How to be confident

Why am I so confident?

I want to analyze this, make a formula, spread the wealth.  Confidence is amazing and also useful at parties; I want you to have it.

I'm confident enough to wear a bunch of beanie babies I hot glued together as a garment.

I’m confident enough to wear a bunch of beanie babies I hot glued together as a garment.

Maybe it’s because…

  • I was a perfectionist from age 8 to age… 15.  This may have helped me develop the skills to perform under pressure and avoid messy mistakes like it’s second nature.  Somehow, though, I spent very little time criticizing myself as perfectionists are wont to do, and more time trying to get better and better. Crazy shit like making lists of attributes I’d like to have (“eloquence, uniqueness, compassion”) and breaking down the steps to attain them…
  • …But then I gave myself permission at some point to not be a perfectionist.  Some mistakes still send me into an anxious fit.  I hate making driving mistakes (like hitting a curb, cutting off someone).  I think that’s fair – driving is probably the most dangerous activity I participate in day to day.
  • I grew up an arrogant little bastard.  A few years spent thinking I’m better than everyone else may have wired my neurons firmly to the confidence centers in my brain. I’ve changed my ways, though, and really don’t care if anyone is better than me or I better than them. This happened when I went to England and was surrounded by fantastic people. I realized it was much more enjoyable to be in awe of them than to compete…
  • …And I’m not really competitive at all. I am self-competitive, trying to get better at things for my own satisfaction.  But I will surrender quickly if I realize it’s not worth my trouble to battle with someone. I’ve learned how to enjoy other people’s wins.
  • I am bloody good at some things.  It’s easy to feel great when people are complimenting me on skills I’ve acquired over the years.
  • I’m kind of a braggart. This creates a cycle in which I show off, receive praise, and want to show off more. Somehow I have avoided the whole “I neeeeeeed people’s approval” bit and just taken away a shamelessness when it comes to displaying myself. It’s easy to feel confident when I’m waving around my peacock tail and hearing sweet oohs and ahhs…
  • …And I don’t just show off my good side.  Everything is out there.  I’m an over-sharer, ridiculously honest.  It’s easy to feel confident when I’ve got nothing to hide.
  • I dealt with mind-numbing depression for a good many years.  (Still boggled and exhilarated every time I realize I’m better now.)  It’s hard for the small hurdles in life to seem significant when my biggest drain was my own personal hell. Yes, I had phases of hating myself, but for the most part that wasn’t the route my depression took.  In my backbreaking effort to get better, I worked out little checkpoints with myself. Instead of focusing on how horrible I was for not getting better, I focused on how horrible I felt.  It’s as if my self-preserving instincts saved me.  I also made it a point to keep functioning in society, so I learned how to fake it despite the depression.  It’s easy to feel confident when I’ve gone through the wringer and come out a better person.
  • I am (usually) good at empathizing.  This makes it easier to understand other people’s actions and motivations and avoid blaming myself for things that aren’t my fault.
  • I was in an emotionally manipulative relationship for 4 years.  I came out of that with the determination to not let someone make me feel like that ever again.  And I’ve managed to reconcile with my ex, be friendly with him, and have closure.
  • I have anxiety, but I fend it off pretty well.  I redirected it early on (subconsciously) to things that didn’t matter.  Instead of worrying about tangible things – school, friendships, my appearance – I would worry about strange things like the way colors seemed to jump at me or by imagining my depth perception was failing. I use my imagination to help me not take my anxiety seriously, make it somewhat of a game.
  • I decided it would be advantageous/attractive/fun to be fearless during my “self-improvement” phase.  So I made sure to practice not being afraid and taking risks to impress people.  I still do that a bit like the unblushing boaster that I am.
  • I surrounded myself with people who are good for me, and made it a point to always be grateful for them.  I have supportive close buddies, an amazing girlfriend, and friends who inspire me.  I try to figure out how to make people feel good, and in return they give me kind and appreciative friendships.  I also make sure to let people know what I want, and they happily oblige me since I made things easy for them.   (i.e. I tend to tell people what a sucker I am for verbal affirmations, and which kinds.)

So, I’m sure I could think of other things, but now I want to hear what the community has to say.  What makes you feel confident?  How confident are you?  How confident do you perceive others to be?

Partying with “Old” People

“14 going on 40,” my dad called me, because I liked to think I could fare well in conversations with the adults. I did; until I got older and more conscious of my words and the gaps in my knowledge and experience.  And, of course, I was a really delusional person from age 7 to age 21 – see last week’s post. Before the Christianity there was 7 years of alien princess nonsense that I’ll have to get into sometime… I’d say I’ve only been interacting directly with reality for the past two years. So, it is with great hesitation that I call someone a peer, especially if they have some years on me.

By that, I mean, I tend to assume people have their head together better than mine, and that I am totally out here to learn from them how to be a semi-functioning “normal” human being. I’m easily impressed by the folks who can figure out the difference between Ben Affleck and Tom Cruise and other famous white guys (seriously they all look the same to me how do you even keep track of what’s going on in this movie).  I defer to people’s superior knowledge of pop culture and geekery and national news.

This makes me gullible, to a fault. Of course I’m going to take the word of someone I trust, even marginally, over my own perception of reality. 3 years ago I was so out of touch I was yanking the e-brake to stop my perfectly functioning car, thinking it wasn’t working because in my dreams I skidded on roads like a wet dog on soapy linoleum. You can tell me it’s a Tuesday on a Wednesday and I will believe you.

But I’m having to come to terms with the fact that older =/= wiser. People I call friends think homeopathy is a real thing. And they’re paying attention to when the moon shadow is in the Aquarius Capricorn Libra or something. I’m having to fine-tune my bullshit detector so I can both enjoy the variety and personal insight from the circus of people in my life and still, you know, not let the pseudo get all up in my science.

But, like, I’m young and I don’t know everything and some people really like to point that out.

Category 1 of Old People: Know-it-Alls

For the purposes of this section, anyone over 30 is an “Older Person” — not because I think 30 is old, but because 30 seems to be the magical number that makes people think they can dispense words of wisdom to me. I get it, I really do. I, for example, am a whole lot smarter than a 13 year old.

I would definitely sit down 13-year-old me and have a talk.

By the way, little Sami, you are not really an alien. But that’s fine, it’s not the craziest thing you’re going to believe in your life. Unless you stay out of the Church. STAY OUT OF THE CHURCH. Also, you should kiss as many boys as possible because that is going to suddenly get way less fun in a few years.

Normally I seldom think about how young or old my party-pals are, but occasionally they won’t let me avoid the topic. Yes, I know I’m only 23; I had to prove it to get into this club… I do often act in age-appropriate ways – binge-drinking, flirting, wearing garish clothing, running around in the woods,  notching up and down the Kinsey scale, mooching off my parents… I’m not delusional that I’m responsible or something.

I’m spoiled, though. I’m used to the gayborhood; guys find out my age and squeal that I’m a baby and tell me I’m sexy. They know youth is fleeting and they’re still chasing it. In my hot-head I start to think Older People should treat my presence at their “potluck” as a favor. You should be so lucky I grace you with my energy and my anti-gravity lady-lumps. So, when someone gives me the “when I was your age” speech, I get a little cranky.

“When I was 23, darling, I was an idiot. You have so much to learn…” Some bearded 38-year-old goes on about the folly of youth. And he really said darling. In his defense, he says he uses all sorts of pet names with women all the time. Don’t really see how that is a defense and not a very real sign that he has unconscious chauvinistic tendencies…

“I try not to treat people like they’re typical.” Oh. Geez. Did I really just say that? I try to sit on my rage, but he calls me ‘sweetheart’ and I go inside, aggressive. A woman is about to talk about Masaru Emoto’s touchy-feely water crystals and the power of resonance. “Bullshit!” I interrupt her. She looks hurt. “Sorry, maybe you’re talking about something else. I didn’t mean to jump on you.”

“But you did.” Touché. She continues. Definitely Masaro Emoto. Okay, sorry I’m not sorry. I let her finish, then explain why frozen water crystals with emotional signatures are about as real as Big Foot. Oh dear, looks like she built half her spirituality around that paper she read… I try to be nice, say something about the power of human imagination, but I’m pretty sure when I leave that a lot of the stress in that room leaves with me.

Ah crap. I’m that stubborn young woman who doesn’t like to be told what to do with her life and doesn’t have respect for people’s personal beliefs.

Category 2: Everyone Else

Again, I normally don’t think about this. My friends are my friends, and I forget that I’m the young one until one of them points out that I look ‘especially teenage tonight.’ Yes this happens a lot.

But there are plenty of advantages to having “older” friends:

  1. The wisest of them let me live my life while opening up theirs to me. I am addicted to people’s stories, and these people have more years of them.
  2. They have zany clothes from years of thrift-store collecting and aren’t afraid to wear them. Fuzzy paisley hats and zebra stripes and big furry coats and tutus and corsets, the really nice ones.
  3. Better taste in booze. They give me Horny Devil and Bullet and Laphroaig like they’re some kind of alcoholic evangelists. Obviously, I do not complain.
  4. They are living proof that you can still have fun past your 20s. So. Much. Fun. Can’t keep up with all this fun.