Confidence is defined as a feeling of self-assurance. However, the thing about confidence is that you don’t have to be the smartest, prettiest, strongest, or most experienced person to have that feeling. In fact, you could be filled with complete bullshit, but as long as you seem sure about your bullshit? Then you’re confident.
Although the shy and introverted definitely make a huge impact on the world, the confident and the extroverted, are the ones we hear about. The dynamic CEO’s, the articulate politicians, or even that asshat at work who everyone listens to because he talks the loudest. Even though confidence is mostly excellent bullshit skills, the great thing is that those skills can be learned.
The best way to pick up a little confidence super-fast? Force it. Throw yourself into an uncomfortable situation so that you HAVE to be decisive and confident to figure it out, or perish.
The best personal example I can give is when I travel alone. First off, when I travel alone, even to the supermarket, if anything goes wrong, I’m the one that has to stand up for myself to figure it out. If my card doesn’t work at the store, I figure out how to pay. If the taxi driver wants to argue over the fare, I’ve got to argue back. If the airline messes up my booking, I have to make sure I get what I paid for.
Secondly, when I travel alone, I am completely responsible for all the social interaction I have. When I traveled alone for weeks at a time, I had to make a commitment to myself to talk to people. It was HARD. I am naturally not the most social and I definitely have a tough time making friends with absolute strangers.
The beginning of the trip went something like this: The first day I spent entirely alone. I had a good time but by the end, I had no idea how I would make it seven weeks completely solitary. The second day, I got up early and began exploring. I went to the first attraction on my list and saw a group speaking English. I actually tried to stay in their vicinity (i.e. stalked them) as I worked up the courage to say something, but I never did. I moved on to the next attraction and saw another group. I was alone and didn’t know what to say so I literally asked them for directions. I was literally so nervous my voice cracked (real smooth, I know). Thankfully, they invited me to explore with them (maybe they took pity on me), but either way, I ended up having a great time meeting new people and spending the whole day with them. After that, I realized the worst thing that could happen is that I didn’t get along with the people I talk to and had to find new ones.
Every city I went, it got easier and easier to talk to people and make friends. But see what I mean? If I hadn’t gone alone, and forced myself to either talk to people or be miserable, I might have never developed that skill. Even now, whenever it is still difficult for me, I can just think back to that instance and draw confidence from it.
Pushing yourself doesn’t have to be done through something as drastic as traveling alone though, it can be done through far more mild instances. Force yourself to make eye contact with your teachers so you get called on and have to answer more frequently. Go to a store you normally wouldn’t go into and ask the sales people lots of questions.
The most important tip I have for developing confidence? Do things ALONE as much as possible. Although our friends can hype us up and support us, we can also use them as a crutch. If you travel with a friend, you don’t have to meet anyone new. If you go to a new store with a friend, you don’t have to talk to the salesperson. It will be so much easier to talk yourself out of being uncomfortable when you’ve got a friend right there to use as a scapegoat.
Additionally, and maybe this is just me, when I try new things with friends, I am far more self-conscious. Even if it’s a trusted family member or best friend, I always feel a weird pressure to do this new thing (whatever it might be) the ‘right’ way. This is hard to explain but what I’m trying to say is, it feels far less embarrassing for me to look like a fool in front of people I don’t know. As soon as I bring a friend into the picture I become so much more careful and aware of looking ridiculous and therefore push myself less.
At the end of the day, confidence won’t just appear one day. It is cultivated over time. Developing confidence is a constant effort to keep pushing yourself to resolve situations that make you uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s gonna suck, and sometimes you’ll get embarrassed, but each time, you’ll feel stronger and more confident in yourself. You will find out what really is the ‘worst that can happen’ and once you deal with it, you’ll forget why you were ever scared in the first place.
Candid Photos by: Clara Yu