultimately realizing that yes, I could do that, and I did do that!, gave me CONFIDENCE. I realized that I could rely on myself, that I was capable of making it work, and that I can do scary things.
Now, if you're looking for a boost of confidence, do you have to drop everything and quit your job and move across the country alone? Um, no. (But you could!)
But the thing that is guaranteed to bring you a tingly, thrilling, major boost of "fuck yeah", is getting out of your comfort zone in ANY. WAY. AT. ALL.
I've felt the same rush and boost from moving cross country solo, as facing intimidating things in the gym, or speaking up when I was nervous, taking my shirt off during a workout, doing my first Facebook Live to my audience, or taking even the smallest steps into uncomfortable territory. Usually the places that we are most insecure in our life are the ones where we can benefit the most from pushing our own (self-imposed) boundaries. But if you're not quite there yet, here's some great news: this fear-facing has a spillover effect into every area of life.
No matter where or how you step up and push your boundaries, you'll soon find yourself emboldened in other areas of life. Facing your fear of showing up to the gym in stretchy pants in all your jiggly glory can make you a gillion percent more likely to use your voice in your next meeting, or try something else that's new and scary. It's just science.
Cuz here's the truth: CONFIDENCE IS AN EXERCISE. And the more you practice it, the better at it you'll become.
The sheer act of taking a risk, or being vulnerable, or facing the scary thing right in the eyes, and making it out the other side alive is invigorating. This is the space in which confidence, a belief in yourself, and the ultimate trust of your own capabilities, is built.
Action inspires feeling, not the other way around. Do something that takes courage, and you'll feel courageous. Ya dig?
If you want more confidence, you've got to get uncomfortable. Or as Brene Brown says, "you can't get to courage without walking through vulnerability".
To be clear: it's not about not having the fear. It's having the fear and doing it anyway. There's nothing in the entire world that's even CLOSE to that rush: it's the most fulfilling and exhilarating feeling you can have. Because it reminds you of your immeasurable strength, and all the real possibilities for you in this life.
And remember that even though major moves and actions are sure to do the job, small steps can be just as impactful. One small thing gives you a boost to face another small thing, and the cycle continues, and it adds up. Action inspires feeling. Every time you do something a little scary, you realize, oh, that wasn't nearly as bad as you had imagined it would be, and the next time becomes that much easier. And that's how we get there.
(Note: yes, there are more roads to Confidence Land than just this, but I still encourage you to try it).
And if you're still consumed with fear and the possibility of "failure", you need to understand that even if your risk doesn't work out the way you thought it would, you will STILL get the benefits of taking the risk in the first place. But this time, with an added bonus: more knowledge and information to carry forward into your next adventure. You faced a gamble, you bet on yourself, you learned something, and you probably got a great story to boot. How rad is that?
So. If you've found yourself in envy of those women who don't care what others think, wear what they want, take risks, aren't afraid to speak up, or generally just carry themselves with confidence, know that the thing that most likely got them there was gently pushing the boundaries of their own comfort zone, and then using that momentum to push it again even further, until it wasn't scary anymore.
And hey woah! Don't get sucked into thinking of course it's easy for her to wear that because of her "perfect" body, or some version of 'she doesn't have insecurities or fears'. We ALL have the narratives in our heads and our own inner critic (and sometimes external voices as well!) telling us we can't or we shouldn't or we're not ready or not worthy in some way or another. The difference lies in how we respond to those stories. Are you letting it define you and keep you in a place of fear and limits? Or are you going to look it in the face and challenge it to a match?
And you? Yes. You can do that. I challenge you to find a way to do one thing TODAY that scares the shit out of you. And I'm not talking about just finding something terrible and suffering through it for the sake of toughening yourself up. I'm talking about the things that you've always wanted to do, but have never felt brave enough, ready enough, worthy enough or strong enough to take on or try.
Don't wait for the opportunity, and sure as shit don't wait until you're ready. (You'll never be ready).
Take action and get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and watch your belief in yourself, your abilities, your adaptability and your strength grow into confidence.