Thursday, July 9, 2015

Here's the thing with confidence...


When most of us think "confidence" we think of a quite a one-dimensional view of it. For a lot of people confidence means wearing what you want, or not caring if the person you're lusting after rejects you or not; or getting up on stage and singing that song at the open mic night. When we think of confident people we associate them with these incredible beings who aren't afraid to be themselves and speak their mind, who don't let other people's negativity affect them. But this is all a very superficial view of confidence, and it sort of makes it out to be that confidence is an "all or nothing" type of situation: you either have it or you don't. 

For a long time I used to think I was the most confident person ever, mostly because I had a loud, goofy personality (still do, sorry about it) and didn't really care that much what most people thought. And this was correct, in some respects, but then I moved to Sweden for an exchange for a few months and all of a sudden I was in a new country, new school, with new people and a new language. I was in a class with students who were older than me, and didn't know anyone. And in that time I changed the way I was, I became a bit more quiet and withdrawn. I was afraid to put myself out there in case someone shut me down, or ignored me, or didn't understand what I was trying to do. I felt awkward, so for the most part I just sat quietly and observed and listened. It's worth noting that eventually, I did make friends and made an effort to put myself out there, and I ended up having one of the most incredible experiences of my life – but it was a very hard thing for me to do. When I came home, I was back in my familiar environment, and back to my normal, confident self. But looking back on events like that made me wonder: is it really confidence if you only have it in familiar, comfortable settings? 

So, I started to doubt myself. I'd always been a confident person, and it felt weird to admit that maybe I wasn't always that confident. The thing was, I had plenty of self-confidence when it came to my looks, or the things I was good at, or speaking my mind. It was more that sometimes in totally novel situations, with new people, I found myself becoming more introverted. It was more of a social-confidence issue than anything else. From realising this, I just felt so completely lost. Who was I without my confidence? It had always been this very defining part of me. And then, I began to think about this idea of confidence itself. Can you be a confident person if you're not always confident 100% of the time?

If you open up any random women's magazine, like Cosmopolitan for example, you're bound to find an article along the lines of "Confidence is SEXY, Work it!". It's this idea that we need to strive for complete confidence in everything we do, that we can never allow ourselves to feel insecure, and always do everything with purpose. But this just isn't human; I've never met someone who's always confident every second of every day. I know this might sound like a stupid thing to point out, but things like those articles do really lead us to believe this and whether we realise it or not, it affects us. This version of confidence can work against us, it can bring us down the second we feel vulnerable and insecure, it shames us for feeling this way because we should always be strong and confident. Recognising that overall, you can still be a confident person, even if there are things that really make you feel small and voiceless, is surely a more empowering concept. Instead of focusing on the things I was confident in, and trusting in those, I focused on my insecurities and how much they contradicted my presumed ultra-confident status. Maybe if we believed more that we are confident people, we would actually become more confident as a result. Sort of a fake-it-till-you-make-it type of situation.

There's so much stigma that surrounds being insecure. No one wants to date an insecure person, nobody wants to be friends with an insecure person etc. And again, these are treated like an "all or nothing" situation, you're either confident or you're insecure. Because of my belief in these ideas, I was making myself feel bad about something I couldn't help. We all have insecurities and we all have things we are confident about. Confidence isn't something you can just learn from a magazine article, or magically switch on. It builds itself with time. It's okay to feel a little insecure sometimes, it doesn't mean you can't be confident in other aspects too. We can't always be constantly at the top of our game, and we shouldn't feel like we have to be. Maybe this is an overly-simplistic look at the situation, but I just feel like it's a lot of pressure.

Moral of this messy rambling: Confidence is hard, try anyway, don't beat yourself up if you can't always get there.

Lighthearted, "Margot tries to be funny", posts coming soon, stay tuned.

// Margot Ana

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