You know those people you meet who you can’t help but be a little intimidated by because they seem to be everything you’ve ever aspired to be? They’re confident, they command respect and it seems as though they have everything in their lives in order and under control. You know those people? Do you wonder what makes them just sooooo much better than the rest of us?
As a person who’s battled overwhelming shyness for the majority of my life and who’s long been in awe of those who seem to know who they are and those who can be comfortable in their own skin, I can tell you that I know what it is they have. It’s confidence.
Seems too simple, right? Of course they’re confident. Buuuut, why are they confident? I guarantee you it’s not because they feel they have every aspect of their lives under control, but rather they know that confidence is about being flawed and being comfortable with it. It’s about not apologizing for not being perfect but expecting others to know that perfection is unattainable and that people can be great despite that.
The reason I’m writing about this today is because it’s become an issue of late among some of those I love and care about. In particular I have a friend who once seemed confident but these days she pooh poohs every compliment with a stronger criticism of herself. She actually seems likely to blow over in the stiff wind of her own self doubt and as many of us who’ve spent time with The Insecure know, it gets just as old as hanging out with the Over Confident.
So what’s a person to do if they don’t love themselves as much as they should? Step one is to fake it till you make it. Really. I’m not kidding. As humans we are assaulted with so much stimulus at all times that we look for shortcuts, for clues to what we should think about other people and situations. This is how we come to stereotype. It’s a way for the brain to group things into categories that it can understand. So when we meet a person who literally tells us that they are not worth knowing our brains say, “okay. Got it. You suck.”
This leads to a self fulfilling prophecy where people treat you as if you are not a worthwhile person, which lends credence to what you’ve been telling people about yourself and so you begin to feel worse and worse about yourself and people think less and less of you and… on and on.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Well there are many reasons, some of which include the American tradition of self deprecation so we don’t seem “too big for our britches”. There’s also the media assault of better looking, more confident people on TV and in print, people who are much cooler than we’ll ever be. But that’s are not as important as what we can do about it.
I’m not kidding when I say we should fake it till we make it. People see what we show them so we should show them confidence and that will create a cycle where they treat us as more worthwhile and we will start to feel that way and so they will treat us better… well, you get the idea.
Here are a few simple ways to do that:
1. When you receive a compliment say ‘thank you’. No matter whether or not you believe the compliment, say thanks and leave it at that.
2. Don’t apologize for yourself. Sure, if you trample on someone’s toes or eat their birthday cupcake tell them you’re sorry, but never apologize for your presence. An acting teacher I used to study with told a story about an actress who went in to audition for a role in a big movie. The director loved her performance and was thinking that he’d found the right actress for the part. When she was finished she turned to him and apologized. All of a sudden he was filled with doubt. Had she sucked? Did he miss something? Was he a good judge of an actor’s performance? She didn’t get the job. All because she lacked confidence. And that robbed the director of his own confidence.
3. Think about it from other people’s point of view. What type of person do you want to spend your time with? People suffering from low self esteem are often a big energy drain on the people around them as they require constant affirmation and reassurance. After a while people don’t want to spend too much time with those people because who has the energy? Be the type of person you want to spend time with.
Occasionally I blog about things that we all aspire to but we know are hard to achieve. But in this case, this is something that’s pretty easy to do. And it gets easier with practice. So if you don’t feel confident about yourself it is important to work on fixing it and that may take time but you can start pretending that you know what a strong vibrant and incredible person you are today. And eventually you’ll start to actually know it. Have a great week!