The Importance of Confidence

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Have you ever noticed how some people, confident people, can speak about topics they literally know nothing about, and yet people believe them?  The key ingredient there is confidence.  Now, I find these people and their drooling fans pretty annoying, but I find their confidence pretty inspiring.

When I was in high school, especially as an underclassman, I was shy.  I loved to read, ride horses, watch movies with my friends, but I didn’t like to talk in class, speak to people I didn’t know, or really even look at people in the hallway.  I wasn’t painfully shy, I was just an introvert.  But something clicked in 11th grade.  I just decided one day that I didn’t need to be so timid.  It wasn’t like in a movie or anything. I didn’t suddenly dress better, have more friends, and get invited to all the “cool” parties.  I just changed a little bit.  I walked a little straighter and made eye contact in the hallway.  I talked to strangers (not the scary kind) and made friends in new places. I only changed a little bit but I think that little bit made all the difference in the following years.

This confidence has grown and changed a lot as I’ve gotten older.  I think I’m more confident now than I’ve ever been.  There’s something to be said for your 30’s.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve realized that everyone else’s opinion of me isn’t that important.  I have a loving husband, a caring family, and awesome friends; who cares what strangers think?  That confidence translates into a somewhat outgoing personality, a tall, fast walk (one of my favorite custodians calls it the “100 dollar walk”), and a willingness to share my opinion and lead others when I feel capable.

That confidence most notably translates to two areas of my life:  riding and teaching.

When I was a kid, I rode English style.  This mostly meant dressage for me (like this but not as a cool or professional: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyU7z73ddMY#t=18 ) and my riding mostly took place in an arena.  Don’t get me wrong, it could still be scary at times.  I’d been stepped on in an arena (multiple times); I’d seen people kicked in the stomach in an arena; I’d made emergency dismounts in an arena; and I’d seen people thrown from their horse in an arena.  And it took a lot of confidence for a tiny, skinny girl to go to the pasture to get her horse with all of the other 1000 pound horses crowding around, but now it’s a whole new story. When you get out on a trail, anything can happen.  Seriously.  Anything.  (More to come on that topic in future posts)

I’ve just about finished my third year back in the saddle and it’s been a completely different but awesome experience.  I’ve made a lot of new and very close friends (Casey calls them my Best Barn Friends–but our friendships extend beyond the barn) and become really close with my half-horse Copper.  The first time I rode him almost three years ago, I was pretty terrified.  He is FAST.  And competitive. And fidgety. And he doesn’t like to stop.  This was all very different than my previous years spent riding, so it made me nervous.  Thankfully, the riding part came back pretty easily.  Heels down, chin up, sit up straight, hands down.  My muscle memory kicked in for all of that, but the confidence part didn’t come back quite as easily.  If you haven’t been on a horse in a “real” riding situation (not at a trail place where all of the horses dutifully follow each other from point A to point B), then you might not know the feeling of raw, potentially wild power that you have under you.  It’s intoxicating and terrifying.  As my husband points out, they have a mind of their own and can do whatever they want.  True story.  And until you get to know them, you have no idea what’s going on in their heads. Anyway, back to confidence.  Having spent most of the past two years riding Copper exclusively, I’ve formed a major bond with him. I know his tells, I know what may or may not spook him, I know how he’ll react to most situations and I can plan accordingly.  And I know how fast he can go.

Until recently, I didn’t embrace his speed.  I was scared of it.  That raw power I mentioned earlier?  That “mind of his own” thing?  Yeah, that stuff can be scary.  Haha.  But, Copper and I have come to a point in our relationship where we trust each other.  Even after we formed our little bond, I still had a chunk of fear before every ride, especially if I thought it would be a “fast” ride with a lot of opportunities to lope.  Have I mentioned he’s fast?  Yeah, well he is.  However, I’ve recently gotten over this hump.  I’ve gained my confidence again.  (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I will ever go riding without an ounce of fear, after all, they are one ton animals with minds of their own who at any minute could do anything, but that little bit of fear is small enough not to hold me back).  This new confidence has me wanting to go FAST!  We have a pretty straight, open grass track that leads to a lake and it is hole-free (woohoo!).  So I can open him up.  Wow.  Talk about fun!  I wish I had a picture because I know I have a giant grin on my face the whole time.  Copper just kicks it in high gear, I lean forward into a low two-point position (think jockey-style but not with my feet on top of his back) and we run.  Like the wind.  It is the most amazing feeling ever!  What I used to be scared of, I now embrace and enjoy.  (Hopefully soon I’ll have a GoPro video I can share!)

This confidence also shows up in my work.  Whether it be the ability to stand in front of 25 judgmental 17-year olds, or assisting my colleagues with technology, I must have confidence in what I do.  And it takes confidence to get back up there and do it again.  Kind of like riding a horse, when you have a room with that many teenagers, anything can happen.  You never know what they’re going to say, what moods they’re in, how they might react to each other, what stress they’re under.  It’s a powder keg.  I have to have confidence in my capacity to handle whatever situations arise and, although I thankfully haven’t been tested on this too many times, I feel pretty good about my abilities.

I wish it was easier to teach confidence.  I especially see the need with teenage girls.  I see the girls who are really quiet in class (me!), the girls who hide their faces behind their hair, the girls with their eyes to the floor in the hallway, and I just want to yell to them “stop hiding! You’ve got this!” but that would probably totally freak them out.  I try to encourage them to walk tall, disregard the haters, and believe in themselves, but it takes a lot more than 48 minutes a day to get that message across.  I hope at least some of my students see my confidence (and my goofiness, awkwardness, and whatever other “real” qualities) and understand that it’s a choice they can make too.

I believe in confidence.  I think it’s vital.  It can be SO scary to overcome whatever fears we have, but in the end, it’s SO worth it!

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