I was blessed to be born a straight shooter… Nurtured by a combination of growing up in the Midwest, of having a single black mother that didn’t tolerate whining, and a prim and proper black elite grandmother who put a premium on perfect enunciation (“don’t sing your words!), and very early on in my career learning to navigate the social justice world as the youngest person in the room.
I learned to speak only when I had something to add to the conversation, not to call attention to my youth or ignorance on a subject and to lay low, absorbing all the information that I could before chiming in.
My tone, I’ve been told by friends/colleagues/lovers settles somewhere between “commanding” and “aggressive”… The latter, “aggressive”, flooded with stereotypical expectations.
But the weirdest thing I hear about my straight forward, “aggressive” way of communicating is how confident I am.
“You’re so confident!”
It always hits me like a ton of bricks. I am not confident.
I am insecure. I am anxious and afraid. I’m shy and introverted. Doubtful that I’m supposed to be here, wherever here is. I do power poses in the middle of the day behind closed bathroom doors. I flake out more often than not because I can’t muster up the courage it takes to be out and about in this world consumed by so much self doubt.
Imposter syndrome… I’ve got that. I’ve got breathing exercises for the generalized anxiety and depression that can’t be medicated away. I’ve got scribbles in notebooks about fear because I have to get it out. I’ve got meditation apps and adult coloring books to help me escape.
Cognitive dissonance is a strange reality.
I always wonder if people only appreciate this confidence they say they see because they actually do see the fear too. Like, would they think I was too arrogant if I truly believed and expressed that I was exceptional? Is my humility only because of an internal disbelief? Would I be a jerk if I shed the shell of self doubt?
Would you call me a bitch if I didn’t look away and blush when you told me I did such an amazing job?
So many of my peers are on the “fake it till you make it” or the “be as confident as a mediocre white man” plan through life. I admire them. They are getting gains from a conscious decision to not let the world get into their heads.
Me. I’m just confused but grateful that my confusion works to my advantage. I guess I’ll thank my mom for making me a bad ass on the outside and my therapist for helping me make the inside just as awesome.