Over the past few years, we’ve learned a lot of new skills.
We grow vegetables, bake bread, and make Greek yoghurt. All our cakes and cookies are baked at home, we temper chocolate, and there is a healthy supply of homemade vanilla extract brewing in the linen cupboard.
Our friends will occasionally ask us why we bother. They point out that in Sydney’s Inner West (where we live), there are excellent artisan bakers and fabulous organic markets. And over the years, I’ve given a variety of answers – our lifestyle saves us money, we eat less processed foods, it sets a good example for our sons. But lately I’ve been giving the question more serious thought.
Four years ago (almost to this day) when we started Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, Pete and I were struggling. Not in our relationship, which thankfully has always been solid, but with a conflux of life circumstances that had left us badly shaken and unsure of the future.
At that time we were already baking bread. Gradually, we tried new things – there were so many aspects of life that we didn’t have control over at the time, but we could still figure out how to churn butter from old cream or turn a box of apricots into jam. Recording our adventures on this blog meant that they weren’t lost in the ether*, and gave us an opportunity to share them with all of you.
And I suddenly realised the other day what the past four years have really been about. Our psyche – our sense of self-worth – had been battered. We had lost confidence in our ability to deal with what life was throwing at us. And gradually, over the past few years, we’ve worked at restoring it. By trying new things, and eventually mastering them, we have incrementally rebuilt our self-confidence.
Every time we learn a new skill, regardless of how minor it is, it empowers us.
That empowerment is double-sided – firstly, we gain knowledge which can often be used to the benefit of our family and friends. Perhaps more importantly though, with each addition to our skill set, we grow more confident in our ability to tackle the new and unknown. The future is less daunting when we can look back on our past achievements.
And it doesn’t matter whether or not it’s a skill that we’ll continue to use – each and every time we accomplish something, we’re able to say to ourselves, “Look at what we can do! Who would have thought that was possible?”
In short, it makes us feel good about ourselves.
Dearhearts, life can be brutal. Sometimes we are weighed down by what feels like unbearable worries, other times the rug can be whipped out from under our feet. If that happens, the advice we offer from our limited experience is this – take baby steps to restore your self-confidence. Seek a sense of achievement in small, manageable tasks, and gradually build upon it.
It doesn’t matter what you undertake – I have friends who have found incredible joy and satisfaction in everything from sewing to basket weaving to astronomy – just don’t start with anything too big. Knit a scarf before you attempt a sweater. And accept that skills worth having sometimes take time to learn – don’t be disillusioned if your results aren’t perfect straight away.
The older we get, the more we realise how little control we actually have over what the world throws at us. All we can do is shore up our own self-esteem, build its foundations as best we can, and hope that it will fortify us against the vagaries of life.
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* A footnote: Small Man recently wrote a science report on the Ether Wind, a hypothetical and subsequently disproved medium which was once thought to propagate light. As I used the word in today’s post, I suddenly realised where the expression came from!