Being confident

Do you struggle with confidence? This one weird trick might help you gain a confidence boost. But, it might not work out the way you think.

I don’t think I’m as confident as I was 10 years ago. I’ve always expected that one grows more confident as one ventures further into adulthood, and that my self-assurance would keep improving year after year, either in a professional setting or when relating to people. But, the truth that I learned during my decade-long career in the software industry is that you don’t necessarily ever get to the point where you have all the answers; it’s just that you get better at asking the right questions.

I don’t think that’s any different in social or dating situations, either. We all want to be included, and the way we think we need to go about that is to reach the level of confidence that we see in people around us. But here’s the catch: all confidence is pretend. Everyone is winging it, all the time; and the pretense we put up to hide that fact is what we generally recognize as “confidence”.

Does that mean that I believe that pretending in such a way is bad? Not at all. In fact, I think working on your confidence level is a nice and polite thing to do for people in your life, especially to those who you see often. It might help to think about confidence as the opposite of freaking the fuck out about everything. Since life is one big uncertainty, and we are all given just one shot at it without rehearsal, we might be tempted to react to everything unpredicted or outside our control by freaking out all the time; but as adults, society expects us to do better and actually own our shit. Similarly, if you are dating someone, they want you to be “confident”; not because they expect you to know everything in advance, but because they want some confirmation that you’re a self-sufficient person who will not collapse in a sobbing heap on the floor at the first sign of trouble. Confidence is “sexy” because it’s basically showing off your skills of managing your own fears.

So, the one weird trick for gaining confidence is to become better at “the act,” and to learn how to not care too much about things that are of little consequence. But, that isn’t all there is to it. There is one more important aspect that should always complement confidence, and that is authenticity.

You see, those same people who want to see you strong and self-sufficient also want to get to know the full you; flaws and all. We write fictional, perfect characters such who always know what they are doing and never make a mistake, but we all know deep down that such a person doesn’t exist. A real-life James Bond would be incredibly dull in everyday situations and impossible to relate to. Therefore, taking off your mask between acts and revealing how you actually look like to people around you is what brings people together more effectively than matching levels of confidence. So, if you struggle to be accepted in a community that has high expectations of you, the solution isn’t always to up your act. Sometimes, the solution is to surround yourself with different people; ones who you can trust that they will meet your insecurities with kindness and understanding.

When I used to sit down at a computer a long time ago, I was fully convinced that I have all the answers, and didn’t need anyone for advice and support. People would see me furiously typing away at a computer and think: “wow, this guy really knows what he’s doing”. I would rarely admit that I’m lost. Today, I sit down, look at the problem for a while, and sometimes I decide that I don’t know how to do it by myself. So, I reach out to coworkers for advice, and together we come up with an approach that is way better than I would do alone.

This is true for my personal life as well. I might be less “confident” nowadays, but I don’t see it as a problem anymore. With the help and kindness of other people in my life, I get to accomplish way more.