It’s International women’s week and we wanted to write a little something on confidence. This is an issue that everyone has to deal with; whether you are extremely confident or often shy, it has definitely crossed the minds of all at some point in their life.
We thought no better way to talk about it than get a student at the University of Glasgow to reflect upon her experiences and what confidence truly means to her.
I’ve been asked to write about confidence. I have a slight problem with that; I don’t know a freaking thing about confidence. Yeah, I know how to fake it, but having it? That’s a whole different issue. I’ve never been confident. These days, I have the constant panic of anxiety gnawing away at anything I develop that even slightly resembles self-esteem. Before that, I was just a stupidly nervous kid. My mum loves to show me off by telling the story of how, in primary school, I literally could not force myself to get up and put my work in the “finished” tray for fear of people looking at me for even a split second. She then compares this to the fact that I now love public speaking, acting and taking leadership roles in group projects and at work. She stands there and beams as I pretend it’s all true. “I’m a totally different person now,” I agree, “completely changed.”
I haven’t changed. The idea of standing up in front of a crowd still makes me visibly shake. At my last audition, I sweated so much I nearly fainted. I avoid confrontation at all costs; I’d rather literally stick my head in the toilet than remind my flatmate to clean it. My inside voices are all the same as ever; always asking “what if?” What has changed is my outward attitude. I know how to convince people that I don’t have a care in the world. The truth is that confidence isn’t something you have, it’s something you do. I don’t usually give out advice, but I am definitely an authority on this stuff. The one thing that I am confident in is my ability to fake my way through any social situation, so here are my survival skills for all of you nervous wrecks out there.
Wear what you want to. This sounds stupid. You’re sitting there thinking, “how do I do that when wearing what everyone else is wearing is so much easier and attracts less attention?” Yes, it is easier, but it’s generally more expensive too, and you’re not fooling anyone into thinking that that’s you. Yes, it attracts less attention, which means that you’re missing out on so many opportunities. You look like a sheep. You look uncomfortable. You look like you’re trying to please people, and that doesn’t look confident. If the current trend suits you, then that’s fab! Go you! Wear it with pride! If not, then wear a skater skirt instead of a bodycon. Take off those heels and put your walking boots back on. If you don’t want to get your butt and boobs out, then don’t! If you’re intimidated by those Herculean GUSA bods, then you don’t have to wear that fitted shirt! Anyone who thinks a guy can’t have poppin’ highlight is a fool. Anyone who thinks a woman can’t be bald is a fool. The more comfortable you feel, the more comfortable you seem, and the more comfortable people feel around you. In two years, I’ve gone from skinny jeans and summer dresses to patterned trousers and men’s shirts. I feel so good, and I look like I know that I look good.
Talk about what you love. Stop pretending you’re a die-hard Catfish fan. Stop watching CBB if you don’t care about it. Talk about that hillwalking book you read last week. Tell people that you just joined the Jane Austen society. Yes, it’s slightly weird. No, people won’t necessarily find it “cool.” But you’ll be interesting. You’ll be that quirky guy that speaks fluent Yiddish, or the girl with the Stephen Hawking obsession. If you know exactly how to contour any face, human or animal, then talk about it! If you thought that BB cream had something to do with air guns, then talk about that too! Be more than a forgettable blank face without a personality behind it. Be that memorable face which once fit twenty-five marshmallows in its mouth. Someone will love what you love, and someone who doesn’t will love talking to you about it anyway. Nobody is “normal,” trust me. All of the people that I thought were are the biggest freaks I know.
Force yourself to do it. Whatever “it” is. I had always wanted to act, so I forced myself. Turns out, I’m alright at it. I’m not exactly going to win an Oscar anytime soon, but I’m alright. If you’ve always wanted to know what your lecturer thinks about a controversial theory, email them; it’s so much easier than talking face-to-face, and after a few emails, you might feel confident enough to approach them after class with that question that’s been burning you up. Start small, and build it up. Talk in front of your tutorial group before you stick your hand up in a crowded lecture. Smile at the person serving you coffee before you ask if there are any jobs available. Push yourself little by little, and, even if the voice in your head is exhausted from screaming, “No! Stop! You can’t talk to people;” on the outside, you’ll be a real go-getter.
All in all, it’s not a problem if you still feel tiny and terrified inside. The trick is not to let it show. Put on a character. Pretend you’re daydreaming when you tell your lab partner that they’re wrong. Laugh at yourself. Notice when other people mess up. Notice that their mistakes are just like yours. Check out how the girl with the blue eyebrows still looks kind of scared to talk in class. See how that guy with the mind-boggling muscles is still scared to eat a cheeseburger. That girl whose highlight is the stuff of dreams? She loves anime, but she’d never tell you. The truth is, none of us are truly confident. We’re all faking it in some way. I rewrote this post a thousand times before I submitted it, and even now I’m pretty sure it still sucks. But I’m smiling as I press send, in my oversized jumpsuit, next to my hand-painted shells and Hugh Grant movie collection. Fake it, ‘cause we probably ain’t making it.