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About the Author
Author and narrator Tricia Lott Williford is a remarried widow, an author of three books, a writer, a teacher, a reader, and a thinker. Thousands of people daily enjoy Tricia's funny, poignant stories as she captures the fleeting moments of life on her blog at tricialottwilliford.com. She lives near Denver, Colorado, with her husband and two sons, and right at this moment, she is probably doodling in the margins on an overdue library book.
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You Can Do This
Seizing the Confidence God Offers
By Tricia Lott Williford
NavPressCopyright © 2017 Tricia Lott Williford
All rights reserved.
The First Bully of My Life
The Confident Girl Knows Her Story
I wish I'd known from the beginning that I was born a strong woman. What a difference it would have made! I wish I'd known that I was born a courageous woman; I've spent so much of my life cowering. How many conversations would I not only have started but finished if I had known I possessed a warrior's heart? I wish I'd known that I'd been born to take on the world; I wouldn't have run from it for so long, but run to it with open arms.
SARAH BAN BREATHNACH, SOMETHING MORE
THE FIRST BULLY OF MY LIFE was my fourth-grade teacher. My teacher, whom we will call Mrs. Wretched, seemed about eighty-nine years old; she wore polyester skirts and sensible shoes, and the flesh of her arms swayed when she wrote in cursive on the board. In what I can only assume was a grand gesture to avoid favoritism, she made sure none of her students felt liked or even acceptable at all. She yelled at children who looked out the window. Children who tattled on their classmates were sentenced to wear the Tattletale Name Tag. Children who leaned back on the rear legs of their chairs were banished to stand in humiliation for the rest of the day. There were rumors of dunce caps and noses held to the chalkboard. She probably had a box of stolen kittens in the bottom drawer of her desk. In my memory, she had warts on her face and a long pointy chin and a dog that she kept in a basket on the back of her bicycle. I'll agree to perhaps a very slim and remote possibility that she's become a caricature in my memory; but the truth is that Mrs. Wretched was legendary, and she was my introduction into the deep, dark waters of public education.
I had spent my first few school years in the sheltered, careful environment of a private school until my parents moved our family into the upper-class suburbia of their own hometown. To be clear, I wasn't transitioning to school in a foreign country, and the transition wasn't exactly culture shock. In fact, I would join the ranks at the same elementary school my parents had both attended in Greensburg, Ohio.
But I was an anxious little girl, and I felt like I had been thrown to the wolves. I was wildly nervous about the unknowns of a new building, a new lunchtime protocol, the location of the restrooms, this business of having a "locker," and what I should wear since red plaid uniforms were not the public school plan. My concerns numbered in the dozens, and it was all so new and so much for a nine-year-old girl who resisted change even on a predictable day.
On the first day of school, I stepped off the school bus into a sea of kids just like me. I found Room 8 in the fourth-grade hallway, and I walked into my new classroom with the smile I had practiced. The other children were sitting impossibly silent at their desks, and Mrs. Wretched sat behind her desk at the far side of the room. With a flat tone and a firm brow, she barked at me: "Name. Bus number."
I deflated. I felt my fragile assurance slipping right out the toes of my new shoes. "Tricia. Sixteen."
"Find your seat and your locker."
I walked the row of lockers and found my name — misspelled as Trisha. I navigated the metal handle and put my bag on the hook inside the locker, quietly ignoring that Mrs. Wretched had spelled my name wrong. See, the thing was, I had never met another Tricia (or Trisha), and it turned out there were two others in my new grade, and one in this very classroom. I had made a grievous error in my first four minutes of fourth grade, but I didn't know it yet. A few minutes later, Trisha arrived to find someone's stuff in her locker. She went to Mrs. Wretched like Baby Bear complaining that someone's been eating his porridge.
Mrs. Wretched, who almost never came out from behind the fortress of her desk, walked over to Trisha's locker to retrieve my contraband: a Rainbow Brite backpack hung in the wrong place. "Whose backpack is this?" she demanded.
I raised my hand so silently, so subtly, just wanting to disappear.
She said, "The first thing you will learn in fourth grade is to respect other people's space. That is not your locker."
"But it said 'Trisha.'"
"And is that how you spell your name?"
No, it isn't —
"Well, do you know how to spell your name?"
"Yes, I —"
"You're not the only person in this world with your name, young lady."
She held my backpack hooked on her finger and waited for me to come and get it. I put it in my locker and returned to my seat, and I felt tears coming, coming, coming. I didn't want to cry. I just wanted a do-over. But you so rarely get a do-over on anything in life, and this was my first hard lesson in that truth.
I checked the name tag on the locker every day of that school year, terrified to make the same mistake twice. The locker was mine all year long, but every day I made sure.
Mrs. Wretched and I had a rough start to our year together, and it was hard to recover from that. As the first days lined up to become the first month, I found a routine in my new environment, but sadly very little improved. I had always loved school, but now my favorite parts of the day were any chances I found to leave the classroom. Recess, music, gym, art — I craved any opportunity for a break from her watchful, witchlike gaze. She was mean, and her unkindness stood out as the blatant opposite of the teachers I had had to that point in my young life. I had fallen so in love with my second-grade teacher that I had outlined my own career path to become a teacher just like her, and my third-grade teacher had named me her "little author" and wooed me into writing. I aimed to please, and my kind teachers rewarded my efforts with smiles and kindness. After love affairs with my earliest teachers, it never occurred to me that not every educator loves her job — that perhaps they wouldn't all love me.
Early in the fall, our school celebrated Right to Read Week. It was a nerdy version of spirit week, with daily themes such as "Choose Your Favorite Punctuation!" or "Be an Adverb!" or "Dress Like Your Favorite Person from American History!" For the last one, I chose Betsy Ross, and my costume became a family project. On that day, I went to school in a long, blue colonial dress, my curly hair swept up in a bun, and I even carried a picnic basket with an American flag carefully peeking out from under its lid. I mean, really, it was indisputable: I was a very charming Betsy Ross. Whatever you're picturing isn't nearly cute enough.
I started the day with my confidence restored. I had even packed an extra outfit for gym class — such was my preparedness. I'm pretty sure I said to myself, I've so got this, or whatever was the equivalent circa 1988. I stopped by Mrs. Wretched's desk, and I asked her, "Where should I put my clothes for gym class today?"
In retrospect, I knew the answer to that question. Of course any extra items of mine would go in my locker. But I think I wanted to give her the chance to be overjoyed by my costume. I probably pictured in my mind a scene similar to Ralphie's dream in the classic movie A Christmas Story, when his teacher reads through so much drivel until she finds his paper: finally one worth reading, the work of a student who has restored her faith in education and her very self. In other words, I set myself up to inevitably see firsthand how very unimpressed she was.
"I don't even know why you're dressed like this," she said. I took a step back, feeling shoved away by her disgust.
"Because it's American History Day," I said, my voice wavering.
"That is tomorrow. Now go change your clothes."
I carried my American flag, my picnic basket, my extra clothes, and my nine-year-old dignity down the hall to the bathroom, trying to decide what to do with it all. I pulled the pins out of my bun and shook my hair free. I stuffed my colonial dress into the basket, I changed into a very plain T-shirt and pair of jeans, and I gave myself a few minutes to just cry.
I just wanted to move forward, to go on with the day, to somehow get out of the crosshairs. But when I came back to the classroom, even though I tried to will myself to be invisible, she noticed I had been crying.
"Crying again, I see," she said, with an exasperated sigh. And then, loud enough for everyone to hear, "Tricia, I have never in my life met a child with less confidence than you. I certainly hope you grow up to have more confidence as an adult, because you are a child with none."
Who does that? Who says that to a child? I was devastated. I didn't know what the word confidence meant. I didn't know what it was. But when I was nine years old, an adult told me I didn't have any of it. And when an adult slaps a label on your chest, it sticks.
Have you ever had someone like that in your life? Someone who threatened to steal the spirit right out of your soul, the joy right out of your smile? It's sadly and likely true that you have a story similar to mine. Someone who stole your confidence right out of your pocket. Think about it. Let's do a little detective work to think about who did this to you.
These thieves are probably the voices you still hear in your head when you're right on the edge of doing something really creative, profound, brave, or simply joyful. If you're like me, maybe you hear objections in your head: "You think you're creative? Since when? When is the last time you had an idea that was actually yours, or worse, actually good?" Or "Who do you think you are, trying to do something so brave? Leave that to the people with real courage. You're just faking it.' Or "Somebody sure thinks highly of herself, doesn't she? Stop bragging. Don't you realize how prideful that is? That's not humility." Or "You're an impostor. You might as well wave the white flag and give up, or else somebody's going to blow the whistle on this little charade you've got going on. And I think we can agree it will be far less painful if you surrender on your own before somebody makes you."
Were those words painful to read? They were painful to write. I get it, my friend. Where do those voices come from in your life? Parents? Teachers? Coaches? Siblings? Bullies your own age or, as in my life, significantly older? How about an old boyfriend? Or maybe even the person you're married to today? Maybe it's something even bigger, something without a face or a voice, something harder to identify — like the culture of your church or the religious beliefs of your family. Sometimes we get to a point in our lives when we realize that what the "grown-ups" have been telling us the Bible says isn't actually in there at all. Sometimes grace gets lost in criticism, and self-worth gets swept away with rules.
Look back on the stages of your life — childhood, adolescence, college, early jobs, careers, marriage, motherhood, successes, failures, and the transitions in between — and think of the people who influenced you. Think about who walked with you on these journeys, and think of their voices. What did they say to you? Did they build you up or tear you down — give you life or drain you like a helium balloon with a slow leak? If these voices come into your head when you think of the worst things you believe about yourself, then my friend, you've found the thieves of your confidence. Their passing comments plant the seeds in a fertile ground of negative thoughts, and before we know it, those seeds grow into oak trees of personal beliefs.
Negative thoughts and beliefs are just that: thoughts and beliefs. They are not facts, and they do not need to be true. Each one of these holds you in bondage, and each one must be shut down. You are not ridiculous, overly emotional, selfish, or grandiose just because somebody said you are. What you are is terrified.
That's the thing about negative thoughts and beliefs: They keep you scared. You're afraid of getting hurt, afraid of being seen, afraid of being shamed or shut down for not measuring up to the rest of the world. And these thoughts are ruthless. They will search until they find your most vulnerable place: your beauty, your lovability, your intelligence, your sexuality, your courage. When criticism finds vulnerability, it grabs on tight. Before we know it, we are bound tightly in the tentacles of an octopus that's very much in charge. Girls, we very simply and truly and deeply cannot let those thoughts be in charge of us. We can get our confidence back from the thieves who stole it from us. We can choose a different way.
Think about the time when your confidence was stolen from you. Jot down the details that come back to you — who said it, how he or she looked at you, the room you were in, the way you felt, and how your parents responded if you talked about it. It's so important to acknowledge the ways we've been hurt and the things that have been taken from us, because here's the thing about wounds: They almost never go away on their own. They only create thick scar tissue that keeps us from being real, authentic, brave, or confident. Write down what you remember about the ways your confidence has been taken.
Set a timer for twenty minutes and journal about what you wrote down. Lean into the pain instead of avoiding the memory. The infection is there; see if it will come out when exposed to the light of day.
In the same way, think about a time when you have stolen confidence from someone under your influence. Is there something you may have said to your husband, your sibling, or your child in a harsh moment of stress or exhaustion? If a memory comes to mind, it may have stayed in that person's mind, too. A conversation and a request for forgiveness can restore the relationship as well as the very confidence that was stolen away.
Do something nice to reward yourself for all this emotional heavy lifting you've done today. You have been brave, you are valuable, and you deserve kindness-first of all, from yourself.
Excerpted from You Can Do This by Tricia Lott Williford. Copyright © 2017 Tricia Lott Williford. Excerpted by permission of NavPress.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION: You Can Do This The Confident Girl Joins the Conversation, xi,
1. The Fist Bully of My Life The Confident Girl Knows Her Story, 1,
2. Wear Your Name Tag The Confident Girl Knows Her Identity, 11,
3. Write with Lipstick on the Bathroom Mirror The Confident Girl Appreciates Her Beauty, 25,
4. Claim Your Seat The Confident Girl Takes Her Place at the Smart Table, 37,
5. Plan Your Dinner Party The Confident Girl Doesn't Put the Critics in Charge, 43,
6. The Art of Dining Alone The Confident Girl Enjoys Her Own Company, 57,
7. Sex in a Box The Confident Girl Needs a Place to Put Her Stuff, 61,
8. Step Off the Merry-Go-Round The Confident Girl Feels How She Feels, 71,
9. Open Your Hands When a Gift Comes Along The Confident Girl Can Receive, 77,
10. Share Your Kindness The Confident Girl Sprinkles Kindness Like Confetti, 93,
11: Carry a Sharpie in Your Pocket The Confident Girl Sets Boundaries, 105,
12: Never Drop the Same Plate Twice in a Row The Confident Girl Is a Confident Mom, 119,
13: Be Where You Are The Confident Girl Is Present and Engaged, 129,
14: Wait for the Timer to Beep The Confident Girl Doesn't Overreact, 141,
15: The Underbelly of Confidence The Confident Girl Chooses Vulnerability, 147,
16: Put Fear in the Backseat The Confident Girl Refuses Fear, 163,
17: When You Feel Overlooked The Confident Girl Can Hope, 175,
18: Pass Jour Brave Along The Confident Girl Instills Confidence in Others, 187,
19: Go and Be The Confident Girl Is Ready, 193,
EPILOGUE: A Joyful Commissioning The Confident Girl Can Do This, 197,
GREAT BOOKS FOR THE CONFIDENT GIRL, 201,
What People are Saying About This
With gentle humor and friendly warmth, Tricia Lott Williford assures women that they can be who God has created them to be. Williford comes alongside the reader as a fellow struggler, not an expert, winsomely and honestly reflecting on mistakes made and lessons learned. I love that Williford incorporates practical examples and adviceboth from her life and from other women’sabout walking in courage and in God-confidence. Readers who feel alone and insecure (and who hasn’t felt that way?) will find much to love in You Can Do This, including rest stops (questions and tasks related to biblical confidence) at the end of each chapter.
Even women who stand on platforms can struggle with confidence, and raising small people demands outright guts. Tricia Lott Williford shares hard-won insights and do-it-today ideas to grow stronger. Tricia helps wom-en from all walks of life sit tall in their places at the tablewith God and those they’re called to love and lead. I loved this book!
They say life doesn’t come with an instruction manual, but I think “they”the authors of such platitudeshave yet to read You Can Do This. The wise, quirky voice of Tricia Lott Williford is the one I want to hear. I want to hear it when I don’t feel as though I’m good enough. I want to hear it when I feel afraid of what the future might hold. I want her voice in my ear when I meet someone who’s unkind. As you read You Can Do This, listen for the gentle voice of God’s life-giving Spirit breathing through the words on each page.
You Can Do This is so refreshing. With inspiring and funny stories, Tricia helps you exchange fear for faith. She leads you to a place where you can deal with the bullies who have tried to steal your confidencethe ones around you and the ones inside you. Read this book and live as the confident girl and mighty warrior who God intended you to be.
Tricia’s poignant, humorous writing has always captivated me, but she really hit a home run with You Can Do This. The wisdom she imparts on female confidence is fresh and bold and grounded in truth. You’ll never look at yourself quite the same. Buy this book for your daughters, your best friends, and most of all, for yourself.