It’s odd how I can logically know I’m competent but still doubt that with the same fervor that every teenager has for their favorite angsty music with a lead singer who is attractive in an “I can fix them” sort of way. I know I’m an ok writer because I have evidence to remind myself of it. However, I had the chance to be a guest speaker in a friend’s class, which involved me writing a new thing, students analyze it, and then ask me about writing it, which was weird enough on its own. The process wasn’t helped by the fact that the entire time I was talking about writing and answering the questions of earnest young writers, I was thinking: “Y’all know I wrote this in my underwear, right?”
Confidence is hard. I was invited to this class to talk about writing tragic events in our lives using humor, and that’s what I write the most, so if I have a speciality then that’s it. But in my experience, confidence doesn’t really deal with logic. My confidence is not founded on experience or the feedback from others or the grades I’ve been given or how I look when I walk by the weird super reflective windows of this one building downtown and see that my face doesn’t look as much like hamburger meat anymore.
My confidence works like someone you meet, get to know a little bit, dislike immensely, and then immediately forget about. Whenever I encounter it again, I have only my first impression to go off of, and that was a rough first impression. I’m pretty sure my sense of self comes mostly from this time as a kid when I walked by a mirror and was startled that a person was looking back. In that moment, I think I had both forgotten what I looked like and forgotten that I looked like anything at all. Imagine your first entrance back into reality is remembering you look like a sad beardless dwarf or one of those cats without fur.
Today, when I saw this crowd of eager young people asking me questions about something I wrote while wiping curry and cauliflower off my keyboard, I was treated again to reconciling what they thought of me with my impression of myself as a stout, vaguely sweaty, and confused-looking child surprised at her own reflection. Naturally, it’s kind of difficult to give writerly advice while dealing with conflicting images of myself, and I wonder if that is how other people think about themselves and how their confidence is built. Are there other people who constantly invalidate new impressions of themselves and fall back on old unfavorable things because that way of thinking is familiar. Or are there really people who develop and genuinely change how they think of themselves. I’ve changed a lot in the last few years–in more ways than I mention outside of Twitter–but I still can’t recognize myself as much more than the squat goblin-child who was surprised to see a person in the mirror.