Throughout the entirety of my (so far) brief life, I’ve been fumbling through all kinds of social events. Sometimes I’ll lie awake at night,cringing at the stuttering, uuhhmming and ahhhing as I embarrass myself with lame jokes, and awkward remarks. When we repeatedly relay these unpleasant situations, we’re slowly chipping away at our self-confidence, reaffirming that the way we present ourselves is shameful, weak and ineffectual. We start to doubt our ability to do things, and so we ultimately stop participating altogether.
These attacks you make on your self-confidence can be damaging, and cause you to withdraw even further, thus making it harder to gain footing in society. So here are some tips I’ve used before to guide me, help reassure my ability in myself, strengthen my confidence, and self-worth.
1. Engage in Activities You Enjoy
A lot of self-help articles and books talk about envisioning yourself as you want to be. I think this is very true, and very powerful, but sometimes it’s too confusing to know what that means.
When you feel lost, adrift in the world with no vision, you feel unsure of your identity.
You might ask – what are my strengths, what do I do well? When it boils down to the depths of the problem, identity is the driving force for all that we do, all that we hold valuable. Having a strong sense of self is important. When we are able to identify with being a great writer, beloved teacher, or outstanding dancer, we feel as if our sense of being in this world has been validated.
Now, this will take a while, and it’s a concept that could be constantly evolving, but that’s okay.
When I was at my worst – not turning up to university except for assessments and exams, and not working – I was completely untethered. I wasn’t being productive in any capacity, and I wasn’t making an effort to find activities that made me happy, that made me feel purposeful. Then I found out that my university offers every student a subscription to Lynda – an online library of tutorials. For those looking to find a hobby or a skill they could potentially enjoy, I’d recommend starting here (or similar sites). Because when you are climbing the ladder towards improving some aspect of yourself, or being lost in some type of engagement, that’s when you feel most empowered, and the confidence will inevitably start to develop.
If you’re unsure of what to do – make a list of potentials. Start vaguely with the topics and activities that interest you, and try them. If you don’t like it, cross it off, and move to the next one.
In the example above I’ve made groupings of activities I’d like to try under topics that I find interesting. This is a great way to figure out what you enjoy, what you’re good at, and what you don’t want to continue pursuing.
You don’t have to start a skillset that will land you jobs, feel-good hobbies are just as effective. The point is to be immersed, and work at it daily to improve. Trust me, when you find yourself engaged in something you find interesting, others around you will start to find you interesting too.
2. Challenge Yourself For a Month
I was going to say for a year, but then I flashed back to the times I made myself a plan to do something for a year, and it never stuck. We don’t want to overwhelm ourselves with a monstrous feat right off the bat – you want to ease into it. This challenge could be anything, but the point is to have completed it within a month. Give yourself a deadline, or else you won’t follow through. Make sure that within the space of this month you’re repeatedly revisiting that fear. If you experience social anxiety, this may induce twice the fear, but you’re here reading this article so I know, success is your end goal.
The place I lack confidence most in is my ability to speak publically, and engage in genuine chit-chat with others. For my challenge, I will be attending Toastmasters for a minimum of one month. There are only two Toastmasters meetings every month so I will attend two different venues on different days. This way I’ll be able to revisit my fear every week.
Overcoming my fear during that singular month isn’t going to stick permanently if I don’t face it head on repeatedly. Afterall, fear and anxiety is just the dread of facing the unknown. If we’re pushing ourselves to dive right into those scary waters on a weekly, even daily basis, then those fears will slowly, but surely dissipate.
Take the pledge, and complete this challenge for one month. Do something that scares you on a frequency that you will adhere to. If you are morbidly afraid of public speaking, then don’t promise to do a stand-up routine every night, or you won’t follow through. Instead, work your way up towards it. For a start, make a joke in front of a group of friends and acquaintances (something you wouldn’t usually do), then the next week, make an effort to have a conversation with at least five strangers, and then finally, work your way to a stand-up show/performance.
There’s nothing more liberating, and confidence inducing than overcoming a fear, or conquering a challenge that you’ve always thought would be impossible.
3. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
I think this is hugely important, life isn’t a never-ending test being administered to you by your professors, your friends or your family. No one is shackling you down, evaluating your life’s performance – only you can hold yourself accountable.
It’s important to remember that everyone is in the same boat as you are. 7 billion people exist on this earth today and you have to realise that whatever deeply embarrassing, seemingly shameful experience you’ve had, the person next to you has had just as embarrassing an experience (if not the same), as you.
So stop psyching yourself out by imposing this ‘perfectionism’ on yourself. Nothing is ever the be-all or end-all, and the sooner you realise you’re not being evaluated and heavily scrutinised by everyone, the sooner you can get to releasing this mounting pressure, and truly encompass the real you.
Published self-help author, Mark Manson, communicates this message brilliantly in his book,
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
“Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.” – Mark Manson
It’s not only a great read, but it also explores the reality of really overcoming our internal struggles that we letch onto our entire lives, so give it a read. You might find something that really resonates with you.
At the end of the day, the outcome of our lives is determined and not changing – and that’s death. This isn’t to bestow upon you a dark cynicism, but to emphasise the fact that the brief time we all have in this world can be lived in a fun, and fruitfully challenging way. We all go through hiccups in life, problems that seem insolvable, and make countless mistakes, but the point is to get past that. Learn and grow from the experience, and just be yourself – the rest will invariably follow. The sooner you realise this, the sooner you can embrace what makes you, you, self confidence is just the byproduct of a powerful force at play.