Lately I have been receiving tonnes of emails and equally having lots of conversations about confidence and how little of it there seems to be. I am coming to the realisation that much like a lot of things, we trivialise it all by making it about the peripheral – getting a new wardrobe, or a body overhaul, buying a new car, flying business class, or entering a new social circle. I’m not saying that these things aren’t confidence builders but I think it does go a little deeper. In fact I think it goes a lot deeper.
There are many experiences that had not only rocked my confidence but had also robbed me of it at different stages of my life. What’s interesting though is that you don’t even realise it when it is happening to you. The worse part is when you discover that your lack of confidence and insecurity consumes you so much that your whole existence is motivated by trying to prove a point. In other words, your need to overdo everything or outdo everyone easily becomes your mask and coping mechanism.
I would later come to understand that it was just me giving my insecurities way too much power to reign supreme. This isn’t to say that I don’t struggle. I still do, but it is safe to say my good days are topping my bad days.
I don’t think that confidence is always necessarily an innate quality and neither do I think it’s solely attributed to great parenting. I do think that the fact you haven’t always been confident doesn’t mean you can’t become confident or teach yourself to get beyond your insecurities.
So,here are some ways to boost your confidence.
Do Not Let Anything Define You
I remember growing up. We were the typical middle class Nigerian family. We owned our own house in an estate; had a few cars including the Sunday Mercedes Benz; driver; housekeepers; went to good school; parents travelled abroad. We were ok.
Then my parent’s marriage ended, and so did our lives. Well, at least the posher portion of it. As a new kid in secondary school, it wasn’t the best time to transition from being the posh kid to being the broke kid – as though adolescent insecurities weren’t enough.
All I remember was just feeling constantly insecure about any and everything. Having to get on public transport, begging your friends for a lift home or sometimes having someone sit on your lap in the bus because you couldn’t afford the bus fare, bringing Richoco and Cowbell instead of Milo and Peak milk. Yes, it sounds shallow but it was a big deal then. I think in my head I probably felt everyone was making fun of me for some reason. Those days my brother would often refer to it as poverty complex.
One minute your life is defined by all the things you had and the next minute you don’t have any of it and you lose all sense of identity.I was ten years old. So imagine the thirty-five year old in a powerful job position who loses their job, or the person heartbroken after one of those everyone knew us together type relationships.
I make it a habit to constantly ask myself the question who am I? And more importantly if I had everything stripped away, the job, the attention, the applause, the accolades, the people, or the noise, who would I be? It’s the only way I remind myself that my confidence shouldn’t be dictated by the things I have, or even the things I do, but rather consciously thinking about the content of my character and the value I can offer in whatever space I am placed in.
Do Something That Scares You
For me there is no confidence boost like surmounting a challenge. I remember one of my travels, skiing was included in the itinerary as a part of the group activities. I was frightened out of my mind about how silly I would look falling on my backside a few too many times.
As far as I was concerned skiing wasn’t for people like me.
I could have opted out if I wanted to but I did it anyway, and it felt so good afterwards.
I know how many times I have talked myself out of so many great ideas, great opportunities and even greater experiences, because I am scared that no one will show up, or listen, or watch it, or care about it, or understand it, or buy it.
Maybe who I am and the things I want didn’t matter. I would say to myself what if I make a complete fool of myself or I become a laughing stock? Well, what if you don’t? What is the worst that could happen? So you fail or you discover you are terribly bad at it.
Sometimes our fears are as little as saying hello to someone first, or asking a question that you seek answers to.
As our people say ‘At all at all na im bad pass’. At least you had the courage to try and you learned a few lessons along the way. Surely that counts for something. Once you get past one hurdle, you build the confidence to get through the next and it gets a little easier.
Every Once In a While, Lose Composure
If you have ever attended an acting class or watched one before, you will discover they are often given these weird exercises like jumping up and down aimlessly, rolling on the floor and sometimes instructed to bark like a dog. The idea is really to loosen them up and get them to become less self-conscious. I think there is a kind of confidence that comes from really being able to enjoy things and enjoy your self. Believe it or not, it seeps into everything else.
Everyone now knows me for jumping on the Afropolitan Vibes stage at Freedom Park doing the fire dance. Asides the fact that I have now become recognisable from behind, there is a certain freeing experience about being able to let go and just be. It translates into a burst of fearless energy – one that says you can go into the world and conquer without restriction. This isn’t me advocating that everyone start rump shaking at the slightest opportunity, but sometimes you need to throw away the composure, let loose and live a little.
Learn to Enjoy Your Own Company
I talk a lot about friendships and positive relationships, but I think it’s also important to get confortable in your own company. Go watch a movie by yourself sometimes. Go to a restaurant and order a meal by yourself or travel somewhere by yourself. I have found, from experience, that it helped me reflect even more and consequently increased my sense of self-awareness. It also helped with not needing people to constantly validate me. Most of all, I discovered there is an inner strength that comes with taking ownership of yourself and there is a certain confidence derived from knowing you are capable.
Re-evaluate and Re-affirm
As life goes insecurities can always overwhelm you, confidence waxes and wanes but you need to re-evaluate and re-affirm yourself. Whether you do that by learning new things, reading new material, or shouting out chants to yourself in the mirror, you just need to get up and keep it moving. My own personal mantra is that I have been placed here for a reason. I will be doing my creator a disservice and robbing the world of so many things by letting my insecurities affect my confidence to the point that I don’t live the best life I can. The other thing about affirmation is that you have to genuinely believe it. It’s not make-up that strips off with the water down the drain or a nice dress you take off at night. It’s not that kind of temporal confidence. This is the one that stays even after gravity has taken its course.
Own Your Story
I recently spoke to a lady over the radio who felt that she lacked confidence because she always felt like a “Village Girl’ as a result of her rural up bringing. She didn’t feel cool enough so was too timid to speak because she feared she would make a fool of herself. For this same reason she didn’t try out new experiences either.
Sometimes, we don’t realise that our greatest asset can just be our own unique experiences and being ourselves. We are constantly learning from one another through our lives and experiences and as we all know knowledge is power and surely there is power in confidence. Comedians have been making money from their stories for centuries. Ask the late Richard Pryor and all the Warri comedians cleaning out from packed arenas. Owning your story sometimes even makes you more endearing and humane to others,sometimes even inspiring. This means there is nothing to be ashamed off, talk more of making it an insecurity.
I think that the mind is one of the most powerful tools we could ever own. This means you constantly have to wield it to your will. It is a lot of work but as they say impossible is just a word.
Feel free to share the experiences that have shaken your confidence and tips for rebuilding.