This column was inspired by some teenage friends on Facebook whose conversations back and forth reminded me of what was perhaps the hardest, most difficult part of being a teenager: learning self-confidence. I had honestly forgotten how very difficult this was to come by. Maybe I’d blocked those hurtful memories. But what is self-confidence and why do otherwise smart, beautiful, well-adjusted people struggle so much to find it? Let´s start by looking at what self-confidence is not.
Self-confidence is not vanity. Knowing you’re physically beautiful and being happy about it isn’t confidence. Whether you actually are outwardly beautiful or not and whether or not you have a realistic perception of your own appearance has absolutely no bearing on whether or not you are self-confident. Compliments should make you feel good, but if you need them to feel good, you lack self-confidence.
Self-confidence is not arrogance. Knowing that you’re awesome and making sure everyone else knows too isn’t self-confidence. Overcompensating insecurities with an outward show like a peacock only makes you look silly. Any adult can recognize it; the only ones who might fall for the act are other teenagers, who will eventually figure it out and then also conclude that you look silly.
Fishing for compliments by pretending like you didn’t get the one implied is not humility or innocence, it’s manipulation. If a boy tries to give you a subtle compliment and you pretend like you don’t get it and make him explain it, just because you want him to say it outright, you’re fishing and you’re manipulating him. (Conversely, a boy who gives compliments just for the thrill of your reaction is manipulating you and needs to read the above paragraph on arrogance.)
Essentially, self-confidence has very little to do with the self.
So what is self-confidence and why did I bring humility into it? Self-confidence is recognizing that you are made in God’s own image, and you had nothing to do with that. Enter: humility. How can you be prideful or arrogant or vain if you had absolutely nothing to do with it? If God made you outwardly pretty, thank you, God! But is this something for you to be proud of? Nope. Have you ever heard the comment, “There but by the grace of God go I”?
Think about that.
But since God made you this way, in His own image, what do you possibly have to be insecure about? Hebrews 13:6 says on the subject, “…we confidently say, ‘the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” (Actually, the entire chapter about the changelessness of Christ is pretty awesome.)
So then, if our confidence is that the Lord is our helper, what does that mean for us? Will God help us to be sinful, arrogant, prideful, vain, manipulative? Nope. Our confidence in God’s help only comes if we are being the ladies of grace that He wants us to be. Are you seeing a pattern here? We know we are made in the image of God, so what could we be insecure about? We know we had nothing to do with it, so what could we be arrogant about? We know that the Lord is our helper, so what could we be afraid of? And we know that without the grace of God, we would end up in all kinds of nastiness.
I want to make one more point about the word “grace” before I conclude. I looked up the word and did a concordance search trying to find just the right verse or definition to illustrate its meaning. I couldn’t find one. The thing about grace is that it’s difficult to define. It’s difficult to nail down, to pinpoint, to say, “That’s it! That’s grace.” But that ambiguity is part of it. Grace is simply smiling and saying, “Thank you!” to a wonderful compliment – instead of fishing for more. Grace is giving compliments freely without expecting any in return. Grace is removing “self” from the equation. Grace is having confidence in Christ, being thankful for what we have, and not fearing who we are to become. Whether we have recently set out on our own or are just dreaming of the day, let us all be aware of the relationship between self-confidence, humility and grace; and as always, strive to be a P31 woman.