I’m going to start this my own way. In a way that is my candid, authentic, transparent-to-a-fault self. I’m going to start this by sharing a “note” in my iPhone, written on August 28, 2019 at 11:55 pm as a “trying to fall asleep but my brain isn’t done with the day, so maybe this will turn into a future Instagram caption” musing:
You know what I was just thinking? It’s hilarious how confident I am. Truly. It’s so funny. Like, who the heck am I? To be so confident in myself?
(And then, one millisecond after asking myself, I think…)
“Oh, yea. I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. Duh.”
Then I wonder, “But where did the confidence come from?”
(And a millisecond after that question comes…)
“Oh, yea. God. Duh. I love Him!”
Really, people! My thought process is funny. It’s also so incredibly immersed in what I know to be true: God has made me in His image. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Beautifully, intentionally created. Every fiber, every passion, was made with a purpose. If I don’t believe in that, then how the heck am I supposed to move mountains, make stuff happen, live out the fullest of all that I am? And all of it — all my pursuits, all my passions, triumphs, lessons, goals — are from, to, for, and because of Him. My confidence is in God, who made and dwells in me. Who works for my good. Who made me to seek and celebrate the BEAUTY in everything and everyone else He created around me. I’ve already found it in me (an ongoing discovery, actually). And, I see it in you. Now where are those mountains we’re called to move?
That’s it! That’s my sassy almost-midnight self-reflection for you. But let’s take one more step… with a poem:
I’ll tell you something about Confidence.
It’s slow coming, so deserving,
and the closest you’ll ever feel to
on this side of Heaven.
But hear this about Confidence:
It will only come if you first let go
of every memory you still hold onto
when someone else tried to define you,
of every expectation you ever set for yourself
to fulfill when you weren’t meant to,
of all the scars you’ve earned, and
lessons you’ve learned, but still
do not honor what led you to them.
Confidence won’t come first, but it will come.
And it will last.
Friends, I want you to know my confidence came after much pain, even darkness. Confidence came after a long season of believing it was only for those who society deemed perfect. For a time, confidence didn’t seem to fit my shape, or match my interests, reconcile my fears, or cover my deep traumas.
But then I fell in love with Jesus. And, with Jesus, I fell in love with the art of bravery. And with bravery came a willingness to face my fears — become fearless, even — which included tangible fears, such as skyscraper-heights and ocean-depths. But it also included facing internal insecurities, such as what I might not amount to, what I might not accomplish, or what I failed to get better at. When I fell in love with practicing the art of bravery, I decided to step straight into each one. I learned how to rock climb (which became my new favorite hobby). I took a surfing lesson (which still isn’t my favorite; but, hey, I did it). I wrote notebooks full of poetry and attended a season of therapy, both of which led me to confess and heal from all the ways people’s expectations and labels still smothered what I actually wanted for myself, what I believed God had in store for me.
I want you to know that practicing bravery led me to honoring, even prioritizing, discovery. Discovering who God is, what His true calling is for me, what I know to be true about myself, and what I’m still growing in or figuring out. I suddenly wanted to know everything — about myself, and about He who created me. I recklessly, fearlessly abandoned all else.
For me, confidence came with intentional, patient discovery through brave self-reflection. Self-reflection is my absolute favorite. It is sacred, creative, emotional, and challenging. God meets me in the moments of pause, of rest, of listening — for my own voice and His voice. Especially when I’m feeling stormy (as I call it) — when I’m wrestling with heavy or upset feelings that I don’t yet have a clear name or cause for, when something is moving, growing, uprooting inside me — I take my journal to a quiet place and start my self-reflection time with…
- The things I know to be true about myself… (free-write)
- The questions I still have… (free-write)
The key here is *free-write*! Writing without stopping, without second-guessing, without letting spelling or grammar slow the pen down. By doing this simple creative-writing self-reflection exercise (that I made up in result of many desperate, stormy moments), I have learned immeasurable truths about who I am, how I have changed, and how I’m still changing. These are the most lovely, vulnerable moments with myself and my Creator.
Just one more thing. As I’ve pursued confidence, the best gifts I’ve given myself throughout the process are gentleness and curiosity:
Gentleness in self-reflection, and in both growing gifts and growing pains. Because there will be both. Growing gifts (because God is generous) and growing pains (because God is never done in guiding and refining who I am).
Curiosity in how I am changing, and how I will stay the same. Because there, too, will be both. I will change in ways big and small; and I will stay the same in core and calling.
My hope for you is, the more gentle and curious you become about the art of bravery, of discovery, of reflecting on all that you are and are becoming, the more you will see…
your insecurities as opportunities to practice fearlessness,
your flaws as works in progress,
your failures as lessons of unlearning and relearning,
your fears as starting points for bravery, and confidence.
I promise, if you start seeing yourself as belonging to Christ, as fearfully and wonderfully and intentionally made, if you start to flood the hidden, dark parts of you with gentleness and curiosity, if you start to see yourself as a work of art in the hands of the Creator, confidence will come for you, too.
Written by Alexa Johansen
Alexa falls in love with Jesus, her husband, and learning the art of bravery on a daily basis. She is an educator, adventurer, PhD student, and artist. She does not go a day without indulging in loud laughter and dark chocolate. You can follow her poetry and travels on Instagram at @alexajohansen, and view or purchase her art at @goldscriptco.