It was eighth grade when my dad first taught me the power of owning your confidence.
Truthfully, he was building that inner confidence in me before I realized it, but coming home with the scheduling paper from the guidance office and hearing his advice was the first time I arguably understood it.
From the time I could speak, my father impressed upon me the importance of doing your best in education and learning all you could. Education didn’t make you better or guarantee a successful life, he reminded me frequently. However, it did open doors.
Thus, when I came home with my scheduling form for my first year of high school, he asked why I hadn’t taken all Honors courses. I was an academic and loved school. When I told him the counselor had advised that no ninth grade student should take all upper levels because it would be too challenging, he nodded, handed back the form, and simply said, “Well, that would make me want to do it more. I’d want to rise to the challenge when someone said I couldn’t.”
And that was when I realized the power of confidence. That was when I realized that, without pushing me, he had all the faith in the world in me, in my ability to succeed, and in my ability to rise up to those who thought I couldn’t do it.
To be clear, my dad does not call himself a feminist in any sense of the world. He is old-school, very blunt, and from a generation that does not value technology, change, or a cashless world. This is not to say that’s a bad thing—far from it, in my book. I have learned so many things from him and admire his generation for their work ethic, determination, and grit. However, it never ceases to surprise me that from this old-school attitude comes perhaps came the most influential ideas about my equality as a woman.
My dad never let me believe that because I was a girl, I couldn’t do something. In fact, the issue of my gender never even came up. With my dad, it was simple: work hard, do your best, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something you really want to do. His stubbornness and determination not only wore off on me, but also taught me lessons that I have carried well into adulthood: you have to own the inner confidence queen within you if you want to make it in this world.
Certainly, as a thirtysomething, I have my confidence wavering at numerous points in my journey. Who hasn’t? Life is a lot more complicated now than what classes to schedule in high school. Still, when someone tells me my dream is impossible or when someone tries to cut me down or tell me I’m worthless, I think of my dad’s stoic response to criticism or doubt—he simply did it anyway. He never let anyone else influence who he would become or what he would do. He kept his focus on what mattered to him, on what he could achieve, and on working hard.
Oftentimes, I look around and see women especially struggling with the power of confidence. So many times, I think as women, we are too afraid to hurt someone’s feelings or rock the boat. Thus, we stand in self-doubt and stay small. We are afraid to go against the experts, the critics in our lives, or even just a co-worker with a loud bark and worse bite. We are too quick to back down from a challenge because that inner voice in us is always trying to shout that we aren’t good enough and that we can’t do it.
But to any woman who has ever felt weak, powerless, or anything less than confident, I hope you take a step back and realize that the confident Queen you are is always there. She’s waiting for you to own her when someone tells you to back down. She’s waiting for you to raise your voice when someone is challenging your beliefs or values. She’s waiting for you to take ownership of your schedule, of your path, of your life and rise to the challenges you know are worth it.
My dad is not a feminist, at least in his mind. Still, it was my dad who taught me the most feminist lesson of all—we are worthy. We deserve to be confident in ourselves, all of us.
And no label, no background, no identity should define what we can or can’t do. No outside source or party can decide, either.
Only we get to decide who we are, what we stand for, and what we chase in this life.
So channel your inner confidence Queen and never let anyone take her crown.