How To Be More Confident

Confidence

Being that you’re a human being you’ve probably noticed many things in life are like a game. The rules and score-keeping may be different but virtually every aspect of life can be broken down in this way. Especially when it comes to confidence.

Why don’t more of us use this to our advantage?

It’s especially easy while traveling because nobody knows you, but it’s also be doable if you’ve never left your home town.

What I mean is, you don’t have to be who you are in your head. You can be someone else. You can be “that guy” or “that girl.”

This is sometimes described as “fake it til you make it.”

Let’s specifically take hanging out with or meeting new people because I’ve been having a few conversations (through e-mail/IM) about this topic with you guys lately. :)

Since last week, after waiting far too long to get off my ass and meet people in Wroc?aw, I’ve been hanging out with and meeting people every day*.

*Besides two days I was mostly out of commission due to my hurt knee/foot and I only went out to dinner for a bit. Wroc?aw doesn’t shut down, but no after-parties for me.

Based on the previously mentioned e-mail/IM conversations I know many of you think I’m extremely extroverted.

That is not the case in the slightest.

I am quite possibly one of the most introverted people you will ever meet. Although, depending on if I’m using my own advice, you may never know it. ;)

Let’s take an example of back-to-back nights last week.

First night: hung out on the streets, in clubs, and wherever. Was with a group of 7 or 8 people and because of the noise I didn’t talk much. It was hard to hear anybody, and my Polish comprehension is still at the point where I have trouble with conversations unless they’re 1 on 1 or, if in a group, in a quiet(er) place.

Eventually, since my body is a machine, I outlasted a few people and our group was down to 4. Things went better then, but because I had spent so many hours not talking a whole lot I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.

Second night: hung out on the streets, in clubs, and wherever. Was with an even larger group of people. This time I didn’t want a repeat performance so I purposefully became “someone else.” A fun, outgoing, gentlemen.

Think Vince Vaughn in Swingers except without the suit. Actually … with a huge hole in the front of my shirt since I still refuse to go shopping. It was kind of on purpose to make the game more of a challenge.

“Alright bitch, you’ve got a massive hole in your shirt and pretty much everybody stares at it when they talk to you. You look poor and maybe slightly homeless. Make shit happen now!”

I’m not sure if it’s normal to want to make things more difficult for yourself, but I work well under pressure.

So what happened?

I easily moved from group to group, speaking Polish (or English when necessary, there are lots of tourists in Wroc?aw, after all), and had an amazing time. As an aside, I can now easily achieve my self-defined Level 3 of Fluency in Polish. :)

Oh, and the hole in my shirt? If I caught someone looking at it I would acknowledge it by stating that it’s a space age ventilation system I invented for these humid nights. :)  (Wymy?li?em specjalny futurystyczny system wentylacji – who knows if that’s correct. It doesn’t matter. hehe)

How To Improve Confidence

I know I’m not the only person who struggles with confidence, and while I don’t take my own advice every time I need it, this is what has worked for me. The following is especially important in situations where you don’t know anybody else. (Which are the situations I find myself in regularly.)

1) Get Out Of Your Head

You’re overthinking everything. Nobody cares about you as much as they care about themselves. (Life Lessons #2 and #35.)

Obviously if there is something glaringly wrong with your look (err, like a massive hole in your shirt!) you might give off an unwanted first impression. But you can combat that by not being like me. Make things easier on yourself. ;)

2) Become Someone Else

I don’t mean that you should use someone else’s style of dress or speak the way they speak. While you can do that and it would probably be effective in the short run, it’s not sustainable. Be who you are, but use someone else as a basis for improvement.

It doesn’t matter specifically who, but it should be somebody that acts the way you’d like to act. Going back to my Vince Vaughn example: in Swingers his character, Trent, is maybe a bit over-the-top, but a generally fun guy. He has a lot of confidence, but not in an overtly cocky sort of way. He has fun and brings others along for the ride. In other words, he’s not an asshole and he wants everybody to have a good time. (OK, maybe he’s a bit of an asshole when he rips up that girl’s number.)

Your “someone else” doesn’t have to be famous or from a movie. These characters are easy to model if you don’t have anybody else in mind to model. Your someone else can just as easily be a friend of yours or maybe just someone you’ve witnessed from afar.

3) Place Yourself In Situations That Make You Uncomfortable

Confidence grows when you stretch yourself. One of the best ways to really stretch yourself is to do karaoke. Even if you completely bomb (<– rap lyrics show up too slowly on screen so I was always behind the beat) you will have a great time. I promise. My favorite is going up after somebody who can actually sing. ;)

Another situation that may make you uncomfortable: going out dancing even though you “can’t” dance. This is how: get on the dance floor and move. If you look at what others are doing you’ll see most of them can’t really dance either. You’ll also notice that they’re not paying any attention to you. You’ll also notice that there are people on the outskirts of the dance floor glancing at you wishing they were having as much fun as you.

I’m really tall (196 centimeters), I’m a bit awkward, and it’s impossible for me not to stand out. You at least have the luxury of blending in on whatever dance floor or social situation you put yourself in. :)

Everett wrote about uncomfortable situations in the “start taking risks” section towards the end of this article.

4) Don’t Use Alcohol As A Crutch

This is a mistake almost everybody makes when attempting to gain confidence and I’m no exception. I have used it too, but it doesn’t work.

The problem is if you use alcohol as a crutch, you will always need it as a crutch. Hence it being called a crutch. :) It’s a temporary solution and does nothing for you in situations where there may not be alcohol. Break your leg every day and you will always need a crutch to walk, right? Drinking alcohol is like breaking your confidence’s leg.

Does that mean you can never drink alcohol? No, I’m not stating that at all. Drink away! But drink when you don’t actually need it as a crutch anymore.

If you’ve struggled with confidence does this advice help? If you’ve overcome confidence issues do you have a good tip to share with the rest of us? Let us know …

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{ 32 comments }

MatMar

Wymy?li?em specjalny futurystyczny system wentylacji – jak najbardziej poprawnie ;)

Karol

:) Dzi?kuj?

Dea

The “become someone else” part REALLY makes sense. I started to be more confident about myself, after a 2 years theater course. I am a totally different person since I am 17 hehe and without the need of drinking. Great examples and very funny too hehehe

Hug!

Karol

Thanks Dea! Yeah, the be someone else helps a bit because it makes it more of a game. You’re not being you, therefore, you can’t act like you usually do.

Joel | Blog Of Impossible Things

Learning to be uncomfortable is one of the most important traits I’ve learned in traveling & life. I’ve found you grow the most when you put yourself in unfamiliar situations.

Karol

Thanks Joel. Traveling kinda forces us to grow. It’s pretty sweet like that. :)

Marcin

“Wymy?li?em specjalny futurystyczny system wentylacji – who knows if that’s correct” – it’s 100% correct and I must say it sounds pretty funny and awesome haha!

I think that if you want to develop a confidence there is only one way: stepping out of the comfort zone. Do things that you are scared of, make fun of yourself and don’t give a shit about what other people think. Do it every day for a few weeks/months (depending on your personality) and voila, you are more confident than 90% of people. I’m not super confident (yet!) but I’m way more confident than I used to be simply because I put some time to fight with my shyness (doing some stupid and funny things in the shopping malls). It’s the same with body building and everything else – everyone can do it (be more confident, fit etc.), but not everyone actually devote some time to work on it.

Karol

Hey Marcin,

Much like anything else it simply takes work if you’re not naturally confident. Body building (or fitness in general) is a good analogy. People want to get fit, but they don’t want to work at it. People want to be confident, but they don’t want to put themselves in uncomfortable situations that will help with confidence.

Thanks!
Karol

Leslie

Brilliant Comment! I will be doing this.

Glenn

I use the “be someone else” technique as well when I am trying to change my behaviour (breaking bad habits) and making difficult decisions. The “someone else” I’m trying to be is my idealized self or self image. So when a choice comes up, I think, “What would my ideal self do…?” or I envision how I would act if I were who I want to be.

Great post, Karol. Helps me to be a little more self-reflective today.

Karol

That’s great Glenn … the “ideal self.” :)

Thanks!
Karol

Deb

I couldn’t agree more with #4. It’s so true that if you allow drinking to become your social crutch, you’ll become dependent on it to survive in most social situations.

I rarely drink when I go out these days – it’s just not really my thing anymore. It never fails to surprise me how much it seems to bother some people that I’m at a bar and NOT drinking. But I look at it as the hole in my shirt – an added challenge in the social jungle. ;)

I think it really is all about having the right frame of mind… and I find it works best if I get in that frame of mind before leaving to go out. Trying to get there later can work, but it seems to be much more difficult while I’m in the thick of things.

Karol

Hey Deb,

Another thing that helps is having some kind of drink in hand. It does make people a little uncomfortable (they feel judged) if they’re drinking and you’re not. They never have to know with a water/lemon in your hand. :) Benny (www.fluentin3months.com) and I had a lot of conversations about this. He’s a pro at making people not notice that he’s not drinking.

Cheers,
Karol

Ali Dark

Totally. I mean who are we anyway? Instead of the world creating us (usually not in the best way) we might as well create ourselves (in an extremely more awesome way).

My personal thoughts is that we’re all one peice of super-fantastic shining through different gaps in reality – such as our minds, body, sense. We think we’re all different because the shapes the light fills are different.

We’re pure awesome and we can be whatever we want.

Sometimes when we decide to be something ‘we’re not’ we realize that is actually close to the mark than the person we thought we were. You being introverted (me too, and many others would think the same about themselves) is your habit. Breaking it, you’re free. Which is more you?

Karol

I like your positivity Ali! Let’s hang out! :)

Mark Powers

Great points, Karol! I was just talking with someone yesterday about “overthinking everything.” It’s often easy to get way too wrapped up in yourself, forgetting that everyone else is way wrapped up in themselves. Be one of the few that understand that, direct your attention to them (which is always welcomed), and you’re large-and-in-charge. Thanks for yet another killer post!

Karol

You got it man. Thanks Mark!

James Schipper

Just like with Everett’s post you mention, your advice makes me really uncomfortable and think “NO WAY!!” From my experience and yours, that must mean I should do it. And I also am aware that once I do, it will not be nearly as frightening as I have built it up to be in my mind (sometimes having a vivid imagination is not a good thing LOL)

Karol

It’s difficult to get started, but once you do it’s a freakin blast!

Alex

Wonderful post, Karol. I wrote my daily post in response here: http://alexkg.com/blog/2010/07/how-to-be-confident-without-faking/

Karol

Thanks Alex! You make some great additional points. I especially like the positive frame: “everybody is equipped to talk about themselves.”

Haidn Foster

Phenomenal post, Karol. (I think I might have to do a related post myself in the not-so-distant future…) ;-)

I’ve started to notice my confidence and extroversion rise as I give more public presentations and speeches, etc. For a lot of more introverted people, all it takes to gain that confidence (and realize that talking to people isn’t so scary/hard/pointless after all) is just getting out there.

I love the advice about tackling more and more challenging situations to build up your confidence over time–though I still don’t know if that would convince me to walk around with a hole in my shirt. :-)

To confidence,
Haidn

Karol

:) Thank you Haidn! Looking forward to your related post!

Charles

Get Out Of Your Head & Become Someone Else
Those are two great ideas that would have been nice to have learned as a teenager. But then again it is never to late to make those changes now.

Karol

Hey Charles,

I agree. I wish I learned them at a much younger age. Teenage years are the perfect time to learn important lessons such as these. The problem is I don’t think introverted teenagers (like myself) would be well-equipped to accept that advice.

Karol

Angela

I’m also not the most confident or outgoing person, but I’ve realised that if I ‘fake it’ I do eventually ‘make it’! Mostly…

I’d also like to say…

Karol you rock! After all this time yours is still the blog I read most frequently and consistently! Thanks for your pearls of wisdom! Hope you have a truly awesome weekend. ;-)

Karol

Thank you Angela! :) I appreciate your continued support over the past … almost year! :)

Marilia

I play a game when I go surfing all the time! I see the other surfers sometimes as mates, sometimes as obstacles (in my mind, obviously) . All the scenary is part of the game. It´s great fun, I should definetly aplly it to social situations as well, great tip!

Steve Scott Site

Pretending to be someone else is a good game to play, especially if you’re shy! It can help you speak up in social situations and talk to more people than you normally would. If you walk into a room and act like you own it, people are going to believe you’re extremely confident even though you might feel otherwise on the inside.

Karol

You’ve got it Steve. :)

eris

Like you I’m the sort who can pull off extroverted but am mostly introverted. Add to that a Woody Allen sized neuroses and I’ve started to avoid, well, at least not seek out, social situations rather than put in the “effort”. But when I read “You’re overthinking everything. Nobody cares about you as much as they care about themselves” I burst out laughing. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? Oh wait because I was too busy worrying about what I was thinking.

Thanks so much for the insight. Just stumbled on your blog, looking forward to nosing around the archives.

Federico

HEY THANK YOU FOR YOUR’E STORY! Today 10/12/11 On my way to school and i wasn’t wearing what i expected to wear (Because it was at the dry cleaners) So my moral broke down and i was not confident. But then i remembered about your story i read the day before (With the hole in the shirt and yet you still had a good time at the party) And that gave me so much confidence that today was a good day! I met a few people, talked a lot more, met up with more friends/groups, and i even met a girl i kinda like now. Thank you!

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