I was sitting window-seat at a restaurant in Hawthorn a few nights ago, munching on vegan pizza with a friend — when we started talking about things we’d be willing to do at social events. The conversation pertained mostly to approaching “elites” or “celebrities”, talking with strangers, etc, etc.
“Would you do that on your own?”
“Eh, probably,” I’d answered to one of Chloe’s questions, shrugging my shoulders.
“Thought so. You’d agree you’re pretty confident, right?”
“I guess so — I mean, I’ve been told that by several people so I must be more so than the average person..”
I paused to reflect.
“My thoughts are: what do you have to lose? If you’re happy with the person you represent when you approach someone, their reaction shouldn’t make you feel differently about yourself — whether they choose to snob or to embrace you. If you ask me, that’s on them.”
According to the people closest to me, my confidence is one of the first things you notice about me. I often feel wary to agree, for the sake of coming across as cocky or overconfident. But when it comes down to it, my self-confidence is far from something I’m ashamed about.
Its entire concept — in particular, what changes when you act with confidence — justifies a lot of the content I share on this blog [and why I choose to share it]. Much like florals for spring, this too is far from ground-breaking. But it’s the truth. Not all of us walk with confidence. In fact, few people’s first [second and third] steps are characterised by such a level of certainty. My own being no exception.
Confidence is a mindset that I’d argue I’ve developed over time. And before you credit me [or call me overconfident], let it be said that choosing not to care has been the easy route. Caring for the opinion of others and then, feeling insecure as a result? Now, that to me is [and was, for at least a short period of time] exhausting.
Some time ago, I decided I’d prefer to put that energy towards — well, anything else.
I remember being in school and dealing with several unpleasant girls. From primary to secondary, I became very familiar with this type — it was one that I simply didn’t mesh with. These were the girls who would judge me for the way that I looked, how loud or freely I laughed — even the fact that I enjoyed to be friends with a plethora of people.
It was true: I found something intriguing in the shy girl who played piano — as much as I did the girl who, more like myself, enjoyed fashion and Hannah Montana [ah, the days]. To this day, I still believe that some of the quietest people have the most interesting thoughts and clever senses of humour. You simply have to work a little harder to reveal their traits.
When I’m confident, I know for a fact that people around me feel more comfortable. And so I speak with certainty when I say that the power of confidence reaches far beyond our individual selves. It benefits those who surround us as well. When we keel under the pressure to feel insecure, or the need to defend ourselves and who we are, we make it apparent to those around us that this is the norm.
If you’ve received a downward-casting look from a bitchy girl at school, a cocky mate at uni or at work, this is for you. This is about changing the norm. It’s about changing how you feel and how others feel around you.
I remember thinking to myself, you know what: it’s far too limiting, too tiresome and too negative to digest the judgement of these girls [okay, so I probably didn’t think about it with such clarity at twelve years old, but you get what I mean]. I decided that laughing becomes far less fun, when you let someone’s eyes quieten your giggle. For the most, I valued laughing over their gaze.
So I made my choice to prioritise to laugh instead. From then on, I would ask myself these three questions, before allowing another person’s judgement the ability to effect how I feel — better [or worse] yet, how I act.
1. Am I representing my best self?
This is an important question, because obviously not all judgement that is placed upon us ought to be ignored. Sometimes, judgement is necessary: to ensure that we remain aware of the way our actions affect others; so that we know when they’re unsavoury too.
Asking yourself this question will help to filter the judgements that do and don’t matter. If I approached someone at an event and served them with a negative comment, I wouldn’t be representing my best self. Their judgement towards me, as a result, would likely be quite warranted. The wake-up call, quite necessary.
With that said, if I entered the same conversation with a willingness to get to know the person, and with kindness in my heart and in my words, I would indeed be representing my best self. Should they then snob me, ignore me or be unkind in response, it is at this point where I would deem their judgement or reaction as separate from my own actions — and from me.
If I were to let this affect me, I probably wouldn’t approach anyone else at the event. The incident would not only make me feel insecure, it would likely affect the people around me too. Instead of meeting my kindness and my openness, others would meet my vulnerability and my feelings of rejection. My posture and my stance would send warning bells that we all ought to protect ourselves by putting up walls and barriers. God forbid that unnecessary judgement and nastiness breaks in again.
Remind yourself of this question before you act — so that the next time someone throws shade at your confidence, you don’t take on such a dismal shadow. Instead, you leave it on the ground where they first presented it. You’ll find that when you don’t pick it up, the shadow tends to return like a boomerang straight back to the one who tried to thrust it upon you.
When you represent your best self, let it be said you are also your strongest self. Unkindness and judgement? These can’t knock you, if you’ve built the stands to your own platform; further, if you are proud — or at the very least, embracing — of its every fragment.
2. Am I happy with what that person looks like?
Consider this question a means for double-checking yourself. At the end of the day, you might be representing your best self — but whether that’s actually okay in public circumstance, depends on what the standards you hold for yourself actually look like. Hint: having low standards for yourself and calling this “your best version” isn’t the solution for being confident. That’s where you get trapped with the label “cocky” — or more plainly, “being a dick”.
Next time you’re hesitant about being confident, I want you to take yourself out of your body [just do it, let’s not dwell on questions]. I want you to look at yourself in a social situation. Ask first, whether the person you’re looking at is your best you. But don’t stop there. Ask yourself whether you like the look of that person full-stop.
I’m not talking about whether you like your ass or the way your hair falls — though these could be reasons for acting confident too. Picture that you’re watching yourself in a TV show or on a cinema screen. Would you be proud to point out yourself and to call you the character you’re playing? Would you link the actions you see on screen back to you?
Often, when we take a step back to reflect or overlook on these social situations, we tend to wish we were more confident. Let this alone be a reason we choose to act more confidently. Because we’d be more proud to pinpoint ourselves, if we were to witness our most confident version.
Now, you don’t have to think of yourself as the best in the room. As the prettiest. The sexiest. The smartest or the most accomplished. But you do have to be happy with however pretty, sexy, smart or accomplished you truly are. You have to be happy with being handed yourself as your own Monopoly piece, in order to play with confidence.
3. Do I accept my own imperfections?
Confident or not, not one of us is perfect. We’re not always going to make the right moves. Sometimes, we’re going to fail to accurately decipher those judgements we should and shouldn’t take into consideration.
Before we decide to ignore or to stand alone from the opinion of others; to be confident in our own actions and in who we are instead — we ought to ask ourselves this: do we accept if we are wrong? Do we accept if we make a fool of ourselves? Above all, do we accept that we are not perfect?
Take dating someone older than you. I use this example because as most of you know, it hits close to home. I’ll be honest, I was worried about my family’s response when I first started dating my current boyfriend. I pondered how they’d judge myself, him and the extent to which they’d impart this judgement. With their assumed reaction in mind, I wondered if I was making the right decision or whether this was a warning bell in itself — that I shouldn’t be in the relationship.
I asked myself all three questions. Am I representing my best self dating this guy? My answer went as follows. Yes, he treats me well. He adds to my life and he makes me grow. For this sake, in dating him, I am valuing and respecting what I deserve — but also pushing myself to be better as I learn from him. That is what defines the best version of me in a relationship.
Am I happy with what that person — myself — looks like this in this relationship? As I mentioned above, this required sub-consciously vacating my body. On doing so, I witnessed a happy girl, being truly loved for the first time. I witnessed her showing love to someone else for the first time. There was no doubt I was happy with what she — I — looked like in this relationship.
Then, I said to myself, what if it all fucks up? What if I find out that it doesn’t work for me to date someone older? Am I okay with being the stubborn girl who chose to try anyway? Am I okay with taking those images above — that convince me I’m acting as my happy and best self. Am I okay with trusting these and my own gut, in the face of others’ judgement?
Above all, do I accept my inability to make perfect decisions, enough to be confident in them until they prove me wrong? My answer was yes. So whilst I still held my family’s opinion highly, I knew where I stood and I was confident in that position. Enough to stand alone if I had to.
I look at blogging the same way. In the case there has been judgement placed on me or when I’ve met with people who don’t understand nor value what I’m doing, I’m brought to asking myself these three questions. When I continue to answer yes — that I’m both proud to be doing what I am and accepting of my ability to be wrong in the future — I opt out from being affected by the negative opinions of others. I make room for something far more valuable instead: confidence in myself.
I want you to do the same in every thing you do in life. Whether you’re questioning to approach an Instagrammer you’ve followed at an event, telling your family or friends something you’re concerned about — or hell, starting a project you feel could warrant mixed feedback. Ask yourself these three questions.
And if your answers are positive, I beg you to take a chance on your own gut. To be confident in yourself and what you’re doing — and to disregard the judgement of others, in the case they’re purely negative.
Don’t wait until you’re perfect to be confident. Start the day you deserve to be proud.
Images by Julia Krivoshev [edited by me].