I believe that confidence can either be a learned skill or an intrinsic one. Some learn best by observing others before they take action, and others jump in head first with a Hail Mary. When I was 5, I showed in my very first peewee showmanship contest at a small weekend jackpot. As the other participants began filing into the ring that hot Saturday morning with one of their parents trailing closely behind, I turned to Dad with indignation and asked, “ Do you really have to go in with me?” I’m sure he yearned to say yes, but instead he reluctantly shook his head. Without a backward glance, I sauntered into the ring towing Bessie behind me, pink bow, blingy belt and all. I’ll let you guess which confidence type I possess.
Prior to this, my showing experience was limited to leading our docile 12 year old Lab, Miller, through the backyard with a rope halter around his neck and a mini show stick in my hand. Nonetheless, I walked into that show ring like I owned the place, and I’ve approached the majority of the situations in my life with that same outlook. However, a recent curveball caused me to reevaluate the role confidence plays in our character development. In early June, after almost a year and a half of battling health issues, I had to get a feeding tube. Unfortunately for me, this was just a few days before the Red Angus State Show in Fort Worth that I was dead set on attending.
After leaving the hospital with my new accessory in place, I looked in the rearview mirror of Mom’s car and felt my usually omnipresent confidence take a hit. It wasn’t even the visual aspect of it that bothered me; I’ve been known to stroll into our local grocery store in pajamas and wet hair for a late-night ice cream run without a care in the world. It was the self-doubt, settling in against my will, that caused my confidence to suffer. Mom and Dad assured me of the show’s insignificance in comparison to my health and attempted to talk me out of it; ultimately, I disagreed. A few days later, I was walking into the Fort Worth show ring, with the “own it” mindset once again firmly restored.
The more I reflect on this situation, the more certain I become: confidence is not at all the absence of self-doubt… it’s the ability to greet those doubts with a smile and then show them to the door. Too often, we find ourselves feeling incapable or intimidated the minute that we’re thrown out of our comfort zones. This is when our self-assurance becomes critical. This is when we get the opportunity to build that confidence muscle into something that’s strong enough to conquer the most daunting of circumstances.
Raising and showing livestock isn’t always fun, and very rarely is it easy. Doubts will creep in, and there’ll be days when we lose heart. Our best donor cow will lose a calf that we couldn’t wait to see hit the ground. We’ll have to feed hay in the middle of summer after a 4 month drought. Market prices will go down and money will get tight. Without a firm, unwavering trust in our purpose as contributors to the agriculture industry, we put ourselves at risk of believing the lie that it’s not worth it. When we remain steadfastly confident, however, we’re able to remind ourselves that the hard work and heartaches we endure are more than worth it for the future of our industry.