The following story was told to Ava Feuer and edited for length and clarity.
If you had told me five years ago that this would be my life, I wouldn’t have believed you. Not only did I not think I deserved my relationships or accomplishments, but I also never believed I could even make those things happen for myself. Let me explain: When I was in the third grade, my parents told me that they were getting divorced. I know that their divorce wasn’t about me, but I still mark it as the first time I felt my confidence waver. I always thought they were totally fine, and the fact that I had missed whatever warning signs made me completely unsure of myself.
Unfortunately, it didn’t get much easier as I got older. When I started high school, I was super reserved and lived in constant fear of judgment. No matter what I said or did, I was afraid it would be wrong. After a few years of this, I decided to apply for an independent study — thinking it would help me perform better in school — and I ended up finishing high school from home. I graduated a year early, which was great and all, but I still wonder whether I made the right choice. From time to time, I see people who I was acquaintances with in high school, and it reminds me that I don’t really have any friends from that time. On the other hand, being alone forced me to learn to be with — and become good friends with — myself.
I was super reserved and lived in constant fear of judgment.
I’m 22 years old now. I’ve been married for three years, and my husband and I have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter named Adeline. A lot of women say their confidence wavers after becoming a parent — I guess they feel that, in a way, they lose a sense of themselves — but for me, it’s been quite the opposite. As soon as I got pregnant with Adeline, I knew that I didn’t want her to feel the way I had felt about myself almost my whole life. I didn’t want her to think, I can’t do that because I’m not smart enough, or I can’t do that because I don’t have friends. In short: I didn’t want what held me back to hold her back, so I gave myself no choice but to go after what I wanted and to be happy.
It's important to me that she sees me as a confident woman, so I became very careful not to speak negatively about myself or perpetuate the idea that I wasn't good enough. I want her to always know that if you want to do something, you just have to believe in yourself and do it, because otherwise, it’s not going to happen. People can’t do that for you. You have to do it for yourself.
To be that strong, confident woman for my daughter, one major thing I had to overcome was my fear of showing people my teeth. I really tried not to open my mouth much, so I either kept quiet or looked down when I spoke — rarely making eye contact. I know it was probably in my head, but I felt like everybody’s eyes went straight to my teeth. So when I saw a social media ad for SmileDirectClub invisible aligners, I immediately started to figure out how we could swing it. From start to finish, my teeth were straight in just four months. Now, I’ve started making eye contact when I talk to people — whether that be to prospective friends, clients at the kids' hair salon where I’m a manager, or store owners I approach to sell Adeline’s Bow Line, my collection of children's clothes and accessories. I don’t know whether it was my confidence coming through or what, but I was able to access my inner positive voices instead of just the negative ones.
Turns out, putting yourself down takes up a lot of brain space, and that limits the room to actually act on your hopes and dreams.
Turns out, putting yourself down takes up a lot of brain space, and that limits the room to actually act on your hopes and dreams. It took away the power to go after what I want. When I thought I couldn’t do certain things, I figured there was no reason to try. But when I put myself in the positive mindset of believing that I can, it's so much easier to throw caution to the wind and just go for it.
I used to wonder, If I post this selfie, is everybody going to think I’m obsessed with myself? But no, it’s okay. I’m allowed to like myself. It’s good to be humble, but no one should frown upon people being confident in themselves. Celebrating myself and my success doesn’t mean I have some sort of perfect life. I just know that even if you don’t feel like you’re enough, it’s worth acting like you are because eventually, you’ll believe it.