A while back, someone left a comment in one of the posts regarding my before and after shots… something to the effect of “Just comparing your posture, the way you stand.. you just look so much more confident.”

And as much as I hated it, I agree with it. I’m much more comfortable with who I am… and while I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it had something to do with my new-found figure, I’d also be dishonest if I didn’t admit that it has far more to do with what I’ve learned during my journey – not only about myself, but about the environment in which I live.

I do believe that I exuded [what I believed was] confidence, before. It was a degree of confidence that worked for me at that time. I believed that I was confident because I was almost unstoppable. And that made sense. I was proud of my ability to achieve the things I had achieved, proud of the connections I had made at such a young age and proud of how I had leveraged my abilities in a way that always kept me afloat…. however “afloat” applied to the situation.

But for me, it was always a little hollow. There was always this nagging thought in the back of my mind that there was something that I couldn’t conquer… something that I couldn’t defeat. So, for me, my self-confidence was lacking. It was visible on the outside, but on the inside? Empty. Hollow.

There was always this one thing that I couldn’t shake, and it made me uncomfortable in certain situations. I was always a little uncomfortable eating in certain environments. I was always afraid to be caught going to and from fast food restaurants. Certain situations were things that just couldn’t be explained by my amazing abilities and talents, and because I knew how judgy society could be… there was always certain situations where I felt like I was always running and hiding. Really.

As I said, I’d be lying if I didn’t experience a raise in my self-confidence when my body began to change. I look back, now, on the photos I took and posted, and I smile at myself. Not because I looked good – I did, though – but because I was proud. I was proud of my ability to achieve the things I’d achieved, proud of how I’d used the connections I’d made at such a young age, and proud of how I leveraged my abilities in a way that always kept me focused on my end result.

Sound familiar?

For some reason, my inability to control my weight dogged at me and kept me from feeling completely confident. Was it because I was aware of how society feels about fat girls? Was it because my weight was an element of my life that I couldn’t control? Or was it the fact that I felt some kinda way about my failure to manage my eating habits in a fashion that didn’t harm me in the end? I don’t know… I don’t know that I’ll ever know.

What I do know, however, was that there was a point where that all started to change for me. I started to realize how useless and stupid society can truly be when it comes to weight and wellness. I started to realize that my ability – really, my inability – to control myself was altered by things I had never even thought of before. I started to realize that managing my eating habits required more than simple efforts in this day and age. I became more aware.

That, to me, is where it gets interesting. Self-confidence is defined as self-assuredness in one’s personal judgment, ability and power.

If that’s the definition of self-confidence, then wouldn’t it make sense that mine would feel hollow? If I felt this kind of inner guilt about my inability to control myself or even manage my looks in a way most appropriate to myself… wouldn’t it make sense that my self-confidence would feel empty?

I’ve received so many e-mails from women who say that they “don’t know how to love themselves,” and I understand that feeling. When I was at a point in my life where it felt like that guilt was unbearable, it did feel difficult to love myself and trust in my ability to care for myself. No matter what I was doing for others on the outside, I always had to contend with this when I got home at night. It was much easier to lose myself in work, school, family, whatever than it was to lose myself… in myself. Focusing on myself would only remind me of this thing that I felt so guilty about. Not focusing on myself, however, would only ensure that things would get further out of control.

But why do I feel guilty? If it’s because of how people will look at me… can I really ever change that? Listen… I’m more self-confident now than I’ve ever been, and now people call me arrogant… because, y’know, heaven forbid I be aware of my power and how I can successfully wield it. I had to learn, the hard way, that society will beat you down if you let them. I think they call it “…crabs in a barrel syndrome?”

A syndrome where a group of like situated people hurt those in their community attempting to get ahead.

Often this is applied to people in an impoverished community where one person is starting to get ahead. The collective community becomes jealous or filled with a sense of self-loathing, so they find a way to pull that person back down to the community’s level.

When harvesting crab, the crab as a group will pull down any crab that starts to climb out of the barrel in an attempt to be the first out of the barrel that holds them in, hence crabs-in-a-barrel.

Sounds about right, right? In a community where very few people understand what it means to organically develop a sense of self-confidence, anyone who creates their own would immediately be shunned, clowned, insulted, or… get this:

“…brought down a notch or two.”

Get the hell outta here. I can’t be the only person who’s witnessed women (and men!) say this about someone.

I find that when I talk to a lot of women who were in situations similar to my own, they try to fill the void in their sense of self-confidence by seeking outside resources to give them reasons to be confident. They fish for compliments… or they go out and engage in promiscuous behavior. And I don’t mean “Oh, I’m in charge of my sexuality” – I don’t mean “that brand of promiscuity.” I mean the “Well, he told me everything I wanted to hear… so I slept with him and now I haven’t heard from him.” brand of promiscuity. (I’ll also mention that there are people with a vested interest in making sure we are never fully self-confident… because then, they couldn’t take advantage of us. Predatory individuals, yes. They exist.) If you have a hole in your self-confidence… you will fill it improperly.

You can’t do that. I hope it’s obvious as to why. When you use outside resources to give your confidence a boost… what happens when those resources disappear? You’re left with the same void.. possibly even more desperate to fill it again. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there.

Self-confidence is self-assuredness in one’s personal judgment, ability and power.

Learning how to truly take care of my body and myself was what allowed me to develop my confidence. Learning what makes me tick – as an individual – empowered me in ways that no series of one-night-stands or silly compliment quests could accomplish. Developing a system where I could adequately judge what I allow in my life? Of all the things I’ve achieved in my life, of everything that I’m honored to have participated in… nothing tops that. Not even having a child. Why? Because what I’ve learned, I can still pass down to her and create a lineage of self-confident, self-controlled women. How incredible is that?

Why is self-confidence a game? Because it’s a board full of players, all trying to keep you from the goal line. So many people around you are invested in you never becoming self-assured… self-aware… self-confident. If you never think you can do it on your own, you’ll constantly seek out someone or something to “help” you. You have to cleverly maneuver your way through them all, avoid getting sucked back into the silliness, and come out on top. What does it mean to come out on top? Finally achieving results.

What better way to reinforce the idea that your personal judgment, ability and power are good enough for you to feel confident in them?

I say to every woman out there – I say to myself – take a long, hard look at your individual sense of self-confidence. Determine if you do feel that there’s a void that you’re filling with anything other than yourself… then take active – and I do mean active – steps to change that. Nothing more empowering than seeking out information, putting that into action, and seeing results.