Can You Con Confidence?
In this three-piece project, Kaja looks at confidence, whether us more awkward people can become confident – and how.
… I just… What does that even mean?
‘You’ve just go to pretend. Put a smile on your face and act happy and comfortable being yourself and talking to people, until one day it’s true.’
Confidence is a funny thing. I’ve never really had confidence. Or that’s what I thought. But my nan claims this isn’t true. According to her, I was very confident when I was little, before I went to school and had the confidence sucked out of me. And I sort of scoffed at the idea that I was ever confident (although the bit about soul-sucking school sounded accurate) so my nan showed me proof. She showed me two photos; a picture of me when I was five, and then another of when I was seven, and she said to me: ‘Kaja, you look so happy and sure of yourself in this picture, and then look how sad and shy you are in the second one’. And I was like thanks nan. But I know what she was saying. She was saying that I had it once, there is the picture proof, and maybe one day I could be confident again. But how?
Fleetingly, I think I actually have felt confident again, when I’ve been in my element doing something I enjoy, or in the company of those I know really well, but I’ve often wondered how to kindle these brief sparks into something more sustainable.
Fleetingly, I think I actually have felt confident again…
I used to be bewildered by the girls in my class who could just talk to anyone, as if it were no big deal, whereas if I tried to say a word I’d immediately regret it and desperately wait for the floor to swallow me. Speaking in front of a crowd, or a group of people, or just one person, or even my cat, is painful and nerve-wrecking, and I’ve often wondered how. How can some people just look so comfortable doing these things?
Once, I did ask someone. It was a few years ago, and I was sitting with a good friend of mine in our tutor group, which happened to be situated in the science class. They were leaning this book against a gas tap and looked at it whilst they sort of shrugged and spoke to me. ‘You’ve just go to pretend. Put a smile on your face and act happy and comfortable being yourself and talking to people, until one day it’s true.’
I tried, but I couldn’t get the hang of it. It made my skin crawl, pretending to be something I’m not. Plus, I wasn’t a very good actor. I could just about force my mouth into something Joker-esque. But then what do I do with the rest of my body, and my voice, or the ensuing self-doubt that makes me shrink into myself like a snail? Act confident. I wracked my brain for ideas of how to do it. Desperately, I remembered a scene in ‘Blackadder’ when they tell the Prince Regent the secret to being a confident actor/ public speaker. It went something like this.
Right, you have to stand heroically, no not like that, with your legs spread out wide. Wider than that. Like you’re almost doing the splits. And have your chest puffed out like an angry bird doing one of those dances on a David Attenborough documentary. And then, before you say a word, you roar. Don’t shy from it, properly raw as loud as you can, on and on, whilst maintaining eye contact, and then tell them about the weather.
It made my skin crawl, pretending to be something I’m not.
This…probably wasn’t the best piece of advice to follow.
I really did get some strange looks that way.
How else do we do it? Is it even possible? Over the years I started feeling like nothing would ever change. I’ve tried to be optimistic… Sometimes when I’ve felt blissfully happy with myself and the world after having a really good day, or seeing a feel-good film, and I would tell myself I’m going to carry this through to tomorrow. And I never managed it. The next day that shy, painful, awkward, anxious self is always there waiting for me, like a sinister old friend.
When I was 13, I even tried looking for confidence advice from a mini-book written by ‘Mizz Magazine’
Yep, that’s right. I once took advice from a tween-magazine with a picture of Hannah Montana on the front. And I do not regret it.
Okay, maybe I regret it a little.
The writers of Mizz told me to maintain eye contact with teachers, to sit up straight in class and to smile at everyone. So I tried this for a while, and funnily enough, it didn’t really feel like it helped that much. Even doing the splits and roaring at people would have probably worked better.
Even doing the splits and roaring at people would have probably worked better.
But I don’t think we should give up. I just think, before, we were looking for confidence in the wrong places. So now I’m going to try again, but this time I’m getting my advice from lots of very different confident people I know, to see what they say. Then what am I doing with this collection of advice? Well…
Over the next few weeks I will be tweeting from the Rife account with a piece of advice for us both to follow, for a few days at a time, and I’ll be logging my experiences of how it’s going and stuff, and then in two or three weeks I’ll check back here for the results.
In-between now and that second piece, where we share our revelations, there will also be a vlog about things awkward people do, so we can share in the pain of our chronically shy and cringe-y selves, which will hopefully act as motivation for our journey into confidence. Let’s do this together.
It would also be really great if you could tweet us saying how you’re finding the advice, using the hashtag #RifeConfidence directed @rifemag. Maybe working together and with these bits of advice from others, we can finally ace this thing. Maybe why I never managed Confidence before was because I was doing it alone. And the same might be true for you….
It is time.
It is time for us both to con confidence.
If you’ve struggled with confidence you can also find lots of opportunities on the Rife Guide to boost your self-esteem and learn some new skills.