Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"Yes to God" chapter 3, Ms. Confidence

When I first started reading this chapter on confidence, I really wasn’t identifying with it. I mean, I feel so insecure most of the time, that I don’t feel that I can really pull off a view of confidence. But as I read further, I realized where I do cover up, at least the major area.

As I performed more, especially with singing, and with music of any sort up front, whether that is at church now, or when I going to school for music education, I had to put up a front of confidence as I walked on the stage. It didn’t matter how much my knees were knocking together.

I remember back to being a freshman in high school and entering Solo-Ensemble competitions, and though I felt very insecure, I had the “front” of being put together, perfectly groomed, well practiced, and completely confident. But inside I was a mess. I had to “research” what was going to happen. I had to know what I was expected to do, and have it all planned out in my head, along with all the possible variations, so that I could anticipate what was going to happen and not be thrown by something unexpected.

One of the only things I felt reasonably confident in all my life was my vocal skills… my singing. When I went through student teaching, I was told my musical skills weren’t strong enough.

That just about killed me.

I didn’t want to use any of my musical skills for anything. I didn’t do much singing at church, or anything for a long time. When Dave and I finally settled down in the church we are at now, I was asked by the pastor to sing a solo for the Good Friday service. I was extremely nervous, but as I didn’t know many people at the church, I figured I could risk it. I was able to stand up there and sing in front of the whole church.

Then they asked me to lead the music portion of the Vacation Bible School for that summer. I was terrified! I couldn’t get up there and be responsible for teaching the kids songs, opening and closing the VBS for the day… I couldn’t teach, remember?! My skills weren’t strong enough!

I learned the songs really well. I learned the sign language and other movements to the songs. When the kids got there, I got them on their feet and learning the songs.

Everyone out in the church saw a confident, vibrant young woman, leading their children in learning songs about Jesus. They saw someone talented in music, joyfully sing and worshiping God with their children.

What I felt was completely different. I was terrified, afraid the kids wouldn’t respond. I picked apart all the mistakes I made. When I was home each night, I would practice and practice the songs until my husband could sing them with me. (Poor man, he’s a nurse not a musician… I think I drove him nuts!!!) :) I figured that if I could learn the songs, and be prepared for every possible outcome, mistake, or whatever, then I would be ok.

I was a nervous wreck all week.

I ended up doing the same for the next 4 years or so that our church did VBS. I even was leading the music at another church in the area (I had been doing that church for probably 6-7 years by the end) for their VBS. The more I did it, and practiced, in reality, the better I did. I could appear more confident.

But it was a face I put on each time I got up there in front of everyone. A lot of times, either on the way to the church, or on the way home, I would cry the whole time I was in the car. But no one else saw that. They couldn’t. I couldn’t let anyone know where I was at.

Lisa said in her book “Behind Those Eyes,”
“Confidence can’t be layered on with our clothes for the day, and it can’t be taken off or removed by anyone else when it is truly present.”
During my VBS experiences, and any of my other “performing” opportunities, I have layered on confidence. I have practiced, I have thought about every angle of the situation I was walking in to, and I prepared myself the best I could for every possibility so I wouldn’t be surprised, and I would be able to handle any change thrown at me with apparent ease and confidence.

Lisa also said,
“We are disillusioned into thinking that what we do is what makes us confident and strong.”

I have continually done that. I have thought that if I get out there and perform more, if I work at a different job, if I weren’t a stay at home mom, that I would be confident. I have worried about how to help my kids have confidence enough to go out among their peers (yes, I know, they are only 2 and 4) and not be scared about relating to them, as I have been scared about relating to my peers.

But really I have been learning that “the opinion of anyone else pales in comparison to what He thinks of us… (and) what we accomplish on this earth can be gratifying but does not make us who we are.”

For so many years I have hidden how I feel on the inside about going up in front of others. So many people come up to me and say that they could never do what I do. Little do they know I force myself to do it each time. I force myself because I don’t think that I can really do it well, but people would be disappointed if I didn’t do it. Who would I be, if I didn’t perform? People recognize me as the singer, and so “singer” is what I am.

But “singer” is what other people identify me as. It isn’t how God identifies me, my real identity and real person-hood come from Christ. Like Lisa said, the things that I do aren’t what define me. I am slowly learning that, but it is incredibly hard.

I can’t tell (usually) others what I am feeling. I am afraid to let people know that I am apprehensive at best, and fearful at worst of getting up to sing, specifically when I am in a leadership or teaching position. A lot of times, when I try to express those thoughts and feelings to someone, they dismiss them, because they have seen me doing it before, with confidence. They just don’t really believe that I could be that fearful and insecure about something that is in my area of gifting.

So, I find myself doing much of what Lisa quoted Paula Reinhart as saying,
“You can’t shut down on the inside without quelling the very passion that makes the journey worthwhile.”

I hide my feelings of fear and insecurity… I ignore them, build walls around them, and instead put up the mask of confidence. And the very thing that gives me joy; music, singing, piano playing; has the passion taken out of it. If I am singing at home for myself, I find great joy in it, especially when I am worshiping God. If I am trying to appear confident in leading the church in worship, I am so concerned about the appearance, and the technical details, that I don’t get any joy out of it, and worst of all, am unable to let go and worship my God.

I know that isn’t what God wants, but as of yet, I don’t know how to change it. I try to be open with a few people around me, but because I have done some sort of music for so long, and helped with music in the church since I started going there, most of the time, they don’t understand how I could be so afraid of it, lacking in confidence, and so afraid of rejection.

I didn’t realize that I would be so touched by this chapter… I wasn’t looking at it from an area of my gifting and expertise until the end when I was doing the study questions. It is going to be a challenge for me to be open about this, and to try to figure out a way to really let someone know that this is an area that is so full of fear of rejection for me. To help them really understand where I am coming from.

If you are interested in learning more about Ms. Confidence from others reading the book “Behind Those Eyes,” by Lisa Whittle, please join us at Lelia’s blog to read her post and see who else is involved. I pray that you will be blessed like I was!

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