Confidence. Even the word is delicious. It's something I want. It's such an appealing trait to me. I know many others want the same thing... Unfortunately, I struggle. I falter, I get scared, I hide, I feel less than. Even more unfortunately, I put others down. When I happen to feel insecure and lacking in confidence next to somebody else, I start talking them down in my brain. I try to make excuses for why they are as great as they are, which is ultimately why they intimidate me. It's not nice. I'm never proud of it. But in the moment it's my nice little lack-of-confidence barrier that I put up.
To fight this, I have come up with my own Fake-it-til-you-make-it Guide to increasing confidence and not being a jerk to others when I suddenly feel threatened. I'm still working on the title. It just so happens that when I put these little tricks into action, I actually forget my fears and jerk tendencies and become more confident as a result. In some ways, it's less of a, "becoming confident" thing and more of a, "stop being so self-involved" thing, which, in the end, has a similar effect.
Tip #1: Smile. I know it sounds like the cheesiest thing but it's a good first step. If you're smiling, you can trick most people, most importantly yourself, into thinking you are feeling grand! Maybe you changed clothes seven times that morning. Maybe you happen to be seated beside the model in class who makes you feel like you have the body shape of a walnut. Maybe you have to sit down and have coffee with an individual who's cleverness and wit makes you feel like you have the bantering capability of a sloth. Just smile! Endorphins people! Those things are just the best. They give you a flood of good feelings and stress-relief, which just might push you into the comfortable space that even if you don't have lighting fast comebacks, you can still have a good time as well as a beautiful smile.
Tip #2: Stand up straight. I watched this great TED Talk once about the power of body language, and found this infographic which gives you a brief idea of how a few changes in posture can affect how confident you feel. While jumping around in a bathroom stall in a full on Rocky stance before an interview might not feel entirely comfortable, I totally believe even simple changes can help. When I'm feeling particularly low or insecure, I know that my body follows suit. I cross my arms, I look down, I hunch my shoulders. So, if I notice I'm doing this, I immediately stand up straight. I throw my shoulders back and stick my chin up a bit and even try to combine with Tip #1: Smiling. It feels like I've pulled a fast one on my brain. Suddenly my brain is like, "oh, this is how we act when we feel relaxed and content, maybe...I...actually...DO feel that way...!" It's actually amazing how quickly I forget my shallow fears when I just take a second to stand like a woman and not like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Tip#3: Stop making assumptions This one is probably the hardest because often times our thoughts are so subconscious and habitual that we don't realize that what we're thinking could have entirely no basis. Here is an example of how my insecure thought process goes:
"There's that girl who is so funny and beautiful and talented. Because I am not equally funny and beautiful and talented, she probably hates me" Hahaha okay so that's pretty extreme but it's close to thoughts that I have had before, and I'm sure not far off from ridiculous thoughts that many of you have had as well. We feel worried that we're not as good as someone else and so we get ourselves into this senseless cycle of berating
"That couple didn't say hi to me as soon as they walked into the room. They must be mad at me. But what did I do? I didn't do anything! So they are stuck up snobs who only prefer to say hello to people they deem 'cool enough'" This is a genuine experience and I remember the exact moment I thought it. It made me feel crappy and as a result it made me want to avoid said couple for the rest of the evening. What in the helios!? I had entirely zero reason for interpreting these people's actions in that way, but because I had my feelings minutely hurt, I chose to think the worst of them. I want to be a gracious and loving and forgiving person, and yet I get caught up in itty bitty reactions like that!? I have a long way to go...
"That girl goes to the gym more than me. Also she is fitter than me. Occasionally she wears form-fitting clothes and thus she must be rubbing it in my face that she is fitter and more dedicated than me. I don't want to talk to her AND I'm now planning to go to the gym every day for 5 hours. THAT'LL SHOW HER" While this is ridiculous sounding, it is true. It is also the most devious of the above three examples because it really puts a huge wedge in the relationship of said individual and myself. It comes so deeply out of the pit of my own insecurity that I can't stand to be around the person who brings it to light. It is something I am really not proud of, and truly one of the biggest reasons for me why dealing with this issue is so important: because it puts all of our focus on ourselves and stops us from loving others.
Tip #4: Give a complement or encouragement. This one works very nicely with Tip #3, in that often the combat for mean and baseless feelings toward another can be as simple as kind words given to that person. Perhaps you need to give encouragement for the exact thing that you admire and that makes you feel insecure in yourself (Scary, I know).
Maybe this person gets to travel somewhere that you've always wanted to travel and nothing inside of you wants to be excited for them. But hey, that's a jerk move, we should support our friends! So how about sending them an email where you tell them how excited you are to hear about their travels and see their photos. Open yourself up to live vicariously through them as you save up for your own travels.
Maybe this person is the model I mentioned previously who makes you feel like a walnut shaped woman. Maybe this model is like the person I mentioned previously who works out way more than you and looks good in everything they wear. It could be a good first step to complement them on their dedication to healthy living, and maybe get some suggestions from them on their workout schedule or their favorite fitness classes. You could learn something you didn't know before, and be likewise encouraged by their passion for fitness to take some steps of your own!
The point of giving encouragement is not to make you feel nice for saying something nice or feed into some sort of I am a better person complex. Instead, the point is to get your head out of your ass and think about someone else for a change. Sorry for the harsh words but I say them because I need to hear them. When we are sucked into insecurity to the point of feeling like crap and making others feel like crap (whether we vocalize those feelings or not) it's time to get out of that space. When I am thinking this way, it all revolves around me. I don't feel good enough. I don't like the way that person makes me feel. Do I really want self-absorption to be the reason for pushing away from someone in a relationship? No. I do not. That's embarrassing.
Genuine encouragement really forces you to look away from whatever you have imagined is lacking in yourself and instead celebrate the unique gifts of another person. How can I be a champion for their success? How can I support them when things are great so that I can be an even better support when things are tough? How can I allow myself to be vulnerable and honest with them so that they are free to do the same with me and a beautiful friendship has the chance to grow?
There you go folks. My un-scientifically based guide. I'd love it if you give some of these tips a shot and let me know how they work out for you. Because it's amazing how, when you set some of your own self-obsessions aside and focus on shining a little light and love out to the world, some true confidence starts to sparkle through.