A Lesson from an Island Stranger
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”― Henry David Thoreau
“The eyes of others (are) our prisons; their thoughts our cages.” ― Virginia Woolf
“When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” ― Pablo Picasso
The woman stood beside a rickety folding table outside a bookstore, on a little vacation island Joe and I have come to love.
The island has been our favorite escape for two years now…escape from what I’m not sure, because we’re surrounded by nature 24/7 with no concrete, traffic, or people in site.
But, I digress.
Back to the woman. Her physique was slight, yet everything else about her was big: hair, smile, laughter, attitude. Beside her on the table sat three stacks of books.
Being a writer myself, I recognized the signs. This was an author hawking her books to the fiction hungry.
As we drew near, I heard her ask passersby: “Are you a Yankee?”
As a born and bred Yankee, I wondered why the question. Although I should explain that my Southern-boy husband contends that I’m not a Yankee, as Pennsylvania (my birth state) was a borderline state during the War. (You know, the war that happened 150 years ago and which certain people in a certain locale just can’t seem to move beyond.)
As my bookworm husband entered the bookstore, I sat on a brick street-bench to ponder my place in the world (for, say, the billionth time) and soak in the sun and the sights: colorful Victorian houses, quaint shops with old-English-style signs, camera-toting vacationers, and, yes, the woman.
She smiled, she laughed, she patted strangers’ arms, some she even hugged. She exuded confidence and relayed that she was right where she wanted to be, was meant to be, and should be at that moment. She gestured, she articulated, she reeled in onlookers.
She. Sold. Books.
Lots of ‘em.
Finally, I walked up to her and asked her why the pointed question. “What do you have against Yankees?”
She laughed and waved off my inquiry with the flip of a hand. “Not a thing. It’s an icebreaker, that’s all. I’m married to a Yankee!”
We exchanged pleasantries and quips about the writing life, and I left with one of her bookmarks, determined to do research on this amazing author whom I was convinced was a New York Times’ bestselling author. (She didn’t tell me that; I came to that conclusion based on what I observed of her.)
Holy cow, was I wrong. Turns out, she had three (only 3!) reviews at Amazon and had self-published her books.
No, no, no, don’t get me wrong. I’m impressed with people who self-publish. Very impressed, in fact. Even famous and long-standing authors are doing it these days. And, it’s an awesome choice if you want to design your own career, and reap 100% profits. In fact, it quite often is THE smartest choice a writer can make. However, New York Times best-selling authors are 99/100 times published by traditional publishers. Hence, my confusion.
Again, I digress. Back to the woman.
Without meaning to, she taught me a lesson. Given her panache, I assumed she had a thousand-plus positive comments at Amazon, the backing of a NYC publisher, and the endorsement of the largest newspaper in the country. (You know the kind of endorsement I mean – that mystical tap of a proverbial magic wand by the powers that be, those decision makers who, like the Good Witch Glenda, touch you once and poof, bestow you with the right to declare yourself as viable, successful, exclusive, a person like no other.)
In fact, the only endorsement she had was of her own worth and her own faith in herself.
And doggone it, that was all she needed.
She was impressive!
I wanted that confidence.
But, I’m confidence-challenged. (Phew, there I said it. These days, that admission is more taboo than saying you’re an alcoholic or a kleptomaniac.)
To others it’s been clear for a long time (hence their oft-repeated comment, “You’re too hard on yourself.”), but I’ve only recently been able to admit it to myself. I mean, the signs were all there: I’m an introvert, I relish in tasks that take me away from crowds (like research), I enjoy solitaire, I question my decisions time and time again, my mother taught me that anything other than humility is nigh to a sin, and even when my feet are on the ground my head is in the clouds. With those credentials, it’s no wonder that confidence never came easily.
Confidence. Where Does It Come From? How Do You Develop It?
In pondering that question, I researched (no surprise) “confidence” and repeatedly found these descriptors: A person with self-confidence generally likes herself and others, is willing and brave enough to take risks to achieve her personal and professional goals, and thinks positively about the future.
For the most part, I am these things. I like me and where I am. Sure, “wrinkled” wasn’t one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up, but I like most things about me.
As for liking others: absolutely! (Although, I do think the gene pool could use a dose of chlorine every now and then.
Take risks? I have. Looking back, I realize I’ve taken far more risks than most people I know. My personal timeline is peppered with a string of successes and failures.
Heck, my novels alone are a risk. I write inspirational suspense, and my novel series (The Crossings Trilogy) involves paranormal, in a time when the secular market isn’t keen on God, and the Christian market is far from keen about the notion of ghosts and spirits in their literature.
But risk, like wealth, is relative.
So, how do you build confidence? Below are the steps that came up again and again in my research:
- Identify negative thoughts
- Target those negative thoughts and replace them with positive
- Maintain a positive support network
- Identify your talents
- Take pride in yourself
- Accept compliments gracefully
But aside from that, perhaps it all boils down to believing in yourself and in what God has placed in you. Perhaps confidence arrives the moment you are brave enough to live your truth and your dreams, not because of what it will prove or get you, but because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
Meanwhile, I’m just going to focus on building the type of confidence this toddler has: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg
Where does your confidence come from? This isn’t just a leading question; I truly want to know.
—If you haven’t had a chance to check out my book series, The Crossing Trilogy, I hope you will! The first book, Crossing into the Mystic, can be ordered through your local bookstore, or via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Book #2, Edging through the Darkness, will be released later this month. Thank you to the many who have taken a moment to leave a review on Amazon or recommend it to friends.