Do Your Peeps Give You Confidence?

Dear Lovely Woman,

Last week, as a part of International Woman’s Day, I reposted a couple versions of a familiar statement on my Facebook page. The first: “Behind every successful woman is another woman.†For many, I’m sure the word ‘man’ could be inserted to make it an equally true statement. The second one states, “Behind every successful woman is herself.â€

So which is it? Self or others? Is our success, or confidence, based on ourselves alone or do others play a role? As simple as this  sounds, we need to start living as if both have equal value.

The truth is, we need self-esteem, self-worth and all those other self-hyphenated words in order to walk confidently into the day. And it’s equally true that we can’t make it through this life alone. Even Batman, in The Lego Batman Movie, discovered the need for friends and family. If a super hero needs his peeps, regular people certainly benefit from a crew, a team, or a tribe.

The dichotomy of self-reliance and reliance on others was demonstrated to me long ago when our family moved to a farm in Iowa. As city kids, we didn’t know much about animals, life or the benefits of struggle. When the first batch of baby chicks were ready to hatch, we got excited about the miracle of chicken birth.

If you have never witnessed a chick hatching from its egg, here’s what happens: you hear the pecking (pipping) and see bits of shell  crack and lift; the egg is moving. The chick is really working to get out of that confined space. This goes on for quite a while; sometimes 24 hours. When she finally escapes, she’s a curled-up wet mess.

Being from a helping family, Len, my brother and I ‘helped’ a chick by removing bits of shell. We only did this once. We didn’t know that in order for the bird to survive, she needs to struggle her way out of the shell. Maybe the old saying, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,†refers to this oddity of nature.

Maybe this isn’t an odd event, but the normal way of the world. Maybe struggle, any struggle,  is an initiation ceremony to build strength and prepare for the life ahead. If you can’t make it out here, you aren’t going to make it there or anywhere.

A successful independent birth leaves the chick dry, fluffy and looking for its peeps, its family.

Just like us, its family can be the flesh and blood relatives or others who nurture us. Science classifies family as those creatures with significant shared characteristics. How many times have we told someone close to us, “You’re just like family”?

It didn’t take Scott, my youngest son, long to feel comfortable in his new state when he started school at ASU in Tempe. I joked that he had “found his tribe,†and when I saw pictures of him with the group, they all looked like brothers.

When reflecting about the family you started with, you might have some regrets. They say, “It’s hard to get over a good start—or a bad one.†I’m not sure that’s completely true. Don’t we all know people who are successful in spite of and because of the struggles they had with their family? All families are somewhat dysfunctional, yet it’s possible to break out of that shell and thrive.

Your birth family, or the peeps you choose to take on family roles, serve you in many ways. They are foundational to your confidence.

Here are the seven reasons to consider:

Share the ups and downs of life. They will take your call at any time of the day or night.  You have history together and don’t have to explain your backstory. You also don’t need to pretend to be anything but yourself; they know too much. They have danced the happy dance with you, and have also let you cry on their shoulder. They keep you going.

Tell you the truth. Most people are not invested enough in you to tell you that your eye shadow is old fashioned or you’ve gotten a bit negative lately. The relationship is strong enough to withstand unpleasant conversations, and especially if messages are given with a small bit of kindness.

Tell you the ideal truth. After trying something new, like a dance, a musical instrument or a new speech, it’s lovely to have someone in your corner say, “I am so proud of  you!” In your heart you know you can do better, yet sometimes hearing the real truth when you’re just beginning, devastates your desire to get back on the horse. Yes, this kind of truth is the opposite of the truth of #2; yet I’ve found that there are legitimate times when the truth does not set you free. It robs you of future competence and confidence.

Lend you a hand, money or advice. For those taxing jobs, the kind that you can’t even pay someone to do, or you’re too broke to pay, that’s when your peeps are there to give you help. Sometimes money is what you need. Paying the money back is a story for another time, but family and those like family step forward when others run away. They also give their opinion. Sometimes unsolicited and sometimes unappreciated, yet our peeps feel obligated to speak up.

Take your side. Where there’s a difference of opinion or a fight, your tribe takes your side. Sometimes they also take you aside to ask what in the heck you were thinking, but even squabbling siblings and true friends faithfully stay on your team during difficulties. This loyalty is especially appreciated during a divorce when one often feels like a failure. Words of encouragement sustain us through the ordeal, until happy days are in sight.

Keep your secrets. Because of your history together, your peeps know and safeguard the things you don’t want to share with the world. Trust has been built to a point of knowing that your confession will go no further than that person’s ears. It’s wonderful to have this space for safe honesty.

Love is always there, no matter what. Time, space, and lifestyles may separate us from family and friends, yet we can be confident of the shatterproof foundation we share. It’s not dependent upon any event or any circumstance of life. This bond gives us the assurance that we are safe, solid and study. Without it, the rest falls away. No wonder we crave these relationships.

Just as newborn chicks need their peeps, “People need people†to support their independence and maintain a strong foundation of confidence.

May you give and receive confidence from your peeps,


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