The other night, I shadowed an ESL class for adults – it was an incredible opportunity and I learned a lot about teaching English as a second language but it also opened my eyes to something VERY interesting – a desire to feel confident and fit in (especially among moms) is not culture specific. I sometimes feel guilty, like my problems or worries are completely insignificant compared to the majority of the world’s, but as it turns out, no matter what else is going on in our individual lives, all people need friendship, support, and a real village to help give them a sense of security.
On our break, I was asking the students about their individual experiences in their new communities and a common theme was finding friends and support while struggling with confidence to speak a new language. Can you imagine that? Finding your people is a hard enough task as an adult, let alone when the language and culture is completely different from the one you know.
I, myself, have been in a similar situation. When I studied abroad in Argentina, I attended University with all Spanish-speaking students. The culture was different, the specific dialect was different than what I had studied in the classroom, and I knew no one at all when I first arrived (no, not even other students from my college). I loved it but also felt very overwhelmed and often homesick at first. And that was without having to find a job, pay bills, or commit to a new life – it was just a mere five months.
So when these students were telling me how they felt, something stirred within me. I wanted to offer them all my friendship and play dates and an opportunity to come to dinner at my house. Chris joked that he was going to come home from work one day and see 20 cars parked outside. He’s probably not wrong.
But I guess the point is that I sometimes spend so much time worrying about how I might fit in or what people might think of me in various situations that I didn’t even stop to think that perhaps I could be the strong one to step up and initiate the invite, the conversation, the acceptance.
You see, I’m on a big self-esteem v. self-confidence kick lately (too many podcasts while driving). And what I’ve learned is that while self-confidence can wax and wane throughout our lives, self-esteem SHOULD (hopefully) remain constant… and high. Self-confidence is all based on external factors and how the world perceives us or we perceive ourselves based on our ability to complete a task well or essentially, have it all together. That’s why our confidence can change based on our weight, our job, our financial status, our friendships, our education, etc. But if you’ve noticed, sometimes people have it all together and look perfect on the outside and on paper, but lack self-esteem completely.
That’s because self-esteem has to do with our understanding that we are WORTHY. Worthy of love, worthy of friendship, worthy of happiness and good things in life. And that should never change, because all humans deserve those things. So even if you are at an odd crossroads in life or don’t know the language or don’t fit in the way you typically do, you are still valuable and worthy. And as soon as we can focus more on what is inside of ourselves versus what we have to “show” for ourselves, we may start to build the strong communities we all desperately need.
This week I am challenging you all to do one of two things: 1) initiate an invite or conversation, even if it’s uncomfortable or 2) say YES to an experience or get together that you might otherwise decline.