“Be confident”. “Own the room”. “Know that you are worth it”. “Take no prisoners”! These are the kinds of phrases actors hear every day. Whether it be from a casting director, an agent, a friend, my mom. We are constantly being told that what we need, and what we’re probably missing is, “confidence”.
I’ve spent years looking for that stuff. I’ve tried therapy, Instagram likes, the black market, and let me tell ya, it’s a tough thing to get your hands on. It can’t be bought (though some might disagree with me on that), it definitely can’t be borrowed, and if you try to steal it, well, then you’re kind of an asshole. No, confidence is something you’ve got to dig deep for, because it’s in you… somewhere.
I learned that important lesson during my year of sobriety. The moral of my 2015 story was, “I am enough”, and to be able to state that took a lot of, you guessed it, confidence.
“Well, if it was in you the whole time, why’d it take such drastic measures to find it?”, you might be wondering. I’m going to tell you, and it’s not going to be easy. Because I’ve been trying not to write about this since the day I started blogging. It came to mind a few times, and it’s even been hinted at in past posts, but I never thought I was ready to really go there. And judging by the way my hands are shaking as I type, I’m probably still not ready.
Have you ever met a “light-dimmer”? Someone who puts other people down, to make themselves feel better. I’m sure you have. Have you ever spent ten years with one? I did.
(Now would be a good time to mention that I will not be using names in this post. That may make it a little frustrating to follow, so I apologize in advance).
When I was seven, I was introduced to a person, and told that this person was going to be a part of my life, permanently. I was to respect, and obey, and listen to this person, and in return, they would take care of me and love me and help me grow up. It wasn’t my mom or my dad, but someone that would be a parental figure from that point forward. Seemed like a good deal.
And for a short time, it was; a very, very short time.
In all fairness, I was a pretty obnox- okay, okay, really obnoxious child. I scream-sang my way to puberty, and when the hormones kicked in, it was like Hurricane Mel was hitting the east coast on a daily basis. I was loud, dramatic, and talkative. I had strong opinions and didn’t back down without a fight. That was who I was, and in a lot of ways, who I still am. But, my mom and dad loved their youngest, craziest daughter, not in spite of her “flaws” but because of them. They always gave me the space and support to be exactly who I was. That’s what a parent is supposed to do, or so I thought.
This new parental figure was not as quick to embrace me the way my actual parents did. When they came around, I started hearing “stop”, “no”, and “shut up”, a lot more. I was being told to make myself smaller, make my light a little dimmer, because this person didn’t want to see me the way I needed to be seen.
So, for the next ten years I went back and forth between bottling up everything I felt and unleashing epic meltdowns when I couldn’t take it any more. And then, one night, when I was seventeen years old, it all came to a head. It was during one of those epic meltdowns. I can’t remember how the fight started, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that, in the middle of this fight, I had what might have been my first logical, mature thought, ever. I thought, “Ask”. And so I did. I asked this person, “Do you love me?”, and they said “no”, as simple as that.
I realized that I had spent ten years fighting for this person’s love and that I was never, ever going to get it. This person did not hold up their end of the bargain, and I let that define me for most of my adult life.
It wasn’t until the end of my sober year that I finally realized how wrong this person was. They were wrong to treat a seven year old they way they did. They were wrong to stay in a home where they couldn’t emotionally support every child in it. They were wrong not to love me.
So, what does this have to do with the theme of my post? Well, this is where I found my confidence. I found my confidence in being able to forgive this person. Not just forgive them, but thank them.
I’m thankful for this person because I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am today if it hadn’t been for them. Like I said, I never go down without a fight, and they really gave me something to fight for. Asking me to dim my light, only made it brighter. Telling me to be small, made me dream bigger. Saying “no”, made me scream-sing “yes”.
I hope no other kid has to go through something like this to get to a place full of confidence and happiness and gratitude, but if they do, I hope they know that it is so worth it, you are so worth it.