Thursday 5 June 2014

How to be confident

When I was thinking about writing this post, I thought to myself: are you really in a position to be giving advice about confidence? The answer is yes and no.
2000: Quite quiet                      2014: Quietly confident!

Like most teenagers, I wasn't the highest in self-esteem, but quite good at hiding it most of the time. Actually, I used to worry about a lot of things, but I rarely told anyone. Things like whether I would stumble over my words if I spoke in class? Was I ever going to grow any taller? (The answer to that was no!) Were people laughing behind my back? Did people think I was ugly? Or boring? 

I guess, the typical paranoid worries that a young girl might have.

I could say that I don't have any worries now, but I'm not going to lie, I do. It's just that I have become quite good at putting things into perspective. And as a result, I would now say that I am a confident person, most of the time. 

Here are my top tips for 'being confident'. I use inverted commas because we all have different definitions of 'confidence'. My definition is 'being happy with who you are'.

1. Accept your flaws and learn to love them if you can

In my case I learned to accept being short by thinking about all the pluses of being vertically challenged: getting to wear big heels; easily finding a man who is taller than me; being amazing at hide and seek! The list goes on...

Don't imagine that you'll one day love every single thing about yourself, I for sure don't. But try to think about the positives and appreciate the fact that you're unique.

2. Find positive role models

On the same note as appreciating your uniqueness, don't get caught up in idolizing celebrities (or even your friends) who appear to be flawless and have everything together. The best role models are those that work with what they have and embrace that they are different (we all are).

Reading Katie Piper's autobiography was a revelation to me when I was feeling low about myself. Katie had acid thrown in her face by her boyfriend and has had to undergo years of surgery to recontruct her face. She will never have the face she did, but she is a truly beautiful individual. Her positivity is a lesson for us all.

The winner of America's Next Top Model this year has impetigo, a skin condition that affects pigmentation. At school she was bullied, but now she owns her differences.

India Arie is also a role model for me. Ever since Video, a song about self-acceptance, I saw her as a woman to aspire to be like. Her songs are quite idealistic, I suppose, in that they preach about being positive, but why not? People need that sometimes.

3. Find your magic feather, then let it go

Dumbo used a magic feather to fly. Sometimes we all need a magic feather. Mine is make-up. Even when I'm feeling chunky, or spotty, or just downright disgusting, I can apply a bit of concealer and mascara and it's not quite so bad.

I got back into make-up in a big way after a particularly nasty break-up. Suddenly I was on my own, away from my hometown, friends and family and I had to make the best of things. It was actually a blessing in disguise that I was put in this situation because it made me get to know myself again and realise what I wanted for myself. Part of that was making time to invest in my appearance, as well as my general well-being. I got over the break-up eventually, I moved on and I took with me the idea that it is good to take pride in yourself in every sense of the word.

It is also important to know that you are okay without your 'feather' and that you can be confident without being reliant on something. I know I'm far from perfect, but that's alright and I can happily face the day with a naked face now and again!

4. Find your purpose

Until I found my vocation in life, I wasn't the most confident person. Sometimes, people can be cruel and I have met quite a few of these sorts of people. Being a shy and quiet person meant that I sometimes found it hard to integrate myself into particular groups. I was fortunate to have good friends at school and mix with people that I found easy to talk to. But when you leave school and meet all sorts of characters, some are less welcoming.

When I worked in a call centre after my degree, I thought I fitted into my team fine, but others didn't seem to think so and made unkind comments about me behind my back. When they found out that I wanted to leave to work in a school, one said: "she'll never be a teacher".

But of course, they were wrong! I am a teacher. When I started to work in schools, I realised that I did have something to give and I finally had a purpose. That may sound dramatic, of course we all have a purpose, but being in a profession like teaching, you have to think about others, not yourself. For me that was life-changing. To be needed and to be useful was what I needed to develop self-esteem. Of course there are times when it's knocked, like in any career, but to work with such a lovely team of people as I do; to feel supported and appreciated is the best feeling ever.

5. Befriend yourself

Learn to be your own best friend. That might mean that sometimes you're self-critical, but mostly, you must be kind to yourself. Knowing who you are and how you react in different situations comes with time. I used to hate the way I became so shy in some situations that I almost shut myself off from everyone. I actually hated the person I was when that happened. But that is the point where I should have acknowledged what I was doing and why, and told myself it was okay. 

Just because you do things that you wish you didn't, it doesn't mean you can't change. Even if you're really stubborn, given time, you can train yourself to react differently. Just give yourself time.

I am now highly skilled at small talk and asking people questions about themselves because that's how I adapted to feeling shy. New social situations rarely phase me like they did in the past; I actually even enjoy some of them!

So to sum up: take pride in yourself and you will project confidence. 

Confidence is not a miracle that happens to you. You do not wake up one day and think you're the best thing that ever walked the earth (thank God!). Confidence has a lifetime to grow and you are the person who can nurture it, no-one else. 

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