“If I just could hear someone tell me that I’m beautiful, everything would be okay…wouldn’t it?” “Why does no one want to be around me?” “When will someone make me feel special?”
If you’ve ever had these kinds of anxious questions running around in your brain, you’re certainly not alone. In a world driven by social media and the need to “see” and “be seen,” so much of our self-worth has become externalized. Whether it’s at school or at work, with friends or with strangers, we are constantly striving to fit in. And lest you make an assumption otherwise, this desire to belong is not a problem that is just afflicting teenagers; it’s following us into adulthood, too. Collectively, many of us have come to the conclusion that the only way to feel truly good about ourselves is to have it affirmed to us through the validation of others.
While this kind of attitude may be the new social norm, it begs the question: why do we keep participating in it when it’s clearly serving no one? Perhaps the answer lies in our trouble with navigating the modern notion of confidence. Growing up, we’re often told that if we are not confident enough, we will be perceived as lazy, unambitious, and insecure; yet, we’re also told that if we convey too much confidence, we’ll come across as egotistical, arrogant, and unlikable.
Real Confidence… And Its Evil Twin
So, what does real confidence—not the mere mask of it we’re taught to wear on our Facebook and Instagram feeds—actually do? Real confidence instills a sense of achievement within ourselves that no one can take away. Real confidence provides such inner strength that nothing anyone says or does can shake you past the point of recovery. Real confidence creates a sense of faith within the Self that you handle any situation thrown at you—even if it at first seems unfamiliar or scary. Real confidence helps you grow, learn, and adapt to the unknown.
Real confidence is NOT its evil twin: overcompensation. Overcompensation is a very good shape-shifter and loves to emulate confidence as much as it possibly can. Ultimately, however, it can fool no one. Overcompensation is often mischaracterized as over-confidence and can be identified in oneself through a few easy questions.
Do I talk excessively about myself and lose interest when the subject of conversation is changed to something else?
Do I feel the need to be constantly “on” and to show others that I am significant?
Do I notice other people regarding what I share about myself skeptically—and do I privately share those same doubts?
If the answer to these questions is a resounding “yes,” then you may be acting and speaking from a place of overcompensation rather than true confidence.
Sharing with Joy
At this point, you might be asking, “So, is it always bad to brag about myself?” Bragging is something we are all taught is bad for one reason or another. If bragging is used as a partner-in-crime to overcompensation, then certainly it can rub people the wrong way.
That being said, it’s important to distinguish between bragging and sharing our achievements from a place of joy. You are fully within your right to be proud of something you have done well or accomplished, and you should not feel weird or judged when you decide to share those personal “wins” with others!
Thus, a person with real confidence will not “brag.” Rather, they will speak—or write—their truth with a sense of self-affirmed worth. Whether it’s a test they’ve received an “A” on after a long week of studying hard or a new car they’ve purchased after years of working hard and saving up, the confident sharer will not be seeking the approval of others on their habits, disciplines, or decisions. The confident sharer does not feel as though they have to share their news in order to feel happy about it; rather, they share their accomplishments in order to invite others to participate in their sense of joy.
At the end of the day, only YOU are the one who is with you 24/7. You are the one constantly talking to yourself and putting the thoughts out there which will bring you down or lift you up. You should be your biggest cheerleader because you CAN and because no one else is going to be able to handle that pressure. Once you figure out that you can make choices for your own sense of worth and happiness, then you will start to take steps toward real confidence. You will no longer look externally to feel satisfaction that can only come with inner peace.