Written By: Leslie Means
One fall morning back in 1989, I woke up and had a profound thought. I decided to wear one of my favorite dresses. Usually this fantastic garment was reserved for church and special occasions. But on this particular morning I chose to wear my favorite black and white checkered dress to school. Scrunch white socks and a fairly clean pair of white tennis shoes completed this look. I couldn’t wait to show my friends and my teacher.
I walked into my 2nd grade classroom full of excitement. But that eager anticipation quickly vanished once I heard my teacher say, “Leslie, why are you so dressed up?”
I panicked. I froze. I walked back to my flip top desk and sulked. My confidence level was shattered.
It is my first memory of losing self-confidence. Looking back today, I realize she probably meant no harm in the statement; she simply wanted to know why I dressed up that day. An easy answer would have been, “because I wanted to.” But my second grade mind didn’t understand.
That evening I told my mom what my teacher said to me. Mom responded with,
“Leslie, who cares what other people think! If you like the dress, you should wear it.”
That statement has been with me ever since.
Of course it took me many, many years before I listened to the wisdom in her words. I was embarrassed by a silly little comment. Unfortunately, my dress was never worn again in school.
Throughout the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about confidence. I had a few rough moments in college where my poise was shaken. I also hid in the bathroom stall when my first television story aired back in Beaumont, Texas; as if hiding was going to make it all go away.
Despite a few weak moments, I do have a fairly strong self-confident attitude. I still worry about things beyond my control and wonder what others think, but my confidence is growing. Now don’t mistake confidence for cocky; I believe there is a big difference. I don’t have a “big head” type of confidence, I simply have an “I can wear sweatpants in Target without brushing my hair and not worry about what other people think of me,” type of confidence.
I don’t know how this was obtained or when I decided it was OK to just be me. I’m sure my faith, parents and husband all helped in this category. I suppose one day a while back, I just decided I was worth it.
We all are.
This past week I ran into a few women lacking confidence. Some were worried about their looks, while others agonized over choices their husbands were making. One needed reassurance that she was good enough in the eyes of others.
I uttered words to them like, “You are beautiful, worth it, skinny enough, funny enough, smart enough for the world” and hoped so much they believed what I was saying. It was probably a reminder for myself, too.
But at the end of the conversations, I realized my words didn’t mean much. It’s rather ironic that when it comes to our level of confidence it doesn’t matter what others think, it only matters what you think of yourself.
That’s what I’ll be teaching my girls. Every night I tell them, “you are beautiful inside and out. Be kind to others, be honest and most importantly, love yourself. And don’t forget, when you make a choice, make it with confidence. And by all means, don’t let anyone question your favorite dress.”
Read more from Leslie in the Kearney Hub.
What’s your confidence level look like? How do you teach your kids to make confident choices?