So you want to be confident.
You’ve experienced life on the unconfident side of the tracks and, frankly, it isn’t too terribly swell. You waffle between options, unsure whether you’re doing the right thing. You find yourself in situations where you feel like you have no options at all, because people have gotten used to you not having an opinion. You’ve morphed yourself into so many different versions of you, based on what the situation demands, that you’ve forgotten who you actually are.
Perhaps, you think, the world would look a little rosier if you felt more confident.
And so you go about the business of starting to assert yourself. You start telling people what you really think about things.
Of course, though, you can’t be too honest about your opinion. You wouldn’t want to be seen as unladylike (or worse, a bitch).
Nor should you speak up too loudly when confronted with the family members telling bigoted jokes. Wouldn’t want folks to think you unmanly (or worse, a queer).
After a brief foray into semi-confident self-assertion, you retreat back into wishy-washiness. It is, sometimes, simply too much work to stand up, be who you are, and also be proud about it. It’s nearly impossible to cultivate self-confidence when a small part of you (conscious or subconscious) believes that having that confidence will make you unladylike or a dyke or any of the other hundreds of epithets peppering American comedic cinema these days.
‘Tis easier to protect oneself from disgrace and simply continue onward with normal life, bereft of confidence but at least still accepted within your usual social circles.
Except for the fact that you’re more than a little bit magic, and signing somebody who’s magic up for life as usual is like sentencing Toni Morrison to a lifetime of remedial writing classes: guaranteed to stifle her soul.
The good news, in your case, is that this paradigm we’re used to, the one that says to go with the flow or assert yourself and be rejected, is only one option. In actuality, self-confidence isn’t the same thing as arrogance. In actuality, self-confidence pairs swimmingly with empathy, and compassion, and maybe someday, total world peace.
Surprising, eh? I know.
. . .
The difference between true self-confidence and what looks like self-confidence but, well, isn’t, is a matter of inner versus outer qualities. Self-confidence originates within you and radiates outward. It can be cultivated by doing in-depth inner work, and strengthened through actual actions you take in the world. Regardless of what other people say and do, self-confidence is a place you can return to in order to remember your worth.
When you’re in self-confidence, you feel connected to other people. You’re able to share in their joys and pains and allow them to witness your own.
Insecurity, on the other hand, develops when your self-confidence is uncultivated or weak. It seeks constant outside reinforcement in order to be maintained, and it is bolstered by others’ misfortune.
When you’re in insecurity, you feel separate from other people, and it will feel easy to compare yourself to others (and be inflated or deflated by what you find in those comparisons).
There are two main manifestations of insecurity you’ll probably recognize. One is arrogance, where you find yourself puffing yourself up to look bigger than you are. The other is timidity, where you find yourself trying to disappear into the draperies from time to time. Most of us tend to be drawn to one expression of insecurity over the other, but most humans experience both of these states at different times throughout their lives.
I’m guessing you might be thinking right now: Awesome. Insecurity sounds pretty much exactly like me. Great.
And, well, me too! It’s easy to fall into insecurity, particularly in our culture (understatement of the century there). Having awareness of it, however, is the ideal place to begin. Being in insecurity and knowing it means you can shift your focus from seeking outside reinforcement to cultivating your self-confidence from within.
And starting within yourself is a very, very good thing, because that is precisely where your magic lies, waiting for you to learn to radiate it into the world.