#1. Prove yourself wrong.

When I decided to start my Confidence Project, I did a bit of market research from several bloggers and YouTubers that I enjoy to hear what they had to say about confidence.

Granted, many of these voices are Christian or Catholic ones, so most of their advice comes from scripture and is more big-picture focused: “Know that your value comes from God.” “Trust in the Lord and rely not on your own understanding.” “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And so on and so forth.

On the other hand, I was also getting big-picture advice from more secular, mainstream voices: “Fake it till you make it.” “Ignore the haters.” “What’s wrong with being, what’s wrong with being, what’s wrong with being confident?” (Thanks Demi Lovato.)

I’m not saying this advice isn’t well-meaning. My thoughts on these maxims could make a whole other post. However, when I have tried to follow this advice, it has always escaped me when I needed it the most. In moments when I’m overwhelmed by a world that values me based on my relationship status and my salary, it’s difficult to believe that my worth is found in God alone. When I feel immense pressure to please everyone else, I can’t bring myself to ignore the haters.

What I needed was a list of action-oriented, concrete, and practical rules in order to battle against the waves of insecurity and self-doubt in the moment. I called them my Golden Rules of Confidence. I didn’t want to make an arbitrary list at the beginning of the year and try to apply it to the rest of the year. I wanted this list to be a compilation of truths I discovered along the way.

Little-known fact about me: I have a Ph.D. in Self-Criticism. I’m sure many of you can relate. To be fair, examining your conscience is a good skill to have, but constant negative self-talk has no place in authentic confidence.

Recently, during a stressful day at work, I found myself falling down the negativity black hole when suddenly, the First Golden Rule came to me: Prove yourself wrong.

When people talk about the negative voice in your head, that voice often uses “you”: You are stupid. You are ugly. You’re a failure. When the negative voice in my head talks, it uses “I”: I am stupid. I am ugly. I am a failure. I realized that in order to overcome my self-criticism habits, I didn’t need to prove myself to other people, I needed to prove myself to myself.

I wrote my First Golden Rule on a post-it and stuck it to my work laptop. Seeing that note every day has made a huge difference. I used to get so overwhelmed with feeling that I would never get all my work done that I gave up before I began. Now when I think, “I’ll never get all this done!” I immediately say, “Prove yourself wrong.” And my work gets done! Even if I don’t cross everything off my to-do list, I feel so much more confident at the end of the day.

This Golden Rule also works when I make excuses for not doing something I should be doing. “I’m too tired to wake up now.” “I’m too busy to go to Mass today.” “It’s too late, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Prove. Yourself. Wrong.

I encourage you to try out this Golden Rule for yourself. Let me know how it goes for you. I’m no confidence expert, but a well-meaning blogger trying to figure it out.

Prove yourself wrong. It’s easier than you think.

À bientôt!

Vicky

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Dear HONY Girl: An Open Letter

I’ve followed Brandon Stanton’s photo blog Humans of New York for a very long time and I love it. I’ve always believed that people are far more interesting than meets the eye if you know how to ask the right questions, and this blog is proof. There have been so many moving and funny stories shared thousands of times on social media that come from this blog. HONY was even able to raise more than $1 million for a school in Brownsville, Brooklyn after a photo of its valedictorian went viral.

So why do I bring it up? Last week, one post broke my heart. The subject was a young woman, though she didn’t show her face, only her hand. On her finger was a silver ring that spelled LOVE in curlicue letters. In the accompanying caption, she said that she had been in an emotionally abusive and manipulative relationship for five years. Please read the original post here.

I commented on the Facebook post, like more than 33,000 others, but I wanted to write more. Please share this post with anyone who is in a similar situation:

Dear sweet sister,

I’m so sorry this is happening to you. But I understand. I understand because I’ve been there.

I know how it feels when love is romantic and exciting when you’re together, yet you cry for hours when you’re alone. I know how it feels to believe that your worth is directly related to your relationship with another person. I know the fear that if the relationship ends for any reason, it would be all your fault and you would be a failure. I know how complicated your feelings can be; how can this person hurt me so much if he says he loves me? I’ve bought the lie that physical harm is the only kind of abuse. I know rejection, self-loathing, anger, and despair, and I know wanting to get up the next morning and do it all again, thinking this time will be different.

However, it seems like it hasn’t been different. It will never be different with him. You can’t change his behavior, but you can change your perspective.

Many comments on your photo, mine included, told you to get out. It’s not too late. You CAN get out. You say you’re scared to leave; I understand that too. But let me tell you some truths about you that may help you.

You were created, beautiful and worthy, fearfully and wonderfully, by a master artist. By your very existence, you have value and deserve to be treated with respect. You know deep in your heart that you were made for free, total, fruitful and faithful love. You know that you deserve more than a relationship that robs you of your self-worth, your joy, your goals and dreams. You deserve a partner who celebrates YOU, all of you, as you were created to be. You are worth celebrating.

It is only through believing these truths that you will find the courage to break free. Trust yourself. Trust my words. The longer you wait to break up, the harder it gets. This relationship does not merit another second of your time. Seek help. If you think your safety is in jeopardy, have an authority figure go with you to break up. Reach out to family, friends, a clergy member, a counselor, anyone who will support you. If you can’t find anyone to help, call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

I wish you all the beauty, joy and love this world has to offer, and I wish for the world all the beauty, joy and love you have to offer it. I love you. I’m praying for you.

You are enough.

Love,

A sister

You Were Worth Dying For: My Lenten Dating Fast, Day 20

I needed to reach a breaking point in the dating fast. And I did.

My dare for Day 17 was to meditate in front of a crucifix. The idea was to imagine Christ on the cross saying to me, “I did this for you. Just for you.”

My problem is that I really, really suck at meditating. My brain is always buzzing with 10 different ideas at once. When I try to focus on my post-Communion prayer during Mass, I inevitably think about something else the whole time and then do a quick father-son-holy-spirit-amen after the priest says, “Let us pray.” However, I’ve found that my brain is more inclined to focus, especially during prayer, when my hands are occupied. So to combat any mental wanderings, I brought my journal with me into the meditation chapel on campus. After a minute or two in front of the cross, I opened up my journal and began to write: “Are you just as you were when you were 15?”

At age 15, I felt called to take ownership of my faith in a way I hadn’t before, which is a story for another time. As I wrote in the meditation chapel, the question that plagued me was whether God had really made me a better, more holy person in those six years. And for the first two-thirds of the time I spent there, I thought that I was the same person as I was at 15, just with more sin.

As I wrote, I felt the weight of all the things I had done wrong in the past six years, even the ones that had been absolved through confession. My heart felt like lead. I began to cry. I’m generally not a crier during prayer, but God brought me to my knees in that moment. I asked Jesus, “Why was I worth dying for? I have all this sin on my heart. I hate myself for all the ways I’ve hurt You and others. How can You say You love someone like me? I don’t deserve it.”

I was writing furiously and sobbing alternately. Here I was trying to grow closer to God, doing all the right things — going to Mass three times a week, praying, going on a dating fast, listening to Christian music, etc. — yet I still felt like a horrible human being. I couldn’t see God working in my life. I wasn’t a saint, therefore, I had to be the worst sinner in the world.

Suddenly, everything changed. I began to write out the lyrics to “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North: “Why are you striving these days? Why are you trying to earn grace? … Look at these hands and my side. They swallowed the grave on that night, when I drank the world’s sin, so I could carry you in and give you life.” After I had written out a good chunk of the lyrics, I turned the page and wrote five words in huge letters: “YOU WERE WORTH DYING FOR.”

In that moment, Jesus’ mercy penetrated all the layers of shame and self-loathing that had been weighing me down just a few minutes prior. Mark 2:17 reads, “‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”

For much of my spiritual journey, I have battled the false idea that I need to cross off every item on a spiritual checklist before God can love me. God never said, “I will only love you if you don’t sin.” If that was the case, He wouldn’t have sent us His only Son, Jesus Christ, so that we might be free and forgiven from our sins.

This is our faith. This is amazing grace. Believe it. Jesus’ mercy is yours. Take it.

À bientôt!

– Vicky

What are some of your favorite ways to pray? Tell me in the comments below!