Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Self- Confidence. (Or, The Lack Thereof)

I've struggled with low self-confidence my entire life.  I'm a natural introvert.  As a child I was never more than an arms reach away from my mom and often so close behind her that if she stopped suddenly I would run into her.  If someone spoke to me I answered in monosyllables and hid my face.  When I was eleven we joined a Bible club at a local church.  I cried and my mom had to stay with me the whole first night.  Even at age 18 I made multiple excuses not to make phone calls.  I was terrified to use the phone.  I stayed home when I was invited to parties with excuses of "headaches.  Actually, the truth wasn't far off.  I got instant headaches at the thought of socialization.  There were times that I cried for hours before going to a social gathering merely because I didn't want anyone to look at me.  If they looked at me I knew they would know what a failure I was.     

When I went to work at the flower shop I had to do major overcoming.  I had to drive to people's houses and knock on their doors!  Let me tell you, though, when you walk into an office building carrying a bouquet of flowers EVERYONE looks at you.  But, surprisingly they aren't thinking "Who is that strange girl and what is her problem?"  They're thinking "OOOO.... I wonder who's getting flowers?"  My boss required me to make some difficult phone calls for her and once I even had to run after a customer who "forgot" to pay.  Some of the things I had to do would have been a cake walk to other people.  They were mountains for me.  But, the thing about mountains is that once you've conquered them they become monuments, things we can look back on as battles fought and won.  Every victory is a step higher.   

Only a few weeks ago I was talking with a co-worker.  It was a rather deep discussion and at one point I referred to myself as "Shy.” 
She looked at me in disbelief.  "You are NOT shy!"
I stared at her blankly.  "Well, I am…" 
She shook her head. "Well, I've never thought of you as shy. I mean, you're quiet and you're certainly not a big talker, but you're friendly and you certainly don't ACT shy!" 
I was still perplexed.  I'd worked with this woman for almost 7 years.  Could she really not know?  "I am shy... I always have been..."  
She continued to stare at me "Well.  You certainly cover it well!"

And that's when I realized the truth.  I'm really not nearly as shy as I used to be and my self-confidence is really SO much better.  I still don't like crowds of people.  I'm still a horrible conversationalist.  I'm good at listening, but really not good at talking myself.  I'd still much rather be alone with my own thoughts than at a party and I still don't like anyone to look at me.  I'll always be that way.  But, I've learned to cover it well.  I've learned to "fake it."  And it's made a huge difference in my life.  I'm not an expert.  I still struggle with self-confidence.  I still cry at night when I'm feeling 2 inches tall.  I still don't have a lot of social skills that most people don't ever have to learn because they just come naturally.

But, there are a few things I've learned that help me get through a day at least faking self-confidence.  :) 

  • Don't beat yourself up, especially for the sake of humor.  While it may cause people to chuckle at the time it's really not worth it in the long run.  And it sends a message like a flashing neon sign "REBECCA IS OK TO PICK ON."  A fellow IDDiot and I were talking the other day about making disparaging remarks about ourselves in order to lighten the mood and make a conversation.  Here's what I said   "[We] need to develop [our] self confidence and present [our] self-confidence... I don't really know how to describe this. This is something that I have FINALLY started learning how to do. There are still times when I cower and feel like everyone around me is SO much more accomplished, intelligent, etc... and there were/still are plenty of times when I made a conversation out of my inadequacy. Why did I do that to myself? Desperate for something to say, I guess and having nothing to say, without sounding stupid I just kind of announced my stupidity... ??"  Girls, please, please don't do this to yourselves.  You are worthy of being praised. 
  • Learn your strengths and depend on them.  It's never okay to ignore our weaknesses but it's certainly not necessary to hide our strengths.  Work on your weaknesses.  Meanwhile, put your best foot forward. If you find yourself in a conversation that's out of your depth, don't be discouraged or draw attention to your inability.  Instead, learn what you can from it and speak up when you can it's a subject familiar to you.  Don't let your weaknesses overshadow your strengths!  Make it the other way around!
  • Smile.  Even if you're quaking inside, even if you'd rather be anywhere rather than where you are.  A smile is the universal sign of friendship.  If you don't say a word your smile will still make an impact. 
  • The secret to dealing with a lack of self-confidence is Don't Let Anyone Else Know!  Acting can be your best friend.  In the movie Wives and Daughters, Cynthia says, "The French girls would tell you that to believe that you are pretty would make you so."  There's a lot of truth in that statement.  A woman who thinks of herself as beautiful will act beautiful.  She will take extra care with her clothes, hair and makeup.  She will cultivate her beauty.  Similarly, acting confident (even when you are not) will give you a confidence.  Or, at the very least, it will give everyone else the idea that you are!  
  • Remember that God is confident in you, His creation, even if you are not.

  • I'll let you in on another secret.  You're most likely the ONLY person that knows that you're self-conscious and awkward feeling.  I often think that EVERYONE must be able to see how awkward I am, but the truth is people don't really notice as much as you think they do.  If you start focusing on others all the time and stop focusing on your own failings you'll find yourself much more relaxed in social situations.
  • As Oscar Wilde said "Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken."

Take it one step at a time. Don’t expect to change from shy to outgoing overnight. It takes time and practice. It’s worth it in the long run, though.


Rebecca February 16, 2010 at 8:24 AM  

Oh my goodness. This could have been written about me! Thank you for your words of encouragement; they are much needed and appreciated.

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