Bambi and Confidence

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“Did you draw this Bambi?!” Paul exclaimed when he walked in the door.

I quickly hung my head in shame. “Yes, but it’s awful. I know.”

“And that is why you’ll never succeed at anything in life!” he said in a lovingly irritated kind of tone as he gently set the picture back on the table.

“What? It doesn’t even look like Bambi. Its head is too long and skinny and its legs look off.” I insisted.

Paul just shook his head in disbelief. Just yesterday he had told me I needed to find a hobby—something I could enjoy doing to relax. I gave him a million excuses about why I can’t do anything and how I’m not good at a single thing.

Knowing he’d hold me accountable to his hobby-finding suggestion, today I started thinking about things I used to enjoy years ago, before I went away to college and my life turned into a seemingly endless season of busyness. I used to enjoy drawing, painting, crafts, and writing. I rarely ever do any of those things anymore but I couldn’t remember why; until today—today I remembered that I have a deep, deep, deep fear of failure.

Even if no one sees the pictures I draw, the poems I write, the signs I paint—I am a tough critic and they are never “good enough” in my eyes. As I analyze their every flaw, regrets of not spending more time practicing when I was younger sink into my heart, and suddenly what I was supposed to be doing to relax ends up making me feel terrible about myself. So much for an enjoyable hobby [insert face-palm].

After hashing out my “it’s-to-late-to-learn-to-draw” mindset with Paul, I sat down tonight to draw a train for my train-obsessed toddler. “How hard could a boxy cartoon-train be?” I thought to myself. It must have looked like a train because my son kept pointing yelling “choo-choo,” but I was so disappointed and frustrated that I ripped the picture up and threw it away. I told myself that I can’t draw so it’s not worth trying because that ship has clearly sailed. I thought it was time to pick a new hobby already not even 6 hours after I tried my first one out.

Once again, my husband gave me a motivational speech about succeeding and not giving up. Cue deep thinking—why did I never truly pursue drawing even though I always enjoyed it? Why did I give up writing poems? Why do I no longer do crafts? Why, why, WHY do I lack the confidence to do anything I enjoy!?

Then it hit—COMPARISON. If comparison were a skill I’d say I’m an expert. I never really practiced drawing throughout my life because I was never as good as some of my friends. Clearly they had natural talent and I didn’t, or so I thought. The same story goes for writing and painting, I just wasn’t as good as some of my friends were. I was always really good at academics and once I joined the workforce I was great at gaining the attention of my boss and excelling in my roll. I realize now that I quit pursuing my hobbies because I couldn’t be one of the “best” like I was in school and at work.  As terrible as this sounds, other people were better than me and if I couldn’t be the best then I needed to focus my attention on areas where I could be.

Wow! That realization tonight was HUGE—“I feel that I need to be the best or it’s not worth my time.” It is opening my eyes to so many things and I’m starting to see a direct correlation across all areas of my life. Just last week I sat in my counselor’s office telling her about how I used to be good at everything I did and how everything came easy to me, until I got a job in public accounting and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I felt like a failure every day, I found it so confusing and hard, and I had a difficult time even understanding what my managers were explaining to me. Now, my husband wants me to keep the books and do payroll for his small business and I’m too terrified to do it because I’m scared I’m not smart enough.

My counselor said something I’d never thought of before. “Sounds like you’d never actually been challenged before that job. If everything came easy for you, you didn’t know how to face a real challenge.”

MIND-BLOWN. Wow. I guess one could put it like that—nothing really challenged me until that job because I didn’t let it. The things that were challenging—like playing flute, piano, drawing, painting, writing, etc.—THOSE things I quit. Because they were hard.

I didn’t realize until today when I drew what I thought was a terrible Bambi how the conversation I had with my counselor a week ago was representative of my entire life. I thought it didn’t much matter since I’m a stay at home mom now anyway, but boy, oh boy, IT DOES MATTER. Clearly, because this mindset is freezing me in my tracks. It’s stopping me from doing anything outside of my comfort zone. It prevents me from doing anything very meaningful with my life. It lessens the impact I can have on my boys as they grow up.

So, after some serious thought tonight I decided I can’t keep living this way. I decided that the root of my fear of failure is an unrealistic view of “success.” In my mind, success is being “the best.” I’m such an all-or-nothing kind of person. My husband is right though, if I keep that mindset I’ll never do anything. My fear of inadequacy is based on a definition of “adequate” that only Jesus could attain.

I wish I had some incredible insight on how to change one’s mindset. I wish I could now jump into a motivational speech about having grace on oneself and overcoming one’s fears. But I don’t know the answers other than knowing I’m one step closer to freedom from this now that I know what to be mindful of and praying about. So instead, I’m going to turn it back to you! How do YOU handle deep fears like this and push yourself to step outside your comfort zone?! How do you face the challenges in your life?

Tell me all of your secrets. Because next time Paul walks in and asked if I drew that Bambi, I want to confidently declare “yes! Not bad for my first drawing in years!”