Solo parent

Week 5 – How to Find Confidence

None of us can be both mom and dad. Few of us can master pep talks, the squirrels nesting in the attic, softball coaching, the tooth fairy, the leaky faucet, overtime, the groceries, university savings, and pubescent mood swings all at the same time, solo.

Handling it all on your own is complicated. It can also be rewarding— especially on those days when you’re handling it well—but the moment we pause to reflect, we can face a crisis of confidence. Am I enough? Did what happened harm them? Am I adequately shielding them from drama? Can they see my grief and frustration? Do they feel safe and happy with me? Are they going to be okay? Am I going to be okay?

Our doubt is as big as our love for our kids. What a pressure to hope our parenting will make up for having lost an intact family (no matter how fractured the bond may have been), or for having lost a parent. Wound this tight, it’s easy for us to feel like a failure
regardless of what we’re handling well.

If we look for external proof of what we are, we’re looking in the wrong direction. Even more so through divorce, our shock and insecurity can push us to chase approval (or forgiveness) from others when we can’t find it within ourselves, for ourselves.
We hand over our self-esteem to someone else.

So what is the right source of confidence? The innermost core. The quietest part of you, where God resides; where forgiveness and love and patience and grace waits alongside every truth and regret we’d rather keep buried.
We cannot have the peace without facing it all. It’s a package deal.

Share Time:

On a scale of one to ten—with one being I’m a hot mess and ten being I’m knocking it out of the park, how confident are you when it comes to handling day-to-day life?

The Power Of Words

In Proverbs 18:21, Solomon said, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” (NIV)

Recall the old parable of two fighting wolves. One is darkness and despair, the other is light and hope. The wolf that wins is whichever one you feed. And what is their food? The words we choose.

Sometimes, words that feed darkness are hurled by people who speak over you, minimize your pain, or undermine your worth. They may be passive-aggressive or head-on. They may be thrown by someone you love, or by someone you used to love but cannot ever truly steer clear of because you share children. No matter who wounds you or how, we are quick to etch those words into our bones.

But that’s only a small portion of the words that feed darkness. Most of them we hurl upon ourselves, spiraling in an unending loop of self-loathing.

We refuse to forgive ourselves. We are our own worst bully. In negative self-talk we hide from our innermost core, feeding the wolf of darkness and despair so thoroughly it hardly needs any more cruelty from outside.

The solo season that follows divorce or loss calls us inward to face our emotional, mental, and spiritual past and present, and to seek God for the sake of our future. To recognize negative self-talk and the damage it does to your confidence, and to practice letting it go.

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”

Three Steps to Finding Your Confidence

1. Accept you can’t do it all for yourself, by yourself.

When anyone’s voice—including your own—says you’re not good enough, reply with this: That’s right, I’m not good enough. First, because we are each a work-in-progress. We all make mistakes, and we hit the wall sometimes.

And second, because a family was never meant to be headed by a single adult. We are meant to lean on our husband or wife, handing off back and forth to share and multiply our energies. A team. If not that, we are meant to lean on our extended family and community. If we try to “go it alone” and ignore or shame ourselves for our limits, we’ll feel constantly stretched beyond them. We’ll feel like we’re failing all the time.

To be separated from God is the Hell of the Bible. And what is separation from God? It could be described as being isolated from the outside world, while also being isolated from our innermost core where God resides with
us. Like Pink Floyd’s bittersweet anthem, being stuck in this way begins to feel “comfortably numb.”

We snap out of those chapters by being vulnerable. Perhaps that begins with, I am not perfect. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve hit a wall, and I need help.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” With I am not perfect as your starting point, move forward and out of quicksand trusting God has your back.

Share Time:

In what ways might you be comfortably numb—and in what ways does this false “comfort” keep you immobile in life?

2. Choose your words.

Your head is full of words. Some are yours as your own bully. Some are the whispers of God. And some are the words of others, wounds you’ve clung to more tightly than any kindness. When we speak out loud, we do a kind of magic. We make those words real. We bolster them and make them more adhesive. We agree with our bully too often, and we allow God’s grace to be drowned out.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Examine every voice: would Jesus speak this to me? Use this to sift through feelings and truths.

Taking every thought captive—sifting—is more than “thinking positively.” It is less about saying “I can do anything!” and more about classifying negative patterns before they become sticky inside your mind.

Imagine the negative thought as a tantrumming child. It’s screaming, kicking its feet. It’s knocking everything over. It makes every other benign thing in your mind stop and stare. What do we do with a tantrumming child? We interrupt. We come down close, eye-to-eye. We say Hello, love. I see you’re upset. We might offer a hug or a snack. We might swiftly remove that child to a quiet place or to fresh air. We say Breathe. Do we see that child’s outburst as natural, especially when hungry or overtired? Yes. Do we see it as “the truth”? Of course not.

Dorothy Neddermeyer wrote, “Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.”

Tantrum thoughts are repeating reactive loops. Remove them away to a quiet spot. Comfort them as you would, parenting. As God would, parenting you. Categorize them correctly.

3. Seek approval, permission, and forgiveness from the right source

Of course, you care what others think about you. There’s pressure to obey what the culture tells you to be or to concede to your antagonists. Our human need to conform deeply motivates us to seek external validation.
But to require it is to build your sense of self as a house of cards.

In Galatians 1:10, the Apostle Paul states, “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (NLT)

People are all over the place, each and every one of us up to our necks in our own melodramas, vanities, idolatries, and disappointments. We will not say what we mean, and we will not mean what we say. What a loose and unstable ground! If you set out to please people, you will be flattered as a champion one day and flame out the next. Again, go to an unchanging source for approval, permission, or forgiveness: your innermost core. Your
own vision for your own life, based on nobody’s personal best but yours, with God’s word as your guide.

On Moving Forward, Out of Quicksand

Crises of confidence are almost protective, like a warm blanket. We’re almost as afraid to climb out of them as we are to stay. When we refuse to change or grow, we face little and risk little. When we find solid ground again and contemplate choosing a direction, the air feels brisk and the wind strong. You’ll look back at the quicksand almost longingly as the voices cry out: Why bother? It probably won’t work anyway. You won’t find love. You won’t get that raise or that job. You’re not enough.

The voices are not telling the truth. They’re just feelings. Human beings cannot see around corners. Not until we walk around them. That’s one thing we know for sure—the only answer is movement. As Roald Dahl wrote in Danny the Champion of the World:

“I will not pretend I wasn’t petrified. I was. But mixed in with the awful fear was a glorious feeling of excitement. Most of the really exciting things we do in our lives scare us to death. They wouldn’t be exciting if they didn’t.”

Further Action Step:

Journaling over time helps you see patterns and loops of negative thinking that knock you off your confidence. It gives you the distance to practice classifying—and better choosing—the words you use. This week, write about a time in your past when you suffered a crisis of confidence. Now that you’re on the other side of it, what were the feelings you took as “truths”? What were you wrong about?