Are We There Yet? My Own Journey To Self Confidence
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By Jennifer Lebo
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“You give yourself no credit!  You are self-sabotaging!”


Her words, written there in her text, were like a smack to the back of the head, old school teacher style.  Wake up, woman! You’re self-sabotaging!


I had been struggling with another moment of self-doubt, and she had called me on it.  I was a bit surprised, but then so thankful. Her honesty had woken me, not only to the moment, but to the journey.




The idea has been a stranger to me for as long as I can remember.  Despite growing up with two parents who poured love and support over me every single day, despite excelling in high school and college, both academically and athletically, despite having great friends, wonderful mentors, a loving and faithful husband, and 3 healthy and happy kids, this notion of self- confidence eludes me.


Until recently, I hadn’t put much thought into this.  It was just who I was, and I figured I was never going to change.  But then I started noticing it in some of the girls in my dorm. I began seeing their self doubt.  And then I noticed it in some of my students- girls who were smart, capable, lovely young ladies.


And then I began to look for it.  I began to see it in friends, in colleagues, in women who were beautiful, awe-inspiring, brilliant.  


And then I saw it in her.  My own daughter. Beautiful, fun, energetic, smart, athletic.  And full of questions, insecurities, self doubt.

That’s when the focus changed.  No longer was this just something I was going to accept in myself.  This was something I was seeing everywhere. This was something that I was maybe passing down to my own girl.


The questions began.


Does every women feel like this?  Do some just hide it better than others?


Do we moms simply pass our self-doubt, our timidity, our hesitancy on to our daughters?


Is there a way to stop the cycle?  Is there a way to pour CONFIDENCE in her rather than self-doubt?


This has been my journey for the last six months.


I should probably say that this has been my journey for the last decade, maybe the last 43 years even.  But it’s just been these past six months that I’ve really began pouring my energy and focus into these questions.


I’m not sure I’m any closer to the answers, but I have learned a few things.



I’ve never been one to hide my feelings well, and so when it comes to this struggle I’m ok being open about it.  I mean really, here I am sharing it with whoever comes to read this blog! But I’m discovering that the more I share my own journey toward self-confidence, my own struggle to get there, the more I’m discovering that others are walking it too.  I am even finding that the women who seem most confident also struggle with this sometimes.


I’m not sure there is a woman out there who has not had her moments of self-doubt.  We’ve all been there. What we do in those moments is what defines us. Do we live in the moment, drowning in the sea of self-doubt?  Or do we tell that insecure voice to SHUT UP, and do we press on through it, even share it with others?


Considering those last questions, I will admit that I used to be that girl who sat in her puddle of self-doubt for a good long while.  I swam in it. But now I see that I’ve got a girl creating her own puddle. I’ve got students who are questioning their worth. Girls in my dorm who wonder if “they can do it”.  I have no time to sit in my own puddle. I’ve got to get up, get out there, and grab the hands of those girls behind me, to help pull them up to see how capable, how smart, how beautiful, how brilliant they are.


I cannot do that if I’m swimming in my own puddle.  I cannot do that if I don’t first realize that I myself am capable and brilliant.  I’m not perfect. But I am pretty darn strong, pretty darn smart, and pretty darn ABLE.  And those girls need me.


They need all of us.



This piece is the terrifying piece.  It was hard enough when we were teen girls, struggling with questions of self-worth, wondering if we were beautiful, if we could be enough, wondering if we were loved.  

But today our girls have access to all of their friends (and all of their “frenemies”) on social media 24/7, and this adds a whole new set of insecurities to the mix.


They see an Insta pic of all their friends out dress shopping and wonder why they weren’t invited.


They see a SnapChat pic of their best friend flirting with their crush and wonder how any friend could do that to them.


They get illicit texts from boys, and mean texts from girls, and have no idea what to do.


They see Insta stories of perfect women, not realizing that every single photo has been photoshopped and is not real.


And on and on it goes.  Social media is basically a sea of voices screaming at our girls that they are not beautiful enough, they are not “liked” or “followed” enough, they do not fit in.  


We need to be the voice that speaks over all of those other voices, telling her that not only does she fit in, she belongs.  Not only is she liked, she is loved.


We must be that voice.  She will fight that voice, she will roll her eyes, and she will push back.  But she will hear it, and she will hold it.


A friend asked me recently, “How can you empower teen girls and their moms to be more confident in themselves if you yourself are not confident?”  This is a great question, perhaps one that many of us ask ourselves. If we never really “get there” ourselves, how can we help our daughters, our friends, or other women who need our hand?


This reminds me of my health and fitness journey.  I have walked this road for decades, and have stumbled, gotten back up, and kept going.  I have brought many friends with me along the way, and often, my friends have grabbed my hand to help me back up.


None of us is “there yet”.  But whoever is a few steps ahead, well that one reaches a hand back, and grabs the hand of the other, so that both can travel.


And so it is with the journey to self-confidence.  Today I’m a few steps ahead of my daughter, so I reach back, grab her hand, and help her along.  Tomorrow, when she’s older, more mature, and wiser, she might need to turn back and grab my hand.  But today I’m a few steps ahead of her. Just a few. But enough to be able to help her. To help the girls I live with, the girls I teach, and maybe their moms too.  


Basically, if I can help, I need to help.  And if you are a few steps ahead of me, then I’m gonna need you to lend me a hand.  It’s like that beautiful saying we see all over that says, “Empowered women empower women”.  Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.



This journey is difficult and it is honestly never ending.  We never “get there”. We might get a few steps ahead and then falter.  Social media can get the best of any of us, am I right? One day we’re feeling confident, the next we’re swimming in that puddle again.


But one thing I’m discovering is that the journey is easier when we don’t have to travel it alone.  I’m not talking about buddies here, I’m talking about trusted friends. I’m talking about mothers pouring into their daughters.  I’m talking about mothers pouring into other mothers.


The more we moms can get honest about the difficulty of our own journey, the more we can accept the hand of others.  And the more we see others struggling, the more willing we can be to reach out our hand to help. And then the more we all can reach out and help our girls.


I’m telling you, friends, our girls are starting this journey, and social media and the messages of our world today are not helping them walk it any easier.


We have to blaze the trail for them.  We have to walk this road. And if we can walk it together, we can blaze a greater trail for them, one that gives them messages of strength, beauty, ability, friendship, and confidence.




Leave a comment:
Jennifer Lebo - Thanks Melisa. I love #4 too, and it's something I keep reminding myself of. Just a few steps ahead is enough. Thanks for walking this journey with me.
Melisa - I love this post. My favorite is #4. I think that applies in so many areas of life. I love your work!