So confidence is something I struggle with a lot, and consequently end up thinking about a lot. I know it’s something that affects a lot of people and can be a real dampener on how much enjoyment you get out of life. So I thought I’d share some advice on what’s bolstered me up when I’m feeling a bit fragile and unwelcome in my skin.
First, let it be known that confidence isn’t something you can get from a book, or by reading an article. It’s something that must come from lived experience. I think confidence is something that many of us could do with a little topping up of, but I don’t want to waste time unravelling ‘confidence’ into a big, complicated issue which could easily be done. I believe: thinking too much about confidence and how to attain it completely mucks the process up, for the word confidence means ‘with faith’. ‘Faith’ isn’t something you want to intensely analyse, or that can easily be pinned down. Rather, it’s something of an ineffable mood, a feeling of capability rather than an actual knowledge of capability (which is why you can be a prize-winning theoretical physicist and still feel like a frightened squirrel at heart).
I know I’ve said it here (and it’s been said many times before) that the only way to achieve confidence is through life, by doing the thing you fear. Like a frightened child getting chucked into water to learn how to swim. And yes, that process will eventually work, if you have the stamina and strength to keep on chucking yourself into the water until it doesn’t feel so scary. But I don’t see why attaining confidence has to be an aggressive, forceful battle against yourself. If you treat your fragile human substance with love, patience, and work with (not against) yourself, the process will be so much easier. So: yes, chuck yourself in the water, but with a loving attitude. 🙂
Remember: the essence of confidence is a deep-rooted appreciation of your value as a person. You can learn this from the outside in (‘I overcame my fear of public speaking. I am therefore more valuable.’), but you already are intrinsically valuable from just being you. And if you understand this, then doing the scary things need not be so scary… Because although you’re acting against your fears, you’re still supporting yourself.
Anyway, I feel like I’ve entered the rambling terrain so on with my tips!
Tip 1: Treat yourself with utter self-acceptance
Self-criticism is doing you no favours in developing confidence. I was thinking the other day that it’s kind of illogical to not think you’re great because at the end of the day, you’re in yourself and having to navigate the world through the self you’re in, so it’s not helpful to anyone (most of all yourself) to constantly be criticising the faculties you have. Like… if you downloaded an amazingly high-tech app that was useful in so many gazillion ways, but you kept on whacking it and not really using it properly, then it’s such a waste. So why would you treat yourself like that? Your brain is way more powerful than this fictitious app. I think it’s much more logical to think you are utterly exceptional beyond logic, because even if you’re way off, then at least you’re happy being the thing that you are. Besides, you can achieve so much from sheer, blind faith, regardless of actual ability.
So, I know it’s hard to be kind to yourself, but please, try to be on your side. A loving attitude to others stems from having a loving attitude to yourself. And everyone is flawed, so accept your human self in all its messy contradictions.
Tip 2: Take baby steps
In the past, I’ve overwhelmed myself by making grand plans on all the steps I’m going to take to be more confident and socially competent and happy with myself and bla bla… But this makes all your lofty aspirations even loftier. Because you’re ‘putting the cart in front of the horse’ as the saying goes, setting an impractically high standard that will put you off before you’ve even really started. Furthermore, all these ideas are just images in your head and not rooted in reality. In plainer terms: you’re getting ahead of yourself. You’ve got to make your plans loose, and then adapt from real-life experience. The path is in sand rather than in stone, so to speak. I would advise taking one step at a time on your path to confidence. And start as small as possible. Because then you get a chain reaction of good feelings going when you achieve a little step and will be more likely to progress, as opposed to getting sad about how much further you have yet to go. Assess where your confidence level is every day. Maybe today, you’re scared to make eye contact with the shop assistant, so maybe that’s all you do. Maybe tomorrow you contribute in class or a meeting. Always do whatever little thing scares you each day. It’s not necessarily a linear path because your confidence levels go up and down. But just do whatever you fear in the present moment in order to grow. But remember: take it as slow as slow and be gentle with yourself! The way you would teach a baby to walk…
Tip 3: Act ‘as if’
This is a great one because it’s so simple. People are going to take you the way you present yourself. No one besides you knows of the crazy rambling streams of rubbish that go on in your head unless you decide to share them or act like a person that thinks crazy rambling streams of rubbish. People don’t see your inside, only what’s outside so… you can present yourself as anyone! Really, don’t wait: just act like the person you want to be (whoever that may be – maybe you don’t even know but that’s fine because you can try acting like different people to experiment!). If you act as if you have deep faith in your movements and thoughts and abilities, then eventually you’ll start to actually have them. Really. Confidence is a magic, elusive quality anyway so it makes sense that it can be acquired by this magical method.
Tip 4: Don’t care so much
I often get scared about what other people think of me. Whether they’re judging me, modifying my behaviour to suit them, trying to mind-read but… at the end of the day, their opinion of you is utterly irrelevant. Your opinion of yourself is the only one that matters because it’s the only one that’s going to hold any weight with your worldview/how you interact with the world/your happiness level. Your own judgment is the only one you have to fear. And guess who has control over your own judgment? Yes: it’s you.
“Stop judging yourself and the world will stop judging you.” (by… oh, well I can’t remember who said this and can’t seem to find it online so it will just have to hang here in an authorless state)
I love the above quote because it shows that by not judging yourself so much, you’ll stop projecting your own insecurities onto other people and think that they’re perceiving you in a certain way that maybe they’re not even. The key to stop judging yourself? You’ve got to not care so much. To start laughing at yourself. Ironically, the way to do this is to not value yourself so much, so that you throw yourself around and start to engage with life. After all, you’re not some precious ancient vase that must be kept locked in the cellar of a museum. You are a breathing, thinking chunk of flesh that can definitely take a few (if not many) tumbles. To build confidence, you can’t nitpick at a tiny little thing you said one time that came out slightly wrong. You’ve got to blurt out stuff and realise that the world is still in tact and your self-esteem won’t wilt unless you actively participate in making it wilt. So, yeah, don’t worry about denting your ego, for it gets stronger with each dent. Furthermore, getting out there and engaging with the world means you think less of your ego – because it’s healthy and strong, so not something you need to think about. Now, you’re just using it as the tool that it is to engage with life and bigger, more exciting things beyond the self.
That’s it for now folks. I hope you found some of that was helpful and not too rambly! I’m going to end with one of my favourite quotes below. Please remember: everyone has something to offer the world, so don’t stifle your soul and your contribution to the world by thinking that you don’t.