Why aren’t we confident?
One in three girls with a grade point average above 4.0 do not think they are smart enough for their dream career. Read that again. That’s every third peer, sister, daughter, or friend you know. Let it dawn on you, the realization that these smart, capable women face an epidemic no matter how deserving they truly are. Why aren’t we confident? Why can’t we seem to escape these assaults to our self esteem? Why do we never feel smart enough? Pretty enough? Strong enough? Good enough? Confidence is the root of all the good that can happen in our lives. It helps sustain healthy relationships, letting us evade the pressure to make ourselves smaller and fit into spaces that aren’t meant for us. It anchors us in an unwavering sense of self so that no one can diminish us by denying validation. It cuts through the bullshit of doubt, anxiety and insecurity so that when we show up, we show up with faith and power.
Confidence then becomes a battle cry.
Yet, it’s elusive. It feels out of our grasp and far from our reach. It is the source of all good yet we don’t even feel as if we deserve it. It gets so morbid that it may reach even the youngest of us and blow out the flame of hope they need to make this trek, the flame that helps them see the end. The glorious end where every girl knows they are smart enough for their dreams, where every girl dares to dream at all.
What does that say about ourselves? We don’t deserve happiness? Success? The train of thought becomes more and more harrowing the farther you follow. HELL NO. You are what you say you are. Now take what’s yours and take some more.
Cynthia Nixon recited a poem by Camille Rainville, “Be a Lady, They Said” against a haunting background of women attempting to fit in, molding themselves so that they could be accepted by a society that, frankly, was not made for them. The project was a campaign for Girls, Girls, Girls magazine following her political race.
Be a lady, they said. Don’t talk too loud. Don’t talk too much. Don’t take up space. Don’t sit like that. Don’t stand like that. Don’t be intimidating. Why are you so miserable? Don’t be a bitch. Don’t be so bossy. Don’t be assertive. Don’t overact. Don’t be so emotional. Don’t cry. Don’t yell. Don’t swear. Be passive. Be obedient. Endure the pain.
Those three words, endure the pain, rings throughout the soliloquy. In every other line, there is contradiction. In every other line, there is demand. In every other line, there is pain. The pain of breaking ourselves over and over and over again to become palatable. The whole video moves like the exact train of thought we have at every moment while we maneuver through our world. How often do we find ourselves tangled in these expectations? How often do we forget what we want for ourselves in this narrative? The truth of the poem comes from the truth of our lives; no matter what we do, if it is not rooted deeply and irrevocably in our own confidence, then we will be trapped in this dizzying curse.
So then, there it is. One out of every three girls do not think they are smart enough. Why? Because they do not know what to think of themselves.
How can they? They are constantly told to be something other than who they are, never encouraged to just trek the earth of their mind. Encouraging a young girl to hold steadfast in her values, her ideas and her dreams is asking her to go against everything she is being told. You do not need validation from anyone but yourself. The truth is, you do not need much outside of yourself. One of the most revolutionary acts as a woman, then, is to tune out this noise. Find tools that will help you scavenge for the confidence that is already within you. There will always be powers trying to chip away at you but it becomes our responsibility to fight. How do we stay strong? How do we protect ourselves?
We are not looking for confidence, we are trying to build armor around it. We are not seeking self-respect, we are fostering it within us. We are not asking for permission to be ourselves, we are demanding that our whole selves be accepted. In this way, the poem becomes a battle cry as well.
We are powerful just as we are but we must now figure out how to let the rest of the world in on that secret.
Power Tip 1: Take up as much space as you want
Power Tip 2: Talk as loud as you want
Power Tip 3: Yell. Swear. Cry. Emotion is powerful
Cynthia Nixon looks at us with her piercing eyes, lined with dark kohl, and begs us to see ourselves, not as ladies, but as who we want to be. She begs us to find ways to build this power within us, with community, with affirmations, with love and with acceptance.
Real talk: Stop listening to who the world says you are ‘supposed to be’ and just be. Hell yeah, it feels vulnerable and scary to put yourself out there, but it’s the path one must take to step fully into your most powerful and confident self. The world is waiting.