The Confidence Conundrum | Letter From an Editor

WORDS BY CHRISTEL LANGUE / @CHRISTELMICHELLE


Dear Citizens, 
           When it comes to confidence, “You either have it, or you don’t.” At least, that’s what everybody will tell you. What the peanut gallery won’t say, however is that confidence can be acquired. That last sentence is something I have struggled to learn for the better half of my short-lived life. What’s more is that the acquisition of confidence is not like the acquisition of a breakfast food. It is not simple or predictable. You can’t just wake up one day and say, “I’m going to love myself today” in the way that you would say, “I’m going to eat pancakes today” and then proceed to do just that. No matter how many daily affirmations you repeat in the mirror, or how many adjustments you make to the lists of things you like and dislike about yourself, being confident or acquiring confidence is not easy.
            I bring up the topic of confidence because I have never had it. There has always been something that I’ve disliked about myself, or wanted to change. The biggest imperfection that I have used against myself in years passed, would be my acne. Since the age of 11, I’ve struggled with my appearance. Unlike any of my 5 siblings, or close friends for that matter, I was cursed with what I called an “everything pizza face”. I hated looking in mirrors, unless it was to touch up my 10 pounds of “no makeup-makeup”. I could barely look people in the eyes, and anytime I touched my face it was probably to pick it apart. Because of this I often found myself thinking, even saying out loud, that if and when my skin cleared up, I could finally be confident. I would like myself and ultimately be the version of me that lived inside of my head. These thoughts were, in a way, conditional and I tricked myself into thinking that my confidence was dependent on whether or not I could attain the unrealistic goals which I had set.
            This mindset is dangerous; it is unhealthy, and yet it is not uncommon. I have heard countless women and girls say, “If I lose X more pounds, I’ll feel better about myself.” Or, “If I was only a little bit tanner, I’d be perfect.” These comments seem harmless until you get that tan, and you lose that weight, or in my situation, you are cured of acne. Because then what? What’s next? The missing component in the conversation surrounding body peace and confidence is the aftermath. 
About three weeks ago, I went on a family trip to Washington, DC and caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror. This time, I stopped myself from instinctively avoiding my own eye contact, and really looked. For the first time in nearly nine years, my skin was clear. I took a closer look and searched my reflection for what I was sure existed: cysts, comedones, white heads... no dice. I then grabbed the magnified mirror off of the wall and looked even further—nothing. Stunned, I stood silently, realizing that looking back at me was the “me” that I had conjured up in many a daydream, the “me” that I had always wanted to be, and this time she was real. I was her, and she was me
The elation from that very moment can most easily be compared to the feeling you get upon receiving a good grade in a class you are failing. Your hard work has paid off and you obtain what you were almost sure was impossible. Yet, the work is far from over, and after that supreme high comes a deflating dose of reality. Your grades can go back to being shitty, or they can continue to improve. My skin can go back to resembling a pizza, or it can continue to get better. If it does improve, what next? What do I do now that my skin is clear? In fact, why do I feel the exact same as I did before? 
This is something that I like to call “The Biggest Loser Syndrome”. I never quite understood the stories of how past contestants would gain a lot of the lost weight back, or go into deep depressions. Now, I finally do. The problem here does not lie upon our exterior, which we use as a cover-up. By doing this we are able to avoid the real issues that run a lot deeper than we let on. It’s easy to hide from our problems and point the finger at what’s on the surface. By giving our demons physical traits that seem curable, we trick ourselves into believing that once our imperfections have been perfected, we will be at peace—or in my case, gain a newfound sense of confidence. That is simply untrue.
This is the confidence conundrum. The high is temporary and will eventually give way to the truth. We place too much emphasis and too much faith in the idea that once our external problems are solved—once we get all of our wants, tick all of the boxes on our “fix” lists—we will be happy. That is just not the case and I won’t buy into that trap any longer. My skin is clear and this is the best I’ve ever looked. Yet, I’m still unhappy. I’m still searching for improvement in areas that don’t require work. I am hardwired to detect imperfection and left in disbelief when there is none to be found. I have internalized the mode of self-improvement, the idea that with enough change comes positivity. Now I just need to learn, or train myself to realize, that working on my internal self is just as important as working on my external self. Confidence really does come from within, as cheesy as that sounds, and I’m glad I took that trip to DC and figured it out.

xx Christel

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