Was I more confident 5 years ago?

Man, so I’ve been scraping the 2010 and 2011 drafts for posts (it is insane how many unfinished posts we have), and I’ve been noticing how much more I dunno, prescriptive a lot of these posts are.

Like… how to do cognitive restructuring.  On the importance of moxy.   That post (It takes a village) from the other week about getting out and being with adults was actually written in 2011.  I even have one that ironically talks about our students getting cognitive dissonance when we tell them they have to think in shades of grey.

It’s ironic, because I think as I age, some things get greyer.  Like, meta-grey.  I mean, sometimes things really are black and white and not shades of grey at all.  Sometimes people go farther in life if they ignore ambiguity, even if things are grey.  Who am I to say what is right or wrong.  There’s even a post in here somewhere (vintage 2012 or 2013) talking about how people like to be told what to do, they like to be lead.  And… I dunno, do they?

I do think part of it is I’ve spent the year surrounded by everyone being at least as smart and accomplished as I am and most people even more so.  All my coauthored projects finished in the fall.  I haven’t started anything new, no new collaborations etc.  I’m sort of a silo surrounded by amazing people that I don’t often ask for help.  And it has kind of eroded my confidence a bit.  I do like it better being a little fish in a big pond because for whatever reason, I feel a bit uncomfortable as a big fish in a small pond.  But man, have I got imposter syndrome.  Maybe if I were getting more done, making more progress on my projects I’d feel more confident, but right now I’ve got a bit of “will I ever amount to anything” thing going on.  Plus my big projects aren’t working and there’s too many of them and I’m having trouble finding direction.  And I’m going back to teaching and service and things that make it hard to be productive very soon.  If I can’t get things done while on leave, how will I get them done when I’m working full-time?

If I regain my confidence, will it be a false confidence, and will I realize it is so?  Does it matter when moxy is so important?

So, I dunno, a bit of melancholy to add to the lack of certainty.

Or…. maybe those drafts have been sitting there since 2011 for a reason and I’m just overthinking.

Also… I can see that several of these posts were reactions to obnoxious parenting or personal finance blogs that I no longer read and may no longer even exist.  It’s a bit easier to argue the opposite when someone is saying something ridiculous.

So… maybe this whole trying to compare posts from 5 years ago to now is just another lesson that no, it isn’t always about my internal omphaloskepsis; sometimes there’s an external factor.  Usually it’s something else.  Which is kind of comforting, really.

Has your certainty or confidence changed in the last five years?  Have you noticed any other changes?

9 Responses to “Was I more confident 5 years ago?”

  1. Rented life Says:

    I’m getting better at letting things go instead of trying to force it to be perfect. And getting better at not feeling guilty if I need something instead of putting everyone else’s oxygen mask on first.

    My confidence in everything and my core belief system took a major hit about 5 years ago. For a few years after I was just miserable and angry. Couldn’t see anything else. I’m slowly finding ways out of that. I’m asking for what I need and thinking I deserve that instead of being walked on. I’ve removed some people and things from my life that I thought I was supposed to keep.

  2. Shannon Says:

    I was WAY less productive on my year long sabbatical than I probably should have been. Then again, maybe that’s exactly what I needed – some time to decompress. I also found it harder to concentrate without the teaching and service to help structure my time. So don’t be too hard on yourself – I think what you’re feeling is entirely normal as a leave draws to a close. Since coming back, I’ve managed to find a more balanced groove that works for me – hopefully, you’ll find that too.

  3. Norwegian Forest Cat Says:

    Whoa yeah, I’m way more confident now than I was 5 years ago. However, that has way more to do with a really good therapist than anything else.

    (*high fives self for prioritizing self-care*)

    That being said, other aspects of my life have also shifted in a generally positive direction, and the support network I’ve built has helped me get through some of the more difficult periods without a doubt. I still struggle, but am at least convinced most of the time that it’s a temporary feeling that will pass eventually – I’m in a job that can make me feel less than adequate with some regularity, and realizing that I’m generally pretty competent and have the skill set to get the job done helps me worry less than I used to. We’ll see if I can keep that attitude once I hit the job market for real!

  4. chacha1 Says:

    I don’t know if this is wholly germane :-) but fwiw I’ve been writing my blog for 7 years and I have deleted A LOT of early posts and commentary posts. Many of those deleted posts were responses to something I’d read elsewhere. But you know? Nobody else cared, and after a while neither did I. A change of focus over time is totally natural. A change in self-image over time likewise.

    I think confidence (even over-confidence) in youth is an adaptive behavior: from nature’s point of view, it is better for young animals in their bloom of strength (and reproductive capacity) to be self-assured to the point of arrogance. Doubtful, tentative creatures are not the ones who are (evolutionarily speaking) successful. But an increase in caution, analysis, and strategy is an adaptive behavior for the creatures who survive to what we consider middle age (and let’s bear in mind how short a time, evolutionarily speaking, humans have been surviving to more than 40 years on average).

    I’d say your experience is an illustration of just why it is a good thing for people to leave their comfort zones from time to time. It is a good thing for highly-intelligent, accomplished people in particular to be confronted with a group of peers who are also highly intelligent and accomplished. It is not so good for the highly intelligent, or the merely talented for that matter, to be considered The Best for too long of a stretch. That is the road to complacency and laziness and a sense of unwarranted entitlement.

    Getting through that period between “I am the shit” and “I feel like shit” and arriving at “who gives a shit” can be painful. :-)

    There are certain things that I remain very confident about at 50. There are other things that, I have learned, are so far out of my control that I have simply had to swallow a lot of frustration and resentment. Or, more productively, displace it by doing the things that I feel rewarded by.

  5. First Gen American Says:

    My confidence has steadily grown as the years have gone by, but I’m stagnating. I’m now the one being picked to train and mentor my peers and do special projects etc. In the past, I’d just get promoted once I got to that point but with young kids in the mix, I was a lot more discriminating about jobs I would and would not do.

    When my children were much younger, I felt like I lost my own identity for a while. All I did was work and take care of them. I had little steam left for anything else but I was thankful that I at least had my job identity and wasn’t swallowed whole by my mom persona. I’m coming out of the fog now in which I feel more human. It’s not 100% better, but it feels more balanced and like I can take on more challenging work again.

    I personally love being around very big fish. Yes, it does make you feel insignificant in the beginning, but I learn and grow so much more in that kind of environment. It sometimes sucks to be the smartest person in the room and I’ve happily avoided it for a good chunk of my career.

    Re. People like to be told what to do:

    I think people want direction and to know that the work they are doing is meaningful and important, but most people I know want some autonomy as far as how to get from point A to Point B in project or metric.

  6. omdg Says:

    Not sure about five years ago, but I’m definitely less confident than I was 10 years ago. I think that’s part of the goal of medical training: to make you feel like garbage about yourself. Otherwise, why would anyone put up with the training?

  7. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I think I’m both more confident personally, and less confident professionally (in some ways) than 5 years ago. We’re celebrating some big milestones this year in our personal lives: birthdays, anniversaries, my own blog stuff. Professionally, I’m quite certain that I was penalized monetarily for becoming a mom and I’ve also seen some shifts in the environment that make me unwilling to do more than the hours I needed to get the basics done. I should (and normally want to) be pressing forward and taking more on but frankly, I don’t have the energy. Not doing that makes me feel diminished, like if I’m not overachieving, I’m underachieving. But since I like having a personal life that isn’t just gasping for breath and being angry, my battle is against the feeling and not against the choice itself.


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