There are three things that terrify many people: fear of public speaking, fear of a painful death, and fear of high school and college reunions. Fortunately, reunions (though sometimes painful) are not fatal.
Reunions position you with those who know your teenage histories. Many people invest entire lifetimes running from their pasts – or running towards new futures severed from their pasts.
I recently attended a reunion with my sorority sisters from college. When we were students, it was important to wear the right jeans, the right shoes, and to make the right friends.
Marilyn Monroe once said, “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.” I believe when we show young women and men how to stand tall with confidence, any shoes are the right shoes.
When I was in seventh grade, I had one focused dream: I wanted to go away to college. I was awkward, shy, and did not have social skills to defend myself when I was bullied. I desperately wanted to run away from my hometown and reinvent myself.
I worked all kinds of odd jobs through high school and college to fund my education. I joined a sorority to overcome shyness and develop social confidence. I did not believe I was as pretty as the other girls in my sorority, but I was smart. I was elected president of the student government association and received numerous leadership awards.
As a speaker and teacher, I am comfortable delivering inspiring speeches and motivating large audiences. However, I’m still an introvert at heart. And I’m still shy.
I was eager to see my sorority sisters again. We gathered around large tables and shared stories about our lives. As my friends opened up, several of them apologized for what they didn’t have, relationships that ended, weight they’d gained, and dreams they abandoned. Several of these remarkable women apologized for where they didn’t live, what they didn’t do, and what they didn’t accomplish.
One particular sorority sister, Cheryl, had the courage to shatter the success myth.
Cheryl is a lively, extroverted woman who graduated with a degree in education. She has the ribbons-and-glitter of a luxurious package: she had a successful career as a teacher, married a successful man, and lives in a beautiful home. She explained the turbulent relationship she shares with her daughter who has bipolar disorder.
She wasn’t sad or ashamed; Cheryl spoke matter-of-factly about the illness, its symptoms, and the genetic line of bipolar disorder within her family. She explained how they set appropriate boundaries for her daughter as a family and how they struggled to love and support one another.
I wanted to stand up and applaud. As someone who understands the struggle of depression, I am elated when someone discusses mental illness with such frank openness.
Cheryl’s example of authenticity reflect powerful lessons about transparency. Her example invites others to stand your own ground with grace and dignity.
Stop comparing your insides with other people’s outsides.
It is impossible to realistically compare yourself to others, especially if you are unaware of their personal histories, struggles, or life difficulties. No one escapes this life unscathed. Focus your attention on the gifts and talents you possess and stop punishing yourself for what you don’t have.
Adopt an attitude of gratitude.
Write a list, create a gratitude jar, or begin a journal that contains all of the people, life events, and blessings that make your feel grateful. Ann Voskamp, author of 1000 Gifts, writes, “It’s only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we’ve always wanted.” Gratitude shifts a negative attitude to optimistic appreciation.
Embrace your own story.
Life’s challenges provide us with opportunities to learn new skills, develop wisdom, and find balance. Challenges shift your perspective. You can view challenges as obstacles that prevent you from going where you want to go – or directional arrows that point you in a new direction. Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, insists, “When you own your own story, you get to write the ending.”
Rediscover your own passions.
Do you remember what your passions are? What makes you feel enthusiastic and alive? Create a vision board. Start a bucket list. Recall what makes you feel joyful. Do more of what makes you feel happy.
The word, pride, comes from a Latin word, prosum, which means “to be useful, do good.” As you embrace and develop your gifts, you can be of service and an example to others. When you are proud of your story, you give others permission to do the same.
Dr. Seuss, beloved children’s author, wrote, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”
The next page of your story begins today. You choose how to write your next chapter.
What are your greatest gifts? How can you use these gifts to strengthen your confidence?
Replace negative thoughts with positive words that build confidence with these tips from Replace Old Tapes with New Messages.
Struggling with self-doubt to move forward? Try these suggestions from What to Do Next When You Don’t Know What to Do.
Need encouragement? Read 11 Inspiring Quotes When You Need Encouragement.