(Ask Sami) Confidence

It’s so hard opening up to people who have a reasonable amount of confidence when I have very little. We just don’t think the same way and it feels…embarrassing. I’m not saying I’m an introvert idk. I think my confidence is lower than average. Like, self-hatred isn’t really being an introvert.

College Area

Hey friend,

I know we don’t know each other, but I say “friend” because I read your words and I feel a little closer to you. You are afraid of opening up, but with the shield of anonymity, you do so beautifully. I want to hear your feelings.

I took on this question as a challenge, because I think I come across as someone with “a reasonable amount of confidence,” most of the time. (Also related, my blog post: You’re not introverted, you just have problems.) You’re describing feeling lower than average while I feel above average, in confidence.

Let me reach a little toward the limits of my understanding. I recently went on a boat ride where I knew only one person: one of the two birthday honorees. I was excited, until I met everyone. I didn’t look like them. I looked from my over-zealous rain boots to their flip flops, my argyle sweater to their sweatshirts, my neon-orange side panel to their bleach blonde symmetrical haircuts, my drugstore shades to their Ray Bans. I felt like a nerd. I felt like the only gay in the village.

I actually thought about the confidence I usually have, told myself to count on it, and didn’t find much. Part of my confidence, I realize, is constructing a world around myself filled with people like me, doing things I like to do. It’s the key to how I survive San Diego. Anyway, I am not an unchanging and resilient goddess; I am a dynamic, sometimes vulnerable, human being. In this case, I was not confident.

A young woman with short hair who made my gaydar go “PING!!!” showed up, and I felt a little relief. By the end of the ride (alcohol helps), I felt a bit better and by the end of the “after-party” (cute dogs help) I didn’t feel glaringly out of place. Overall, I had a good time. I mean, boats are awesome. BOATS. Still, I took the experience as a validation that I should continue to nurture the environment I already love, and venture out of my comfort zone only sometimes (for example, when there are boats).

I see, however, my ability to empathize with you has limits. I don’t feel what sounds like a pervasive, low self-esteem. Even in my depression days I refused to turn my self-hatred inward. I didn’t dwell on insecurities, but rather, the way I felt — if that makes sense. I didn’t think, “I hate myself,” but rather, “I hate how I feel.” My therapist would have liked me to say it’s because I have a powerful streak of self preservation. At the time, quite honestly, I was just desperate to give my sadness purpose. If it wasn’t about me, if it was out of my control, if it was pure, then it was beautiful.

You say you have a hard time opening up to confident people. If I was at a party, doing my confident thing, this is what I’d want you to do. Ask me, “You seem so confident. Are you always so confident?”

Depending on my mood, I might respond with honest gratitude for this flattering question, or a playful, “Yes, 100% I am the most confident being. It is because I wear very tall shoes with spikes on them.”

Then, you could reply, “I’m not confident at all. Like way below average.”

Already, I would want to know more about this person who knows themselves so well, like that. And that is the most advice I can give, from my limited experience. I might even have more to learn, from you.

All my best,

Sami

P.S. Does anyone else feel similarly to the person who wrote in? Add comments below.


 

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What I do on My Blog v. What I do In Real Life

So it seems like every time I say to myself, “Whatever, I need a week off from blogging, no one will notice,” I invariably go to a party or parties and 2-4 people will tell me they’ve been enjoying my blog. OKAY SERIOUSLY I FEEL GUILTY NOW GOOD JOB. One friend even said that when I miss a week, I often make up for it with a great post the next. JEEBUZ PRESSURE ON AUGH.

Anyway, it seems like a good time to give you a little Superman vs. Clark Kent insight on Sami the Blogger vs. Sami the Human. Also I need to point out it’s uncharacteristic for me to make a geek pop culture reference (even as obvious as this) and I’m pretty jazzed for myself.

A blessing for continuity (and my own sanity): my two personas subscribe to many of the same mantras. Yet, due to their different superpowers (or lack thereof), they wield these edicts differently.

Sometimes it’s Less Important to be Accurate than to be Kind

sometimes-its-less-important-to-be-accurate-than-to-be-kind Sami the Blogger: Yeah, okay, you’re trying to impress people with your brain and word powers and everything, but don’t fail to acknowledge those who disagree with you with compassion from time to time. (At least from a practical standpoint, you’re going to lose readers.)

Sami the Human: What better way to show I respect someone than to support their ideas? At times it verges on enabling, the way I cater to people’s fantasies, but I’d rather do that than be a source of discouragement for the people I love.

Intent isn’t Magic

intent-isnt-magic Sami the Human: I know that a person’s motivation for an action is somewhat unknowable and for the most fun I should give people, as much as possible, the benefit of the doubt. But if someone is bothering me, occasionally I have to let go of empathy and protect myself. E.g. stop worrying so much about why someone is doing something, and just think about if I want to be a part of it.

Sami the Blogger: People’s motivations are somewhat unknowable and I am more interested in examining the ramifications of their behaviors or mindsets which allow the behavior to continue. It doesn’t matter if someone was just trying to be nice, really likes me, or is socially awkward. If their actions have sexist or homophobic effects, then I will examine them.

 Perspective. Perspective. Perspective.

Perspective Blogger Sami: Taking the time to micro-analyze a behavior in a blog essay brings me great pleasure. I enjoy exploring the implications and subtleties of human behavior. Maybe I over-think things, but it helps me.

Human Sami: Time to zoom WAY out. I need to stay focused on the big picture. And the other picture. And the other, other picture. I will immerse myself in as many perspectives as possible so I won’t be phased by the strange or uncomfortable. Or so I try.

Holy Crap. I’m Actually Happy

actually-happy Human: As I sit on the glittery seat of my roommate’s red, diner-style bench, having just finished a meal of microwaved hot-dogs and fresh-picked arugula salad, my eyes unfocus and these words float to my consciousness, “I’m happy.” I am utterly incredulous that I am happy. After a history of depression, I still feel so strange and grateful that my default emotion is positive. Sometimes it makes it hard to be productive, because I don’t feel like I should be doing anything at all except basking in this hard-earned light. Yet it also means I am pretty damn free to do whatever my whims mandate.

Blogger: Doesn’t really matter what I write, if I do a good job, what people think, because at the end of the day I’m pretty stoked about how I feel and how well I’m doing mentally. Might as well keep trying to meet that weekly deadline and see what happens next. (Watching the views grow, well that doesn’t hurt either.)

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?