I know I haven’t been blogging much lately, but it’s just that I’ve been trying to live offline more than online this year, adding new experiences to my list, and opting to meet people face-to-face instead of hiding behind usernames and passwords. But it’s quite interesting how during my visit to Kenya this year, I met a lot of people who brought up my blog over and over again discussing possible topics I could write about.
So today I’m going to address one of those topics. One of my closest friends told me that her problem in life was with self-confidence. She said she didn’t even have the self-confidence to talk to customer service people on the phone, and the topic made me laugh because if I had enough self-confidence in my life, I’m not so sure I would have ever become a writer. It was because I found it difficult to connect with people and express myself that actually made me pick up a pen as a child. So how was I to teach her on self-confidence, when I obviously needed a few lessons in that area myself?
But I’ll try.
My advice to her was to take risks and expose yourself to an experience over and over again regardless of how you feel about it. For instance, I personally have an issue talking to customer service myself, and until recently, I used to delegate that task every chance I got. But picking up the phone to talk to them, I realized that we avoid tasks like that because we dread we’d sound so stupid in front of these people, or we’re scared they’re going to judge us. And I suppose many people in my community would relate to that, because we grew up listening to people being judged all the time. Dialogues got dissected, behaviors got misinterpreted, lifestyles got judged…it was no wonder we were always scared of making a wrong move lest we step on a verbal land mine.
But it gets easier when you tell yourself to accept that feeling as normal, whether it is the fear of being judged or being seen as stupid, or deaf (which sometimes happens when you can’t understand what that customer service woman is actually saying). Accept that feeling uncomfortable is normal, and accept that you’re not perfect, so there’s no point in pretending to be perfect all the time.
Accept that you will make mistakes and you will be judged so be prepared for it and don’t sweat it. Whatever it is, you don’t have to lose sleep over it. People make mistakes. People learn from their mistakes. People move on. Again, taking into consideration our society, unfortunately, the communal memory of our people can astound you. You’ll hear people recalling someone else’s mistakes decades after they’ve made them.Why? In the decades you’ve been holding on to a grudge on whoever it was, Pluto got demoted so it’s no longer a planet, Japan’s coast moved 8 feet after the 2011 earthquake and over 30 new countries came into being (since 1990 at least). My point is, the world changes, and so do people. So cut others some slack.
Empower yourself with knowledge and be more competent. The main thing that makes us lose self-confidence is when we don’t know. In some scenarios we don’t know what to say, how to behave, how the other person will perceive what we say. Not knowing makes us think, “Oh God, they’re going to think I’m so stupid.” So in order to negate this, learn. Sometimes learning is simply done by spending time with a self-confident person and seeing how they do it, how they deal with different scenarios.
Practice in low-risk scenarios. This is very useful advice for people who struggle with public speaking. To some, speaking in public can be quite a terrifying experience, especially when the audience consists of high-calibre people in your field. Just the idea of presenting something can make you sick to the stomach. So step number one is to know your stuff (previous point), and step number two is practice in front of your friends and family; people who won’t judge you so much and exist in your life to be supportive. Of course, shifting from a low-risk environment to a high-risk one is not going to be easy, but at least with practice you manage certain aspects like your nerves, or how you present the material…
Fake it until you make it. This deals with your body language. I personally struggle with this because I tend to act small, disappear into the wall every chance I get. But people who fake self-confidence feel that self-doubt rise inside them and yet they never fail to stride through the room, walk tall and speak loudly even if they knew that they’re not so sure about what they’re saying and even if they knew you knew they’re not sure about what they’re saying.
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