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 …