(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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Don’t Say Sorry, Say “Wait”

(Sorry I missed last week. I took a sick day. I should have made it up, but whoops it’s Tuesday again already.)

“Sorry,” he’ll say, “Did it bother you when I _____?”

This little formula seems fairly good between casual friends and strangers, but I noticed a little hiccup between romantic partners.

“You’re not sorry,” she says.

It’s true, he’s not yet sorry. He initially wanted to ______, which is why he did it in the first place. He’s only conditionally sorry. His apology is weakened by his unanswered question.

It would be better, I think, to say, “Wait.”

wait-callout-speech-bubble-sketch

“Wait, was it bad that I did _____?”

If she says yes, he could then say sorry, and truly mean it. And if she says no… Well, crisis averted!

Too often, I see people wielding “Sorry” like a catchall disclaimer. They prematurely apologize “just in case” they are in trouble. What this seems to communicate, to me, is that they’re going to go ahead and make mistakes, and simply blanket-apologize to clear themselves. Like a Catholic confession.

Better, I think, to give the agency back to the person who may be affronted. Let them judge your actions. By saying “Wait,” you put more emphasis on checking-in rather than jumping to your own conclusions. Wait, let’s really find out what my partner thinks here, before I go ahead and say what is bad and what is good. And it lends itself to the next step…

“Wait, did you really like that?”

And she can even say, “Hell yes I did.”

(We should be asking, “wait,” for the good things too.)

A sorry jumps down your throat. A sorry prescribes how you are supposed to feel, supposed to react. And a premature or misplaced sorry demands soothing. “Oh, it’s ok. It’s fine. It’s no big deal.”

“Wait” is a friendly pause. Wait is considerate. Wait is teamwork, is improv, is communication. Wait is constructively neutral. And we can say “Wait” beyond where a simple sorry will do.

Related: another blog post where I complain about apologies.