How to be confident... When you're really not confident

I’ve been reading a lot lately about what it means to be confident, how to be confident, what confidence is, and how it affects you.

And I often find myself wondering when it was that I became a confident person. It didn’t happen overnight that’s for sure. I look back on my life and I remember being shy and insecure as a child, but also bold, full of sass, and ‘bossy’. As a teen I was selective with who I let into my life because of a standard of who my friends had to be, but I was also silent when bullied or teased by peers. As a young adult I was wise and thoughtful, but socially awkward and lonely. There has not been a defining moment of me suddenly waking up confident, it was slow process.

It wasn’t until my mid twenties that I really felt like a confident person. Nothing about me physically has changed much, my personality is still the same, I have the same talents, my abilities and skills in certain things have improved, but at the core I am still the same person. Just with confidence.

Becoming confident isn’t about changing who you are. It isn’t being loud, outspoken, tough, gregarious, and obnoxious like so many articles and books lead you to think. Even the loudest person in the room can be the most insecure person in the room, and more often than not, they are.

Confidence is accepting who you are. It’s recognizing your social awkwardness and embracing it. It’s taking that standard of who you engage with, and enforcing it. It’s choosing to walk away from people who don’t improve your worth or your quality of life. It’s not being shy and hiding your wit and sass. It’s being wise and sharing that wisdom, but not feeling the absolute need to; sometimes it’s simply keeping it to yourself.

But how? How do you accept who you are when there is an overwhelming fear of being judged for it. How do you learn to love yourself? How do you move on from insecurities?

The key is to overcome that fear of judgement. The harder you work at impressing someone and the more you worry about your insecurities, the less attractive you become to other people. By attractive I don’t necessarily mean physically.

Think about the people in your life that you see as confident, the ones that seem to have it together. What is it about them that you are attracted to? Is it their humour, their way of speaking, their fashion sense? It could be anything, but the main difference between them and yourself, is they aren’t afraid of showing who they are to the world. These people were not born confident, they worked at it and became it.

In order to fight the fear of judgement, you need to start with you. You need to start accepting who you are, what you like, and what you’re good at. Become emotionally strong, accept that not every person in the world will like you. If you think that they should, than you need to stop being arrogant. Because only arrogant people can possibly expect every person to like you. Brutal, but true.

Embrace who you are, come out with your hidden interests to your friends, share the things that you enjoy with the ones closest to you. It’s scary, I know, but if you’ve surrounded yourself with good people, your weird quirks and interests won’t be a ‘turnoff’ for them. And if they are, those aren’t your people.

I never told my friends growing up that I was into video games. They didn’t know that I loved reading about science or was obsessed with politics. I hid that from them. I started to change who I was to fit in with them and their interests. I became a vapid, annoying tween with no fun interests, and no true friends.

Once I ‘came out’ to my friends as a ‘nerd’ most of them accepted it as a part of who I am, or already knew, anyways. They were open to talking to me about politics, space, religion, and other topics that they knew I was interested in. I made new friends with people who were into the same things as me and learned about new topics that I never even thought about. Hell, I went on a retreat in the middle of nowhere Georgia with a bunch of nerds I met online to learn about fitness and play swords. My life got better, I got happier, I began to love who I am, and I started to attract people to me.

I became that person that people wanted to be around and the people who don’t like me, well their opinion doesn't matter to me anymore.

I still have insecurities, I’m human. I know that with time I will overcome them by first accepting them as a part of who I am. If I can’t accept them, then I strive to improve myself until I can accept them. Every person has flaws, it’s how you react to them that defines you as a person. Instead of moping over your weight or worrying about your fear of public speaking, shift your habits to address these issues and improve. Eat healthier and start exercising, or join a public speaking group like toastmasters and practice public speaking. Improve your life. Become confident. Find your happiness.

The worst thing you can do is play the victim. The people who are saddest in life are those that choose to focus only on their flaws. They only see the gaps between themselves and others; and rather than bridging those gaps, they make them larger through jealousy and inaction.

I will say it once and I will say it again. The only way you can improve your life or situation is to take action. Improve the skills you already have, make changes in your daily habits to make up for shortcomings, be open and aware of advice and change.

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