I Have Confidence?


I write because it’s easier for me than dealing with things in person.

I write because I’m afraid of confrontation and because, to be honest, I’m not good at the art of argument. Rare is the occasion that I’m able to speak my mind clearly and effectively when I’m upset or hurt or feeling defensive.

When in situations where I feel threatened or belittled…my mind shuts down. I can barely form thoughts…let alone remember even the simplest word. I usually end up sounding like some kind of odd bird whose logic has flown south for the winter. And since my logical mind has temporarily vacated me…I’m left with my emotional mind…which is even worse than sounding like a nonsensical ninny because my emotional mind is usually accompanied by rambling and…ugh…crying. And we all know what kind of perceptions people have of a crying woman…

This inability to speak out when I’m upset is my greatest weakness. I am a person of big ego but little confidence (which, I suppose, is par for the course) and my tied tongue feeds off my ever-present feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. In an argument, I not only battle the opposing person…I battle my own mind and thoughts of stupidity and ignorance and the inability to recall details from the past to prove my point.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that, when I am in an argument with another person, I usually can see (maybe not fully understand…but see) their point of view. This immediately makes me think…”well, Shelley, they’re making sense…you aren’t…obviously, you’re wrong and they’re right.”

I hate being this way, and I hate not knowing how to fix it.

Suddenly wishes she could turn into Maria from “The Sound of Music.”


38 Responses to “I Have Confidence?”

  1. nolagirl Says:

    When you said you are “a person of big ego but little confidence,” I immediately thought of one of my brothers. His ego is dripping, complete with the muscle flexing/admiring sort of behavior. He is the “tough guy” personified. I have long suspected that there are deep insecurities there, hence this behavior. But, instead of backing down and not dealing with confrontations like you say you do, he goes to the other extreme — he gets real mean, and angry too. He has gotten in so many fights in his life, even as an elementary kid and all the way through college age. He can blow up in a millisecond. Cleary, that is an unpleasant characteristic to have! And I doubt he is pondering the meaning behind his behavior. But here you are, putting yourself out there, “warts” and all. I admire that. Even if it just made you feel better to get it off your chest, that’s something right?

    I am not a huge fan of confrontation, but as I’ve grown up and my confidence has grown, I am OK with it. Thankfully (I guess?) I haven’t had to do too much in the way of confronting in my boring life. My problem is the “have to have the last word” syndrome. One of my other brothers and I both have that syndrome, so when we get going, you might as well forget it!

  2. ivoryhut Says:

    Shelley, for minute there, I thought you found a page from my journal and decided to post it. (Then I remembered I never had enough discipline to maintain a journal. Whew.)

    My biggest problem has always been my inability to immediately speak up. The points I want to make are all in my head. But oh, the agony of just sitting there, silent, while the other person continues on with the false accusation, or the flawed logic. Which just makes me look dumbfounded, or unconcerned, or defeated. And I wish I could say no, I do have something to say and it does make sense and my defense would wipe the floor with you and I don’t know why I can’t seem to let the words out there in the open.

    And it only happens with people I really care about. Because with them, I’d rather just let them have their say than potentially make things worse by prolonging the argument. And no, I haven’t been able to fix it. But I’m not as tortured over it anymore. I’ll ask myself what there is to gain by winning, and more often than not, the answer is simply bragging rights. And for me, I choose peace instead. Because I just don’t want to deal with the stress. Let them be the mistaken one. At least I’ll sleep better sooner.

    Of course, if I don’t care all that much about you, then the gloves are off. And if I hardly know you and may never see you again? The precision with which my reasoning will slice up your puny words will leave you breathless. And possibly take out an eye.

    I’m exaggerating, of course. A little bit.

  3. Shelley Says:

    ivory…so true about letting someone you know slice and dice you while you just sit there and take it.

    i’m the same way.

    however…i wish i could say i was the same as you with people i don’t know. i mean, i’m more likely to speak my mind with them…but i still freeze a bit. and i definitely don’t “take any eyes out.” 😉

    nola…i know what you mean about wanting the last word…but i rarely take it. 😦

  4. Squeebee Says:

    Shelley, I am much the same way. I have come a long way in the last few years when it comes to confrontation, but it seems when my emotions take over (which is rarely), my brain ceases to work in a logical manner. I can think of all kinds of great arguments hours after the original confrontation, but it does me no good at that point.

    It is only in the last few months that I have felt “safe” enough to argue emotional points with my husband; not because of anything he has done, but because of my emotional makeup, I suppose.

    I am sorry you are dealing with uncomfortable issues, Shelley, but just know that we stand behind you and beside you!

  5. texan Says:

    Ya…what Squee said!!!

    I have always thought the people that did not repy verbally during a heated confrontation to be wise, self-controlled and poised!

    “Speak when you are angry and make the best speech you will ever regret.”

  6. shrewspeaks Says:

    Now see…Miss Shelley…You may feel that way, but I must say from a blogging perspective you certainly and rightly “take no guff”. In this arena, you define clearly what you want and temper it with just the perfect amount of humor to make it easy to digest, not offensive or off putting. Perhaps, you just need to carry a bucket of wet fish with you in real life?

  7. rowan Says:

    Aww Shelley! I am sooo with you and Ivory and Squee on this and have given it much thought over the years. I am very familiar with that feeling of powerlessness which accompanies not speaking out – the arguments which trip off the tongue to the admiring invisible audience, once the time for argument has gone. I shy from confrontation, and don’t like doing so. I’m not sure what I think will happen if I do stand my ground and state my case – the logical part of my brain is yelling that the world won’t end, that some nice people will still speak to me – but the ‘flight don’t fight’ part of me, which is located somewhere in the adrenal gland – I have a plus size one, I think – floors me with a big surge of “rabbit in headlights” hormone. I stand and gape, and regress intellectually to a point where I am sensing primeval swamps and crawling out of slime-pools on to dry land. I am an argument amoeba.

    Often, it matters little, but at times, there are large self-esteem issues involved. I remember a controlling boss who relied on me heavily saying that she was going to say to management that she needed me in the room next to her, when she knew I wanted to move to another vacant room the department, and could do so with no problems. She told me she was going to say I needed her tutelage and guidance for longer, even though she acknowledged to me it was patently untrue. She needed me next door, and I wanted to get away from her and her constant belittling of our mutual colleagues. That set her up for the day, and took away my precious planning time. I said nothing, as the cannonball of victimisation was by then squashing my vocal cords. I did get to make the move, incidentally, but not from my own efforts at standing up for myself.

    I am getting a little better as time goes on, but not much. Often, on a professional level, I have sat listening to someone in a meeting who i know is patently uninformed about the situation we are discussing, painting a picture of an alternative reality I fail to recognise. I aim to wait for a pause in conversation to insert a polite “yes, maybe, i see your point, but perhaps…” yet, that break might never come, and in order to be polite, I’ve sacrificed my opportunity to speak out. But I am getting better. A little. And I do consider the opposing viewpoints very deeply. I am not good with criticism, and this could be part of things too.

    I would like to have a psychic callout for Cagney and Lacey at these times. Blue light plonked on top of car and woo wooing through the streets to grab the person and wait till my points are marshalled. Mary Beth Lacey is my heroine. She was unfashionable and matronly before her time, yet she was undeniably cool. She managed to have a gimlet, yet compassionate eye. Mary Beth would order bra-extenders from Ebay then trip up criminals in her sun-ray pleated skirt and dark tan tights. Mary Beth had that “I’m harrassed to the point that it is not wise to mess or argue with me” look, which I’ve always longed to master.

    Introspection isn’t a crime, though it can feel like one, and the accuser is none other than the perpetrator of the silent seethe. We could get seething sorority solidarity tees printed, with “Tongue-tied but Justified” and “Silent but Valid.” Or even, “I don’t necessarily agree with you.” Yeah!

    But i am getting better. I think Texan’s not saying stuff you’ll regret maxim is a good angle and perhaps something we’ve internalised. Ultimately, we can look on the whole issue as just honing the art of biting one’s lip into an art form. We are introspection performance artists. Yeah! I am dealing with my issue a bit at a time, and have made my points clear at times by writing my arguments and shifting the debate to an arena where I have greater strengths. Introspective angsty types are good at wearing people down to their point of view. my family tell me so, anyway! The argument continues over a lengthier period, as points of rectitude come to mind. My dad said no, but I got the puppy, even though it took six years of relentless ambush-arguing.

    Introspective people stop and consider when it isn’t always required, but it is our way, rather than a left-hook. And we can laugh about it. From all sorts of angles..upside down, inside-out and through a glass darkly.

  8. Shelley Says:

    Beautiful post, Rowan. Thanks for all of that insight.

    I especially like “I am an argument amoeba.”

    That wins you The Official Prize of the Day.

  9. blueberry Says:

    Aww Shelley, no need to fret so much. If crying is the worse thing you do, you’re all right in my book!

    Something I’ve observed, having previously been one of little confidence myself, is that we actually do have ample confidence, it just doesn’t manifest itself in a very public way. Many people I’ve encountered are seemingly very confident, but in true moments of need, they fall apart. My take on the whole thing is that to be truly confident, you have that quiet, inner strength to persevere when times are tough. And being able to hold your own in an argument doesn’t necessarily demonstrate that strength. Actually, it can be a blessing in disquise – you may not say something you’ll regret if you get tongue-tied! Yes, I can recall many instances when I’ve been able to deliver the perfect response; only it’s been either hours or days later that I’ve finally been able to create that response. By that time, the person I’ve had the issue with is on to something else and certainly not overanalyzing the situation as I’ve been doing. So what is the harm? You are most likely not going to change anything about the other party, as change can only come from within.

    And two points I have to disagree with you – being able to see something from someone else’s point of view, not necessarily agreeing with it, is actually a gift. Imagine our world if more people could do that! Don’t ever give that up! and two, you displayed mountains of confidence by putting yourself out there in your writing and possibly leaving yourself vulnerable to criticism. I think, that deep down, you have that confidence you so admire, it just hasn’t risen all the way to the surface yet.

  10. double d Says:

    Well, you all have hit the proverbial “nerve”.

    First, 99.9% of people, in general, lack confidence. While there are meglomaniacs that never lack confidence, they are a minute club. Additionally, we generally gain confidence when we are doing something we love and we do a good job and someone else recognizes it and affirms what we’re doing.

    I have run the gambit on confidence. I’ve been built up and been torn down. My problem for many years has been my reliance on affirmation from others. Only recently have I realized that my only affirmation needs to come from me. And, while I have an extremely difficult time with face to face confrontation, I understand that’s it’s sometime necessary, particularly in work situations. I’m getting better at that part, but with my family (parent and siblings), not so much. My husband marvels that I can be confrontational with him but never with my mother or siblings. I think it’s that I trust him and I know that he’ll “fight fair”, where I know they won’t and that they won’t understand me or where I’m coming from.

  11. Staci Says:

    Shelley… good call on POTD… but I think she gets it for the Cagney and Lacey flash back. Thanks, Rowan, for reminding us of strong women who hold to their principals. And Shelley, they did not always make logical sense (and got blamed for PMS moments… and all that other stereotypical mumbo-jumbo). That’s the beauty of being human. We defy logic. God made us that way. We must live with our hearts, as mushy as they make us at times.

  12. jenfera Says:

    Chiming in to join the chorus of confrontation-avoiders and crying-when-you-don’t-want-to-cry-criers. The Office clip is perfect. You don’t want to cry because you know crying makes you look weak, and the last thing you want to do is blame PMS because that only makes you look weaker.

    I read a quote once in the Word-A-Day email that I get that I really liked. Unfortunately, I can’t remember it clearly and I can’t seem to find it again. But it said something to the effect that the ability to see the other side and perhaps even change be able change your mind because of an argument is actually a sign of great intelligence! Steadfastly holding on to your position may just be a sign of stubborness.

    I have gotten much better at speaking my mind at work. Sometimes I even start the confrontations! Like double d said, when you are good at what you do, you gain the confidence. However, at home, I have zero confidence as a stepmother. I avoid confrontation with the kids as much as possible and I make my husband discipline them for slights against me instead of saying something myself. That’s if I say anything at all. I go back in forth in my head between thinking I am going to kill myself with all the internalized stress, or am I just serenely picking my battles??

  13. Shelley Says:

    I am SOOO glad I posted this topic today. Y’all are incredible sages and I’m blessed to be able to get all this great insight.

    DD…I think you really drove home one of my worst fears…the other person not “fighting fair.”

    There is nothing worse than trying to argue and someone spitting something back at you that you did or said previously instead of focusing on the argument at hand. Because, let’s face it, we all have make huge mistakes in our past and hate the idea of having to continually pay for them…especially when in a situation of a heated discussion or argument.

  14. Mr. Reality Says:


    Contrary to popular belief, there is limited space on the Internets. Bandwidth is being gobbled up by the porn industry, so we must conserve space and not be indulgent with endless pabulum and platitudes about confidence or lack thereof.

    Key Steps To Confidence:

    1) Take control of the situation.
    2) Remember that Jackie Collins says “always look forward, never look back.”
    3) Think of Sharon Stone, who starred in the collosal bomb BASIC INSTINCT 2 but still held her head high.
    4) Read the Jane Fonda autobiography MY LIFE SO FAR and take notes on becoming your true self.
    5) Whenever engaged in a personal or professional conflict with a dope, revert to Kate Walsh’s line as voiced by the character Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepard: “You suck . . . To me, you suck . . . I sort of . . . hate you.”

  15. Hatson Says:

    Sometimes we are all too hard on ourselves. I suspect that you are tired, stressed, and conflicted about your move. There is nothing like sorting through our “stuff” and examining our lfe at the same time. I remember a quote that says “Fatigue makes enemies of us all!” I am older, and have learned that life is putting one foot in front of the other each morning. So, try to get some rest and not feel that being non confrontational makes you weak or less in some way. You are obviously a talented, funny, and strong person.

  16. Shelley Says:

    Hatson…that might be true…but i have always struggled with the issues i posted above.

    i will say this though…when you’re down…or even just contemplative about your belief in self…don’t…whatever you do…DO NOT…declutter a closet filled with old report cards and notes from teachers about how “Shelley is a lovely girl but lacks iniative to complete tasks…Shelley is very gifted but doesn’t work up to her potential….Shelley is a joy to have in class but must really focus on not talking so much…Shelley could achieve so much more if she wouldn’t daydream.”

    Gulp…I swear all of that still applies.

    Man…those elementary school teachers really have insight.

    Or I’m just an open book.

  17. rowan Says:

    Aw thanks Shells! Great goobery pic. Didn’t mean to go on so long!

    YT won’t let me play the SOM video sigh. Funny – I always think I’m putting my Julie Andrews head on when I’m needing to get into fearful but triumphantly cheerful mode. Was talking to Dr Bob about a great scene from a film – might be Time Bandits, where this headless queen goes into a room full of glass compartments with heads in, all with different moods and personalities, and they are all clamouring for her to choose them, as her Head of the Day. She picks which one will suit her schedule best. Has to be aTerry Gilliam film, would think…wish I could remember.

    Mr Reality – I see your Jackie Collins and raise you Mary Beth Lacey 😉

    Point number five might prove useful, as a sort of internal chant when facing a confrontation…

  18. Little Deb Says:

    Hi. Thanks for this topic. I too need affirmation from other people. However, I am kind of opposite of the norm. In extreme crisis situations, I am the calm one. I can deal with death and tragedy without blinking an eye, but I can fall apart about the smallest thing. I was wondering if anyone else has this affliction???? My theme song (sadly) is this Jackson Browne classic.

    I think it has something to do with dealing with a lot of traumatic stuff as a child and I really did learn “how not to cry”.

    BTW Shelley, I have confidence is one of my favorite songs of all time.

  19. Theresa Says:

    Shelley, I think you just described many people who have found their home and voice online.

    Have you ever noticed that there are some people who simply don’t go online and don’t exchange detailed emails with anyone? They don’t because they can’t communicate well through writing. It escapes them.

    Consider this: You are normal. You are who God made you. You have a gift for writing and composing and singing that others were not given. You are utilizing the gifts you were given. Don’t waste time regretting that you are not someone else.

    I’m in my mid-40’s and my one regret is how much time I have wasted being mad at who I’m not. What a waste! One thing I’ve loved about my 40’s is that I don’t care anymore. I’m glad to be who I am, fault-filled though I am. I have finally come to terms with what I can do and I’m trying to do it to the best of my ability. To be aware of your own gifts is a gift in itself.

    Harder to write might be the post describing how you are able to write down your thoughts and communicate so very clearly to others through written word. That is your new assignment, if you choose to accept it.

  20. Theresa Says:

    Mr. Reality,

    I shudder at reading anything written by Jane Fonda. She’s NEVER been an example of someone who is self-aware. Self-consumed, maybe, but not self-aware. Just sayin…

  21. Theresa Says:

    “Shelley could achieve so much more if she wouldn’t daydream.”

    Shelley, as a former elementary teacher (and special education teacher), it sounds like you had old-school, uncreative teachers (albeit very nice people) who didn’t value your creativity (it didn’t fit in with their lessons plans). Those teachers may have unwittingly helped you develop a sense of guilt about pursuing your talents and dreams. Recognize that those teachers might have been wrong and probably were not very creative people themselves. Just to pick an example out of the air, don’t you all think that the same was said about Taylor Hicks in school (or insert the name of many artists).

  22. baby duck Says:

    “Have you ever become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora’s box of all the hateful things, your spite, your arrogance, your condescension has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and walking away… you zing them. “Hello it’s Mr. Nasty”. I’m sure you have no idea what I’m talking about…”

    “No I know exactly what you mean and I’m completely jealous. When I’m confronted by someone I get tongue tied and my mind goes blank. Then I spend the rest of the night tossing and turning over what I should have said. For example what should I have recently said to a bottom dweller who recently belittled my existence? Nothing… even now days later I still can’t figured it out…”

    “Wouldn’t it be great if I could pass all my zingers to you? Then I could always be nice and you could be nasty whenever you wanted to be. Although I must warn you… when you eventually have the pleasure of saying the thing you want to say at the moment you’re wanting to say it… remorse eventually follows.”

  23. SoulmateCT (but not for long) Says:

    First time poster here, but here is what I have learned through the years (as someone who has never had this problem).
    Start small. You don’t have to have a convincing argument at hand. Learn this line….I’m afraid we’re just going to have to disagree about this……it won’t work for every situation but if you can become comfortable just letting the other person know that you believe them to be wrong it’s a first step. The other advantage is that it makes them crazy. (especially if said with a smile). I had a situation yesterday where someone was deliberately trying to upset me. The uglier he became the more pleasant I was. I didn’t back down (in fact, in my best Paula Deen voice I totally deflated his ego), I killed him with kindness and concern……the bottom line is that if you let them get under your skin-they win. You will find your own way in this Shelley. I’ve lurked long enough to know that you are a smart, capable lady. Good Luck!

  24. Shelley Says:

    SoulmateCT…glad you delurked and shared. nice to have you here.

    baby duck…that tom/meg clip is one i usually have floating in and out of the transom’s of my mind during times of disagreements. so very true.

  25. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Definitely agree with you SoulmateCT….wish I could apply that!

    Shelley- I wish I could be there to argue for you. I’m not always the best at standing up for myself…but threaten one of my friends or family members…and stand back…you will not know what hit you. I suddenly have all the strength and clarity of mind that God gifted me with.

    You want me to dust of the Monkcopter and come out there? I will!

  26. Shelley Says:

    please, bama. and while you’re here…help me declutter then take me back to texas to help you with all on your plate. 😉

  27. Claire Says:

    I used to be quite “backwards about coming forwards”, but over the past few years, I’ve learned not to be so, from a friend of mine. She has learned through some life experiences of her own that sometimes ya just gotta be a biyotch.

    And I don’t mean that in terms of being vindictive, nasty, or eeeevil – just in terms of standing up for yourself, sometimes stating the unpopular opinion, or saying what everybody is really thinking. From observing her, I’ve come to adopt that strategy myself. I don’t consider myself confrontational AT ALL, but sometimes you have to go toe-to-toe with someone. It ain’t easy, and sometimes my flushed cheeks, racing heart and dry mouth belie the strong words coming out of my mouth.

    And oh, how hard it is to confront our flight-or-fight response!!! With certain people, it would be easier to say nothing, just agree with them or run away from the situation, especially if THEY are confrontational. Some people thrive on it. I don’t, but I have learned to accept it as part of adult life, and try to learn from every confrontation, be it a work situation or a rude sales assistant.

  28. sideways721 Says:

    As you get older being a biyotch gets easier. You just don’t want to put up with the #&*@ anymore. I say that only half tongue in cheek.

  29. justwatchin Says:

    Hey Shelley….no worries…the older ya get, the looser your tongue gets….oh, sideways, just looked up and noticed you said the same thing…you’re okay just the way you are!

  30. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Shelley- If only the Monkcopter pilot weren’t on vacation!

  31. nolagirl Says:

    baby duck – I now have to go home and watch my well-worn VHS of the movie. (and no, that’s not a bad thing AT ALL!)

  32. jojo Says:

    Shelley, after reading all of the great posts above, I hope it helps you to know that you’re not alone in feeling this way, truly you’re not.
    My confidence issues are such that I bought myself a brand new super-duper “Instant Confidence Mind-Programming CD” by a well known celebrity hypnotist.
    Yup……..I really am that gullible……
    Still, it’s worth a go, and it does seem to put me to sleep/hypnotize me…(not sure which), so if nothing else it’s a nice nap!
    How about trying some positive affirmations, like saying “I am a good person and I deserve to be happy”, 20 times every day before breakfast. It might feel a bit silly at first but I read it can work. And y’know what?……you are and you do.

  33. Shelley Says:

    jojo…you are, too. 😉

  34. Jan Says:

    Help me!!! I’ve been resisting for a bit but Hanoi Jane!! Grrrrr…. Much worse thoughs in my head. I can barely keep from typing them.

  35. baby duck Says:

    Jan, I feel yer pain. I’m biting my lip and taking Soulmate CT’s advice: “the bottom line is that if you let them get under your skin-they win.”

  36. Dr. Bob Says:

    Aww, Shelley, I understand about the crying. In general, I am pretty forthright. I think I might have gained some confidence (!). In my professional life, I have no problem speaking out — but in some way it is a persona. It is funny, but when personal and professional cross, it is surprisingly hard to manage.

    I was talking to a co-worker once, and the topic was completely on a professional level. I was logical and coherent. I think that she must have read it as critical, because she made some comment about me personally. After a few stunned seconds when my brain totally shut off, I burst into tears. Horrifying. I had to leave the room and ran to the the stairwell, crying those angry, gulping, blotch-making tears, because I was sooooo angry. At myself, for the most part, for making a spectacle. You shoulda heard the dressing down I gave her! Of course, no one but me could appreciate the rapier wit and righteous indignation with which I demolished her puny attack!

    In retrospect, I can say that almost every mistake I have made professionally has been based on my brain shutting down because I get overwhelmed by emotion. For me, anxiety is like turning on a fan in a room full of paper — my thoughts just fly around and I can’t grasp them.

    But I agree with everyone who says “start small” and I would add — present the argument when you are calm. Who says you cannot come back at a later time and say, “I have been thinking about what you said and …”

    Whoo hoo to Rowan for POTD — she earned that one, for sure. She is the queen of the internal riposte. In looking at you two, I wonder if that internal dialog is a characteristic of fine writers?

  37. rowan Says:

    Thanks Dr Bob! Really like your image of anxious thoughts as flying paper. Will work on trying to remain calm when presenting future arguments or issues tio someone who is likely to disagree. Will remind myself to try to keep the fan switched off! Yay on worsting the out of order co-worker!

    Staci – Yo! Glad you like Cagney and Lacey too.

  38. Quossum Says:

    I enjoy “arguing” in the sense of “debating”–but it’s no fun when the other person won’t “fight fair.”

    For other issues, at work or such, I always end up thinking, “Is this the hill you want to die on?” and responding accordingly. Usually, it’s not. But if it is, then watch out.

    I’m totally with you on the seeing the other person’s point-of-view immobility. It’s why I rarely actually argue. There are too many shades of grey.


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