I've had a few conversations with friends lately that have circled the question: How do we become confident?
Our ideas of confidence start pretty early on, and I think that most of us probably trip up in our teenage years. See, we associate confidence with the way that people view and respond to us. So naturally we believe that our personal level of confidence is a reflection of how attractive we are, how successful we are, how many friends we have…we don't look at the process, but rather think, gosh, if I looked like her, people would like me more, and then I'd be more confident.
"Yeah but you don't get it because you can sleep with whoever you want, so of course you're confident, because people already find you attractive." Ladies and gentlemen, as flattering as it is that several of you think this about me, I have to tell you, my ability to make someone want me has yet to ever genuinely change my confidence levels, and this is because:
1) Confidence is a measure of internal success, not purely external feedback
2) It doesn't matter how many people find me attractive, or find you attractive, because if we aren't confidence in ourselves, then that attraction feels meaningless. It feels like maybe that person who loves us is an exception. Everyone who sleeps with us is an exception. And that's never going to be something we can break out of UNLESS--
We get to the root of what confidence is.
Now when we say "confidence," we hear "self-worth" and "popularity", and so I suspect it's a word that tends to lose its root in all of the connotation that we've added to its meaning. Confidence, to bring us back to the core, means trust, belief, conviction, "the state of feeling certain about the truth of something". And so self-confidence then means understanding the truth of ourselves, not the truth of who we are in others' eyes.
So self-confidence is the truth of ourselves, and I take that to mean that it is a reflective reaction of how we perceive and create ourselves. So, no matter how many people we sleep with, or how many sales we make, or how many times we go to the gym, our confidence won't go up unless we've achieved something that that creates a personal truth. Sex will stay meaningless because everyone is an exception, the gym will be ok but it won't make you feel sexy, even if you are sexy, and your sales goals just aren't great unless you think they're connected to something you value.
Confidence comes from the process of creating that personal truth. When I go to the gym, I have a goal in mind, and in keeping that fitness goal, I have proven a truth about myself. I think, man, I have conviction. I've accomplished a sculpted body, one that I set out to create, and this is something that I now know I personally can do, and BAM, confidence.
And sex, and I say this over and over, but sex will only boost your confidence if it is meaningful. You can satiate your sex drive by having random sex, and if that's what you're looking for, that's fine, but so many of us are having sex because of a need for a confidence boost, and here's the thing: having sex with a stranger and knowing that they find you attractive enough at the moment to sleep with you doesn't really create or reveal any truth of yourself, and THAT is why the confidence that you get from those encounters isn't lasting. There isn't a process there where you create anything. And that's different when you're having sex with someone you care for. You are taking a risk when it's someone you care for, because you're opening up a level of vulnerability. You are revealing yourself emotionally and physically to someone who you will see again and again, someone whose opinion matters, someone whose friendship matters, and that is terrifying, and it is confidence building, because if you do it successfully, then you've revealed a truth about yourself, and BAM, confidence.
And that leads me to my next thought on the development of self confidence, a series of patterns that I define as Acts of Personal Bravery. Acts of Personal Bravery are processes that we engage in on a personal level, because they are unique to our own fears. We become more confident when we define and take on our own fears.
For me, this has to do with facing the possibility of losing someone, which makes me want to avoid important conversations. I become a compromiser; and the more I compromise, the less I'm advocating for myself, and suddenly, I have no confidence, because I haven't created anything that I can be confident about. A compromise on my feelings isn't an Act of Bravery, and it's certainly not a personal truth, and so I feel myself fall apart.
My Act of Personal Bravery, then, is the action of initiating hard conversations, and carrying through them as an advocate for myself. I am learning to apologize for any damage I do, but not to apologize for the words that I say and believe. I am also learning to state what I need, and how I feel, with a willingness to handle whatever natural reaction I may receive. Whenever I manage to have one of these conversations successfully, sure enough, I walk away feeling more confident. Because it's the process of seeing that fear, facing it, and pushing through it. And that's a huge confidence booster because again, it's a truth about me.
So I guess my answer to "how do I become more confident" is, look at how you create and reveal truths within yourself. Introspect; read material that is challenging to you, talk to your friends and family honestly, and be prepared for their reactions. Build yourself into the person that you want to be; if you are confused, conflicted, frightened, then your greatest confidence will come from examining and facing that confusion. Take on some Personal Acts of Bravery: examine that relationship that you don't want to think about. Tell that "friend" to stop bullying you. Stop answering the phone every time he/she calls. Don't apologize for your sexuality. Ask that guy that makes you so damn shy out to coffee. And good luck; we all need it, and we all deserve it. Feel free to share some of your stories, acts of personal bravery, and thoughts about confidence below.