This column is about confidence, and the con games we play with ourselves that can either erode, or develop, that confidence. I’ve done a lot of thinking on confidence – or more accurately, on the lack of it – because I’ve been doing a lot of writing and giving bootcamps* on the issues that women face in an art career, and in the greater world. Confidence is a big problem, but it’s far from just a women’s issue. Men and women both suffer from insecurity. Lack of confidence can keep you from promoting yourself, it can keep you from networking effectively, it can stop you from making the best of opportunities that come your way, and it can keep you from getting the mentor and peer input that could really push your work.
I’m very lucky – I was raised by my parents to be extremely independent and confident, and to be able to work a room, and I’m very extroverted, so I am more comfortable interacting in crowds and with strangers. But even I get insecure sometimes. I’ve often been hit with Imposter Syndrome in my career. (If you don’t know Imposter Syndrome, in a nutshell, it’s the irrational fear that you are a fraud and “they’re” all going to know you’re a fraud, that you couldn’t have possibly earned what you’ve gotten. And who the hell are “they” anyway?)
So regardless of where we fall on the confidence scale, there are going to be times when we need to force ourselves to be more confident. So how the hell do you do that? Here’s a few things that help me:
1 — Know it’s all in your Head:
Like I said, everyone is insecure sometimes. And a little insecurity is good – it keeps us from getting arrogant, but too much makes us entirely too self-conscious. When we get self-conscious we imagine that other people are constantly judging us harshly. We’ve all done it – imagined thoughts in other people’s heads disliking us, and criticizing (or worse, laughing at) what we’re doing.
But you know what? Most of the time, other people notice and judge us a lot less (and a lot less harshly) that we judge ourselves. Those voices in our head aren’t what other people are probably thinking – they’re us. And we are our own worst and nastiest critics. And that means we have the power to control our inner voices, and teach them to be nicer to us.
And if you really are worried about what other people will think of you, then you need to learn The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. We only have so many f*cks to give in the world and we need to hoard them for ourselves, we can’t just give them away to everyone who walks by. We need to save them for ourselves and for the people that have earned them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about not caring about what you’re doing. “Not giving a fuck” seems like it implies apathy, and that’s not what I mean at all. It’s more about saving the energy you’re wasting on imagining what other people think and using it on yourself and your awesome projects. I’m researching better terms than “f*cks” to use that don’t imply apathy…I’ll keep you posted.
2 — But the Body plays a big role as well:
There’s two physical things that immediately boost our confidence: our posture, and eye contact. It’s been proven that “power poses” actually boost testosterone in the body, giving us a little hit of confidence juice that reinvigorates us. Watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk to learn which power poses actually work on your body chemistry, then check out this more in-depth article.
3 — Remember it all comes back to fear:
Confidence is the lack of insecurity. Insecurity is all about fear. Don’t let fear stop you from doing things you want to do. What’s the worst that could happen? Some stranger laughs at you? (See #1 again). Or that you fail? (Manchess already covered that this week).
So what’s the “con” in “confidence? Well, sometimes you have to con yourself into feeling confidence. Fake it til you make it is the name of the confidence game. Some people don’t like that idea, it feels fake to them, it feels like lying, it feels like you’re a fraud (imposter syndrome again) but think of it this way: There is nothing different between a confident person and an insecure person except how they feel about themselves. Not success, not fitness, not money, nothing. The only difference is in your head. So in a way, there is no “faking” confidence. You start acting like a more confident person, you slowly start to make it a habit. You practice it, and you realize that people really do start to pick up on that confidence shift in you (and are not calling you out for being a fraud), and it feels good. And slowly, it sticks. That’s not to say we don’t all have insecure times — before every Spectrum panel and bootcamp I was “faking it” until I got started and more comfortable. But self-confidence becomes your default, and that’s the most important foundation you can have to then go out and make and do awesome things.
*Yes, we’ll be uploading the bootcamp one-sheets for everyone soon.