Confidence has always been such a challenge for me. Those I grew up with would agree and some may not, due to my bubbly, enthusiastic and sociable character. As long as I can remember, my shyness has been something that has not exactly bothered me because it was a good shield to get out of things that required confidence. But one thing I never did was challenge myself. Confident or not, I’m sure some of you can relate to opposing the idea of stepping out of your comfort zone; but in my case, it had frequently been the norm. You get others and even yourself reminding you about the usual ‘shyness can ruin opportunities’ and ‘confidence goes a long way’ so why didn’t I ever work on it? Why was I so comfortable to overlook it?
Then you get those people who’d say ‘just stop being shy’ but how? Is it going to happen overnight? Have you just cured me there and then?
No and no.
Being told ‘you need to be more confident’ didn’t help either. In fact, such ‘encouragement’ increased my aprehensivness because what were you really doing to help? Besides belittling me, body shaming me and questioning my intelligence?
It was never as simple as people made it out to be.
I despise eye contact. Always have. Not just the usual, ‘omg why is this random person staring me?!’ it could be anyone, and I would still struggle to maintain the contact. Once I make awkward eye contact I’m just like ‘OK, I really need to change my name and leave the country.’
Believe it or not, I had always been absolutely terrified to post selfies on social media platforms, particularly Twitter.
Disclaimer: I don’t think I’m ugly, but there’s just this uncomfortable vibe I would get.
I’d be super concerned about how people would perceive me and what exactly would be going through their minds when they look at it, and it would get to the point where I’d begin overthinking and regret even posting in the first place!
It would come down to me having to ask one of my friends to physically do the job for me, meanwhile I’m there screaming like a kid and refusing to touch my phone.
I’m one of those people who mentally prepared themselves to say ‘here’ when waiting for their name to be called out in the register just so I didn’t get caught off guard. I’m one of those people who would do/say something embarrassing or weird in front of others and then think about it for weeks. I’m one of those people who’d say ‘no thanks aunty, I’m fine’ when these times, my throat is drier than the Sahara desert and my stomach would be growling like a mountain lion.
I figured that my shyness wasn’t consistent, but rather, selective. I had the tendency to pick and choose where and who to invest confidence in the most, which was mainly towards hobbies and people I enjoyed spending time with. One terrible thing I found myself doing was relying on my confidence to derive from particular situations and circumstances instead of within one’s self.
We’re so prone to basing our happiness on others, situations and even material things, as opposed to ourselves which is fundamental to achieving self love and contentment. I began drawing my focus on giving certain predicaments a foothold into keeping my self-esteem sky high, whether it was a job, friendship gatherings and outings, a relationship or looking my best.
It wasn’t until I began applying for placements for my industry year at university where everything hit me all at once. It’s when I realized the shyness needed to cease. I told myself ‘Berns, you’re really starting to annoy me! Is it when your child says to you ‘Mum, I’m too shy to do this/that’, that you’ll realize the importance of confidence?
Interviews were active and not just the regular ones you get for retail roles; but assessment centers and networking open days. I’m sure you can imagine how daunting they can be. Although I eventually secured one, I had previously failed to progress to the next stage to the first ever interview I had been invited to.
Don’t get me wrong, I pushed some shyness to the side. However, I later on realized after speaking to a friend, where I went wrong. Initially, I came into the assessment center with the ‘Omg these people look like they’re going to be so much better than me, they look smarter than me, why am I even here’ attitude that I eventually allowed it to get to my head and even though I didn’t show it too much during the duration of the assessment centre, I didn’t believe in myself nor did I encourage myself. Not once did I think ‘Actually, I’ve got this, these people don’t faze me, there’s no one like me, and that’s where my power lies.’
My mood from then was always pretty low, I had one of them ‘why am I like this’ moments and fathomed how much it was destined to be a major cock-block in the future. After complaining to my friend, he recommended a video for me to watch. I said, and I quote ‘yeah, you’re really stretching it’ plus, it was a 15 minute long clip which put me off even more but then I thought why not?
The video was of a 19 year old German high school graduate, giving a talk at an event in front hundreds of people where he spoke about how he went about overcoming his fears and how everyone can step outside of their comfort zones. He explained his psychological concept of comfort zone crashing and how it helped people tackle their fears.
So what did I learn?
1. DO ONE THING EVERYDAY THAT SCARES YOU
Do something way out of your daily routine that will boost your confidence, no matter how big or small. Unhappiness can be caused by comparing yourself to others and comparing yourself to a perfect version of you. Remember, none of us are perfect. Stop looking for approval, stop behaving in such a way for people to accept you. We don’t live to please others so you shouldn’t allow people to adjust you.
2. EXPOSE YOURSELF TO WHAT SCARES YOU
So that you become so familiar with fear and nervousness that it no longer holds you back. Ignore the habit of excuses stopping you from doing what you aspire or what you should be doing at that very moment. ‘I’m shy’ is NOT an excuse. Go out, and do your thing!
3. THE COMFORT ZONE CHALLENGE
Consciously or even physically put yourself in a situation where you are nervous and afraid of rejection. The more you do it; eventually you’ll stop caring about what others think which can help you get over your fear easily. The physical challenge the student put himself through was laying on the ground in public; right in the middle of a busy shopping center. Yeah, you know I’m not on that right? But the least I can do is mentally put myself in that position and as mentioned before, try completely different things.
The video became a bonus in helping me out and even though I am still in the process of reaching the confidence level I desire, I have definitely come a long way. Even writing this blog was a stepping stone. All the negativity I have encountered at university have successfully contributed to my growth as well as being the best eye openers. The best change came from myself for myself rather than for others. I have become carefree in the sense that I am no longer self conscious or worried about what I do and how others perceive me.
My flaws had always been used against me and I no longer allow that to hold me back but rather accept and embrace them. I am no longer afraid of rejection. As cliché as it sounds, what’s meant for me will always stay and never pass me by. I will continue to remain satisfied with my position instead of envying others because I know that this isn’t my final destination. I also started writing down what I love about myself and any ideas I come up with that I can then execute later. This gave me reassurance that I am capable of doing great things and why should I ever put them to waste. I recommend this video to anyone currently struggling with confidence or know anyone who is and I hope I’ve somehow encouraged you to not wait until something happens before you realize it’s time to step out of your comfort zone.
At a person’s funeral, an eulogy is normally read out, informing everyone all about the person’s life and essentially, all their achievements. So always remember that although someone else will be reading out your own, it is you who writes it by the way you live your life. You write your eulogy by the way you live your life! When you’re gone, what will you be remembered for? What legacy will you leave behind?