Tips on Building Self-Confidence

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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.

If you found this post useful, feel free to share with your friends.

Maybe it was me who didn’t understand

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You know how they say your past experiences shape your insights of the world, and how you decide to act in the present. Sometimes the way we react to a piece of news is inversely related to the number of times we’ve heard it before. And the numbers may as well have been taken from Fibonacci’s series; each number is a summation of the last two numbers. Take a simple example, tell someone in Minnesota that it’s snowing and they might not even react because they’ve seen snow so many times (many snow viewings = little/no reaction). But tell someone from the UAE that it’s snowing and keep a camera in hand to record the reaction and if you’re lucky it might go viral.

So while we may understand that we have a unique point of view, yet we still go through life judging people for being different. But sometimes in life, you just need to stop judging and start listening. We try to project our ideas onto others, we get angry at some of other people’s behaviors but maybe the things that bug us about them don’t bug them as much as they bug us, so we need to recalibrate our sensors instead of trying to change their behaviors. I guess with time you learn to be more accepting.

I wrote this because I came across this piece from my old journals…

Date: 25 June 2001

So the other time I was thinking that I’m tired of being stuck in this whirlwind of dreams of a brighter future for people who do not even care about having one themselves. Some of them are driving me nuts. I finally pull up the white flag. I surrender. There’s a voice that once told me to let it go. Maybe it was me who didn’t understand. 

Don’t Be Perfect, Just…

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It’s been a while since I blogged, so as I sit here having my yoghurt with honey, I thought of posting one of those random ramblings just in case something useful comes out. One thing about bloggers is that when they take a hiatus, one thought keeps nagging at the back of their minds, “You haven’t written in two weeks, so your next post must be WOW! It must ROCK!” That thought puts more pressure on them and naturally extends their break, because whatever they write – or half-write – isn’t good enough for a post, and so they’d rather not publish it. I have to admit that I can be guilty of that as well. But one way to face the resistance is to just aim at publishing a bad post. Not horrible. Aim for mediocre. Just don’t aim for perfect. That way you’ll break the hiatus, overcome inertia and -hopefully – gain momentum.

I guess this is today’s message. From the short length of this post to its incomplete title, my message is, “Don’t be perfect, just try your best and you’ll be surprised.”

Did you enjoy UAE’s weather last weekend?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense

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While a lot of extroverts can’t imagine how introverts live a life of seclusion, a lot of introverts can’t imagine the lives of extroverts. In the middle of the noise, the lights, the boisterous chatter and socializing, when do they find time to sit, relax and reflect on their lives. Does any of the extroverts keep a diary, to capture their thoughts, their ideas, their stream of consciousness as they try to understand what’s going on around them? Or maybe they don’t even bother to take that pause, instead deciding to wade through the stream of life continuously, searching for the action and the extra stimulants in terms of noise and light to fill their understimulated brains.

A lot of people have come and gone in my life, but the white page has been something that has given me company for the longest time ever. It was there to absorb the anger, the hope, the pain and the anticipation. It sometimes happens when you find yourself so sure of someone in your life, thinking that they’ll always be there for you, only to watch them fade away with time. You may still be able to run into them, you may still be able to recognize them, but you might not be able to trust them anymore. And that’s when the journal beckons you to sit down, and tell it everything, what happened? Why it happened? How you feel about it?

And as you empty your emotions within its pristine pages – some of them scribbles so unintelligible, you might not even be able to read it yourself – you start understanding things that didn’t make sense when the pieces were all still in your head. You needed to write them down, put them on paper, give the a tangible form, so you could play with them and later arrange them like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to complete the picture.

So yeah, some people might not be able to know what to do with a journal filled with empty pages. But the most obvious thing is to fill it, with your past, your present and your hopes for the future.

My current journal
My current journal