Confidence on the Inside

I don’t want to be invulnerable. I don’t want to be in a state where I can’t be penetrated, where I can’t be influenced, where I can’t be molded in some way. I want to be vulnerable.

I just want to be at peace with that vulnerability, and that’s something I haven’t been able to achieve yet. I love the idea of letting the walls come down, and just saying, Here I am. This is me. I’m human. This is me in all of my glory, all of my fabulousness, all of my flaws, and I am real, and I accept them.

I think that goes a long way towards helping other people accept the real you, when you can finally come to terms with that for yourself. That’s honestly where my fear of vulnerability lies — I don’t want other people to see certain things about me because they are things about me I don’t like, and I haven’t come to terms with them yet.

I feel as though a lot of the “success” I’ve had — however you want to define it — came from projecting an image of confidence to the outside world that was very believable and in many ways enabled others to find their own confidence.

Yet I wasn’t always feeling confidence on the inside. A long time ago, at a professional development seminar I attended, I learned that there are three types of confidence: There’s confidence in yourself; there’s exuding confidence to others; and then there’s enabling others to find their own confidence. I feel as though I have the latter two, but I haven’t really had self-confidence, in an authentic way, at least to the extent that I’d choose to define it. People who know me would say that’s not true. “You’re the most confident person I know.” I get that a lot, but No. That’s because I’m so good at appearing confident.

You know, I think that a lot of people will be surprised to hear that I have challenges with vulnerability because for the last 5-1/2 years, I’ve lived very publicly. I write about personal things on Twitter, on my blog. I speak at conferences, and I don’t just speak about UX. I speak about very personal experiences that I’ve had in my career and in my life. I think that I’ve created this image of being someone who’s very comfortable with their humanness and very comfortable with exposing who I am, the real me, the lessons I’ve learned. That is true to an extent.

However, there is so much about myself that I have kept private, and I actually consider myself to be a very private person. I’m an only child. I’m used to spending a lot of time alone. I’m not really used to having that many confidantes, people that I can go to in a moment’s notice with challenges in my life.

I am incredibly blessed to have the friends that I do, and the people that I consider to be my best friends are people that I’ve known since elementary school, middle school, high school. They’ve been in my life a long time. They’ve always been there for me.

But I am programmed to take care of myself. I am programmed to deal with things on my own, and I feel as though, in a lot of ways, that’s allowed me to bury some of the darker things that I don’t like, that I don’t want to deal with, and only bring to the surface the stuff about myself I am proud of.

So even though I’ve been very public, and I’ve exposed a lot of who I am to the community and to a bunch of strangers, basically, it has been conscious. I’ve been conscious of what I’ve shared and what I haven’t.

I don’t know that that’s necessarily been a great thing for me. There are still a lot of trials and tribulations of running my business, there are a lot of things that I worry about, like where our field is going, and I don’t know that I am as willing and as open to share the struggles as I would like to be. I worry that I’ve put up a front of looking like I have my act together when I don’t.

Though maybe the joke is on me, and everyone knows that I don’t have it together.

An excerpt from my dialogue with Paul McAleer on our podcast Designing Yourself, Episode #6: Being Seen (originally aired August 27, 2013), with minimal editing for readability.

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