Redefining Confidence – Caregiver Style

2017 April 6

Confidence is a preoccupation for most of us.  We worry about building, losing, demonstrating, and developing confidence because we all want it—the ability to walk into any scenario armed with an unwavering belief in ourselves and our ability to influence people and solve problems.  This is the kind of confidence we typically look for in leaders, but there is a different kind of confidence no one talks about but you demonstrate all the time—caregiver confidence.

Unfortunately, the way we typically think of confidence requires us to believe that we are better, smarter, more knowledgeable, and more competent than those around us.  This kind of confidence only works if we believe we are fundamentally different from those around us.  It presumes that the confident person already has the answers and always knows what’s going on—as if confidence was something we possessed.  In the process, we can become so focused on proving our confidence that we lose touch with the very people around us because of an overwhelming concern with how we look and sound and act in front of others.

Caregiver confidence isn’t about what happens in front of a general audience—it’s all about what happens when we are near those we love.  Caregiver confidence means we don’t assume anything—our confidence comes from questions—not answers.  We listen and observe to find out what is going on.  What does the person I care for want? And know? And believe? And value?  We don’t worry about “building our confidence” because we know it’s not just about us.

Instead, we constantly reconcile ourselves to the situation at hand—not the situation we necessarily want.   Not the situation we believe should happen.  Or the situation we wish would happen.  Our confidence isn’t about asserting ourselves to make others conform to us, it’s about integrating ourselves into others’ lives as they are.

Too often, people assume confidence is built around an unwavering belief in what should be done.  This would be sufficient if we were working with mere objects.  But we aren’t talking about spreadsheets and analytics.  Caregiver confidence doesn’t allow us the luxury of making grand proclamations promising to solve our loved ones’ problems and frustrations and suffering.  No, everything we say and do is grounded in a radical humility earned from a willingness to listen to the fragility of our loved one’s bodies.  And only by listening do we know that despite what we want to happen, we can’t just promise to wipe away what we don’t want to see or know.

Listening and connection are the architecture of our confidence.

The next time someone tells me that I appear to be “lacking” in confidence—I’m going to remind them that not all confidence is created equal.  But I have to be honest.  It’s nearly impossible to explain caregiver confidence to outsiders because our confidence is demonstrated when most people aren’t paying attention.  Our confidence means being present for loved ones long after others’ loud promises and bold proclamations end.  You and me—we don’t lose or gain confidence—we’re simply there when others tell themselves they can’t handle it.  It’s a willingness to draw our voices and bodies and attention near when vulnerability calls us.  Let’s just make sure we never apologize for a confidence that’s not designed to be showy.  For us, caregiver confidence isn’t about something we own, it’s all about a willingness to reach beyond ourselves to build something together with those we love.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS