To be “confident”, by definition, is to have “a feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.”
I have not always been confident. I did not grow up riddled with self assurance nor protected by an abundance of appreciation for myself or my abilities.
If anything, when it came to appreciating myself, I was something of a failure.
Now that’s not to say I wasn’t capable of a bit of bullshit from time to time, of feigning self assurance and pretending that my qualities were something worthy of appreciation. I could march onto almost any dance floor with all the enthusiasm of Beyoncé showing Kelly and the other one who was boss, I could banter with and take the piss out of almost anyone (I think this was part of a deflection tactic but it was fun enough and I think helped people to like me… or at least helped me to like me), I had friends and I went out, but beneath that veneer (at the time about as permanent as the ringtones on my Motorola Razor), there was a not-quite-painfully-shy-but-hardly-what-you’d-call-confident-girl.
I wore my confidence like I wore my nail varnish as a teenager. It was chipped to shit but there was always a residue of it… enough that my teachers always seemed to notice at any rate. From a distance I was just about getting away with it.
It’s only as I’ve grown up that I’ve started to take better care of my nails (I’m flogging the metaphor but it’s true in the literal sense too, they have flourished recently), I came to learn that a battered and chipped coat of polish was not going to be enough to get me through, not happily at any rate.
My lack of confidence had a lot to do with my low self worth, with the fact that I had grownup in a society that was unrelenting in it’s mission to make women everywhere feel as if they weren’t good enough, with the body issues that I had, with the anxiety that has plagued me in later years. My lack of confidence came about because I didn’t really like myself that much.
As I have got older, I have learned to love myself so that now, even the bits that I don’t like, I am at least able to love. THAT has been a journey. And just like service station snacks and cramp in your arse, confidence I think has been a byproduct of it.
Irritatingly vague I think, to say that confidence came with time and a hefty dose of self-love, but that’s the truth of it. As I have grown, I have learned to love myself and as a result I have become more confident.
NOW DON’T GET ME WRONG, I STILL CHIP A NAIL FROM TIME TO TIME, but I am so much more confident now than I used to be.
So how did I get here??? Because to allusively say that I only became confident after I learned to love myself would not only be bloody annoying to anyone reading this, it is also a lie. That’s not the entirety of it. There have been other contributing factors on my quest for confidence.
My ability to bullshit has been incremental.
My mum always says that “if you can’t be happy right now, the best thing you can do is pretend to be and before you know it you won’t need to pretend anymore” and that is something that I have carried with me through my life like the olympic bloody torch. I swear by it. I spend a lot of time pretending to be happier and the more I pretend, the less I have to.
Confidence works by a similar theory. It is one of the few areas of your life where the fake it til you make it stuff actually serves a viable option (famously doesn’t work for astronauts, pilots, gymnasts, doctors, midwives, hairdressers or car manufacturers).
I spend a lot of time pretending to be confident. I sit in my car like a fucking lunatic prior to events and I talk myself up. I play outrageously stressful music loudly in my headphones before parties so that I can drown out the fear. I forcibly swallow self-doubt down when I feel it creeping up my throat.
I will feel small and vulnerable and scared and weak and I will do my upmost not to show that to the world.
It doesn’t always work. I feel like I should make that clear, it absolutely does not always work. But often, it does. And that feels cool.
Like a method actor, adopting the characteristics of the person that I am supposed to be, by bullshitting confidence I am afforded the opportunity to be the person that I’ve always wanted to be and I LOVE that. It’s like playing dress up. Or wife swap. For as long as I can keep the facade going, I’m allowed to be whoever I want. I’m allowed to be confident. And I LOVE that.
So bullshit is important.
So too is the ability to give as close to no fucks as it is humanly possible to give.
Learning not to care so much has been so liberating.
I used to care, so much. What people thought of me meant more to me than I care to tell you. Still now I am a text-book people pleaser. It matters to me, that people like me, more than it should.
But there is a difference, I am learning, in not caring what people think about you, and being perpetually worried that people don’t like you. There are miles and miles between those two things. Often in fact, they are unable to coexist, consistently harmoniously, at any rate.
What other people think about you is none of your business.
I heard that first on Rupaul’s drag race and just remember thinking: well shit, that mindset takes balls. That went against everything I thought I knew and was entirely different to the way in which I had lived my life.
I have subsequently embraced that way of thinking enthusiastically. I realised that that was just about the most freeing realisation that anyone could have.
Take these ridiculous photos for example. Old-Em, pre-Rupaul’s-Dragrace-Em, did not love taking these. EVERYBODY IS LAUGHING AT ME. They can quite clearly see that I am not a model so they have inevitably concluded that I am a narcissist. Or a nutcase. Or, most likely, both. They are laughing at me. Internally now and externally when they get home and tell everyone they know about this poor excuse for a girl posing like a twat for a photo that she doesn’t even look that good in. I’d spend a lot of time waiting for the world to swallow me up into obscurity once more, to leave me as a bored and boring bystander, doing all I could to blend into the background.
Then I remind myself that what these people think of me doesn’t matter. Then I start to argue with myself because, whilst you can teach an old dog new tricks, it does take time, and I have to remind myself of the following things:
I will probably never see these people again
They probably haven’t even noticed me
If they have what does it matter
Maybe they think I look tragic
That literally doesn’t matter
Like at all,.
So what, they’re thinking about right now. It’s nothing. It’s one of the millions of mundane and insignificant thoughts this person is going to have today.
It will be pooffed out into the oblivion any minute now. I will be forgotten.
It will all be forgotten
AND EVEN IF IT ISN’T WHO THE FUCK IS THIS JOKER ANYWAY? THEY DON’T FUCKING MATTER NOW POSE BITCH POSEEEEEE.
A big dollop of confidence landed on my plate when I realised that what other people thought of me didn’t matter.
The sprinkles arrived when I realised that most people do actually like me.
I don’t mean most people in the WORLD, I haven’t gone totally mad with this confidence thing, I mean: the people that matter to me, they like me.
The people that, in the midst of my anxious moments, I convince myself don’t like me. Realising that most of these people LIKE me, that all the background noise in my brain was pretty much just a whole load of shit that I had made up in the first place, massively helped my confidence.
Because I realised then that I actually have something to be confident about. I’m likeable. That’s an ego-boost we could all do with.
Your time on earth is finite
The most anxiety inducing sentence in all of humanity, we won’t dwell on it, but that, as realisation, has been a huge source of inspiration to me.
All the shit I missed out on because I lacked the confidence to try for what I wanted, to look like a knob, to be rejected, to get it wrong.
All the friends I didn’t make because I was too shy to talk to them, the opportunities I missed out on because I didn’t think I was worthy of them, the parties that I didn’t go to because I didn’t fancy my hand at small talk with strangers, the food I didn’t eat because I was scared to pronounce it wrong in a foreign language, the experiences I wanted but was too scared to ask for lest I come across as greedy or presumptuous and then need to be knocked down a peg or six in a blow so devastating, my fragile dignity would be hard pushed surviving.
Our time here is so short and we must go after what we want and not be daft enough to let other people’s perceived opinions of us ruin what could be wonderful:
THOSE THAT CARE DON’T MATTER AND THOSE THAT MATTER DON’T CARE.
I’m sure a lot of my confidence did come from growing up and from learning to love not just my body (although that has been the most wonderfully life affirming process: read about it hereeeee), but myself as an all-round human being.
I truthfully do not believe you can have confidence without a strong foundation of self love. Not any lasting confidence anyway. Not any confidence you’d be able to maintain for anything more than the matinee.
Because after a while the bullshitting does get tiring. It’s do-able, TRUST ME I KNOW IT IS DO-ABLE, but the confidence-facade is hard to maintain, I know because I spent over a decade at it.
What I have found in recent years has been that genuine confidence, happy, liberating, joyous, wear the yellow trousers and crouch down in the street and DO YOUR THING LIKE THE SENSATION THAT YOU ARE type confidence, THAT has happened since I came to realise that I had something to be confident about in the first place.
That there is nothing, really, to bullshit about anyway.
Because actually, I’m wonderful. And the world deserves to know about me. And I am entitled to exactly as much space as I want to take up. And I don’t want to find myself on my deathbed, years from now, wishing I’d eaten more curry and not been so scared to sound like a dickhead getting my pronunciation wrong when ordering it.
So yeh, the confidence thing is a journey, and I’m sure there’s more to learn but for now: fake it ’til you make it.
And remember that you’re a piece of bloody art, a total fucking miracle, a wonderful human being who is liked and adored and that you have a LOT to be confident about.