‘Tis true what the say, youth IS wasted on the young. In my twenties, I could intellectualize that concept, but I can actually feel it, now. Physically, I’m in very good health, without the “especially for” caveat I’m compelled to add. I’m simply healthy, for any age. I don’t lament my lost ‘youth,’ though; I lament the time I spent searching for confidence. Over the years, people-watching has shed a constellation of light on the kinds of things that give people confidence. For example, it seems obvious to me that an athlete, whose identity has been shaped by his success in sports, will have much of his confidence entangled in that sport. My husband played professional baseball. Within the confines of the baseball park, I know no one that is his rival in knowledge of and understanding of the game. He’ll tell you without hesitation what the next play will be and he’s right every time.
It took me years to achieve a reasonable level of confidence. I can look back in my history and pinpoint exactly why it eluded me for so long, but now, that understanding reinforces it. Eventually, everyone thinks about what gives them confidence. It’s a human imperative, part of navigating our way in the world. We have to KNOW what we know to make ourselves whole as realized and self-aware.
I can remember asking my mother, years ago, at what age we begin to take ourselves seriously and see ourselves as complete adults. She said, “Never. That twelve-year-old kid is always lurking.” It’s true. I have completely confidence in those occupations for which I studied. I know what I know. But the key to real confidence isn’t what you can put down on paper. It’s the ability to look into the eyes of another person and say, “I don’t know” and be perfectly okay with being imperfect. Confidence is a valley away from arrogance, and learning to discern the difference is part of what clears the fog as we age. If we do it right, we realize that it’s okay to make mistakes and unless you’re on a SWAT team, no one is going to die in the making. We also realize that truly loving someone doesn’t involve a thing, like how he or she dresses. It is entirely about having the confidence to watch them thrive.
I sometimes leave the house without makeup, these days. I dress the way I want to dress. I look at the world through glasses I didn’t have to wear until I was in my forties, but I see it far more clearly than I did at twenty, thirty, and yes, even forty. I don’t want to lie and say that I don’t realize I was blessed with good genes. At 71, my mother is the Picture of Dorian Gray (without all of the nasty habits, of course). I’m fully aware that part of my current good health is only half my doing. But the fact is that confidence is the best thing I ever did for myself. It simplifies things. It brings things into focus and makes me discard all of the white noise of extraneous emotions bouncing around my head like bebes in a kettle drum. I highly recommend it. If you haven’t already, go out and find yourself some. It will change your life in the most amazing ways.