No, this is not the American anthem. Many Americans place a great amount of emphasis or value on positive traits like happiness and optimism. Entangled in this winding quest for a piece of what seems like a myth, we starve and neglect ourselves of a basic human need: emotions. At times, we want to be reminded that there is more to life than the pursuit of happiness, and that our identities are separate from obscure abstractions.
The Internet is a familiar medium for ‘compassionate’ research. Some of us post trite phrases like “confidence is beautiful” or “confidence is the key to success” on various social media websites before resuming our day. Some of us skim through self-help books at the local café, occasionally glancing over our shoulders to see the reactions of others. Some of us recite these words to our reflections before leaving the comfort of our homes. Others attempt to face their fears by asking for a promotion at work, jumping out of a plane, or perhaps leaving an abusive relationship for the last time.
Though we strive to be self-aware and self-confident, there lies a difference between keeping our own promises and providing temporary lip-service. Self-confidence is not a consumer product that can be bought and exchanged in the shape of words on a page, eventually floating in our minds.
We realize that self-confident individuals are not a limited group such as, empowered businessmen or life-coaches with impressive credentials. Being self-confident is anyone’s choice, but not just any choice that we make in a day, such as what to eat for breakfast or what to wear to the company banquet. Self-confidence is a commitment that we choose to nurture every day for the rest of our lives.
According to the article, “The Difference between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence,” by Emily Roberts MA, LPC, self-confidence is “how you feel about your abilities,” whereas self-esteem is “how you feel about yourself overall.” Roberts affirms that you can work on both simultaneously.
The difficulty of committing to self-confidence is that we doubt our abilities from time to time, and as we age, maintaining healthy self-esteem can still be an issue.
This stands true for 26-year-old Sophia Jordan, a full-time student and direct care worker assisting the developmentally disabled in group-home settings around New York City. Although she enjoys her current position, of two-and-a-half years, lending a generous amount of time to those in need, the dedicated employee acknowledges that she does not feel completely confident in her social skills and relationships.
At work, Jordan has no problem contributing new ideas to her department. In the past, she has suggested decreasing the usage of artificial air fresheners and the amount of soda the company provides individuals at her location. Some of these suggestions were implemented, she says.
However, Jordan has not always had the courage to speak directly to her manager. She recalls her insecurities while working as a ‘breaker’ for an amusement park during her high school years.
“A breaker is a person who gives the other workers lunch and bathroom breaks during the day,” she explains. Originally, Jordan was trained to run the majority of the rides then was promoted the opportunity to train other ride operators. Despite her ease relating instructions to peer groups, she did not speak up in the main office, especially in the presence of her supervisor. Jordan rarely volunteered to train the ride operators, unlike other willing participants.
“Because of my quietness and insecure behavior, my boss stopped allowing me to be a breaker, essentially demoting me to the role of a regular ride operator again,” says Jordan.
Instead of taking responsibility for her actions, Jordan reacted by accusing her boss of unfair treatment. Soon after, she quit the job. Denial is a common defense mechanism that people use particularly when feeling attacked or targeted. PsychCentral confirms, “Many people use denial in their everyday lives to avoid dealing with painful feelings or areas of their life they don’t wish to admit.”
Although Jordan feels regret towards her actions today, she believes that “confident people are usually the ones best suited for leadership roles because of their social skills.”
Recently in April, Jordan spent half a gap-year away from her university and jetted off to Europe. She traveled with the Contiki tour company that covered regions of London, Paris, Monaco, Rome, Munich, and Amsterdam. There, Jordan associated with an eclectic group of 50 people, between the ages of 18 and 35, having arrived from foreign countries like Australia, Singapore and South Africa.
During her two-week stay, Jordan was both an active participant and loner in conversations. She experienced embarrassing moments attempting to understand other people’s accents and jargon. In these situations, Jordan did not force confidence. Rather, she comments, “I felt vulnerable and out of place.”
We have heard this advice before, “Fake it ‘til you make it, and don’t question it.” Do question it. Faking confidence can be more detrimental to our health than taking proper initiative to change the way we feel about our abilities and ourselves. Considering the above verbiage, is self-confidence simply one destination point to another–a means of “getting by” without truly understanding and acknowledging our feelings?
When we fake confidence, we close ourselves off from learning first-hand life-lessons. Furthermore, by being dishonest with ourselves, we avoid chronic fears and pose in a constant state of denial. The skeptical thoughts we conjure do not stray far from our emotional well-being.
“I would make friends with a person one day, and then stop talking to them the next, as though I had exhausted all my confidence somehow,” Jordan says. She observes, “I suspect I offended a person or two, thwarting initial fast-friendships and creating awkwardness instead.”
Upon returning from her trip, Jordan readdressed former insecurities and reinforced goals that allowed her to reconnect with old friends whom she hasn’t spoken to in years. She also opened up to working in new environments, stating, “Just recently, my boss received an appreciative email from another manager on my work.” Clearly, Jordan has taken giant leaps to accept self-doubt and to heighten her sense of self-awareness but nevertheless continues to reflect on her mind-frame.
If there is one end of information that Sophia Jordan would like the reader to take away from this article is the following: “Confidence is knowing you are just as valuable and relevant as the person beside you.” [Because] knowing who you are and what you deserve is the greatest gift you can give to yourself.
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