Let’s talk about self-confidence

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Firstly, a quick thank you to everyone who put up with me for the last two weeks of ‘woe is me’ blog posts. I’m not usually such a downer, I hate to be, but it’s where I was and life is full of ups and downs right? I wouldn’t have blamed you for jumping ship, and thank you if you braved the storm and stuck around. Particularly those who commented, sent me lovely emails and private message. I love my little community here, so thank you.

I’m doing much better. I know it’s hard being so vague about the issues, but they are very personal and not all my own stories to tell. And I really believe that we should never tell stories that aren’t solely our own. Sure things aren’t magically dandy, but I’m at least now at a point where I am able to sort out my own feelings and look forward.

But enough of that. Let normal transmission resume.

Let’s talk about self-confidence

A couple of weeks ago one of my lovely bloggy friends, Deb over at Inner Compass Designs asked for my thoughts and tips on self-confidence. It was in response to a comment I’d left on her blog post “Who you are and who you are not.”, where I’d mentioned that although I’m a shy introvert, I’m confident in who I am and who I’m not.

And before we go on, understand that confidence and self-confidence are two different things. There are many confident people who suffer from terrible self-confidence issues, and vice versa. Here, I’m talking about that inner confidence – the confidence in who you are as a person.

Self-confidence has been a long battle for me. One stemming from my childhood, where, you guessed it, I was a shy introvert. Without analyzing my childhood in depth, let me just say I’d flush the colour of a tomato if any attention was drawn to me in any situation.

Not much changed during my teens, perhaps my confidence grew a little thanks to external influences (aka boys) but that inner self-confidence – the one that matters – was still sorely lacking.

In fact, if I’m honest, it wasn’t until my mid to late thirties, so only five years ago where I began to be more confident in myself and really know who I was.

And, I think that is the key – self-confidence begins when you accept who you are. Who you really are.

Who you are is a multi-layered answer. No-one is solely defined by one thing.

Let’s use me as an example:

I’m an introvert – I am happiest in my own company and draw my energy from being alone. I can only handle groups of people in small doses before I need my space.

I’m shy – Socially awkward is my middle name. I need extroverted people around me to take the reins of a social situation – to both start, and keep the conversation flowing. I’m not good at meeting new people or being placed in unfamiliar situations. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy those situations, it’s just my enjoyment will be the result on how comfortable I feel i.e. someone else taking charge.

I’m introspective – I like to analyse myself and believe personal growth is important. I believe in the pursuit of self-actualization.

I love deep conversation – I’m no good with small talk, but get me talking about meaningful things that require analysis or deep thought and just try to shut me up.

I don’t like confrontation – but I’m not a push over either. I will stand my ground if you question my values.

I have strong intuition – I can usually tell if someone is genuine upon first meeting. It’s not something that I’ve decided I’m good at on a whim, it’s something that’s been proven time and time again.

I have strong values – family, honesty, kindness and respect. And there’s no grey areas, these are black and white for me.

I have a strong connection to words and creativity – I’ve always loved stories and in particular song lyrics. I think my love for words was initially spawned from song lyrics. Words and storytelling make my heart swell with emotion. I also have a strong connection to music which is a huge part of who I am.

Notice I didn’t describe who I am by my occupation, by my marital status, race, religion or associated descriptives. I believe that we shouldn’t be defined by these things, but rather who we are deep down.

While accepting ourselves for who we are is the path towards self-confidence, it is only the first step. We also need to release ourselves from judgement of others. And this is possibly even more difficult than accepting ourselves.

I think this way of thinking begins in childhood when we are looking to our parents for recognition and acceptance. It intensifies in our teen years, wanting the attention of our peers and who we are attracted to. It’s a normal part of learning, growing and becoming independent. But, we are supposed to grow out of it. We are supposed to evolve into strong, independent and free spirits, but that is rarely the case. Instead, we carry the burden of being judged well into adulthood.

I suffered terribly from this. I was always worried others were judging me for everything. For my choice in clothes, how I looked, my taste in music, how I liked to spend my time – everything! And later on, even my choice in relationships and my parenting decisions. How did I stop?

I can’t pinpoint exactly when or how, although it was definitely after I began accepting who I was. And I think I just began adding logic to my thinking:

  • If I’m worrying so much about being judged by others, are they simply doing the same?
  • If others are judging me, it says more about them, than it does about me.
  • People are really too busy worrying about their own lives, to be judging mine, and if they’re not, maybe they should just get a life.
  • No one else has to like my choices, like what I wear, like what I do – only me.
  • What matters to me, doesn’t need to matter to anyone else.

There’s a thousand and one inspirational quotes that you could read that say exactly the same thing on this topic. Basically, no one is worrying more about you, than you. And the sooner you realise this, and that their opinion of you isn’t important, the easier your life will be.

Self-confidence isn’t something that you can just switch on. It takes introspection and self-development. It takes developing trust and belief in your actions and choices. And once you have it, it’s not bullet proof either.

I can often begin to doubt myself. The annoying voices of negativity can sometimes begin to whisper in my ear, and it takes strength to fight them away.

Self-confidence is something that you continually need to work at. But, when you do, it’s amazing how much lighter you feel. It is a tremendous relief to finally trust in who you are, and to lift the burden of worry about what others think. And one thing to look forward to – it gets easier with age.

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Where are you on the self-confidence journey?
Tell me something about who you really are.

Linking with Kylie who is capturing life one photo at a time, for IBOT.