The Best Way to Build Confidence
Back in high school, I was shy.
And when I started university, nobody I knew was studying in the same faculty, meaning that I would be spending all day around strangers... not so fun for a shy nineteen-year-old.
But while I was shy, at the time I was also feeling a little lonely. My family and I had moved to Cape Town in early December, and classes started only started in February. I didn't know anyone my age in my new city for those 2 months, and by the time I was on campus, I really wanted to establish a new group of friends.
So I set myself a challenge. Every time I sat down next to someone I didn’t know – be it in lectures, the computer room, or on the student bus (I took this very seriously) – I would strike up a conversation with them.
I can't even tell you how nerve-wracking this was to the old, shy me! I’m laughing now because it’s so not the type of thing that makes me nervous anymore. (And also because one of my best friends is, in fact, a friend I made at a bus stop.)
But my point is not about strange new ways to make friends. It’s that that experience taught me something life-changing:
It showed me that often the best way to build confidence is simply to step into fear, and prove to yourself that you can do whatever you’re afraid of.
Over the course of those three years, I became much more confident meeting new people, and I formed lots of incredible friendships that I am deeply grateful for to this day.
Don't you just love the idea that we can disprove our own self-limiting fears by testing them out in the real world? Rather than listening to them, we can approach them completely differently.
We can choose to see fear as a question, rather than an instruction. We always think fear is trying to tell us something (like...“don’t do that!”) but perhaps it’s just curious, asking us for more information.
Perhaps it’s an invitation to prove it wrong.
A while ago (pre-Covid), fear questioned me again when a friend and I attended one of The Moth’s famous on-stage storytelling events. I was there to listen to the speakers, not to participate. But when the MC asked for more storytellers to enter, my friend and I dared each other to submit our names...
Names were put into a hat. I felt my heart hammering in my chest as I raced to organise my thoughts. I felt completely unprepared to get on stage! But under it all, there was a thrilling thought: what if I can actually do this?
In the end, I didn’t get selected, but just signing up was enough to get me thinking. I left with a reminder of the lesson I’d learned years ago: that the best way to boost confidence is exiting my comfort zone, answering fear's curious question, and proving myself wrong.
I'd love to hear from you, friend:
What have you done that you didn’t think you could? When have you stepped out of your comfort zone, and surprised yourself?
P.S. My friend was chosen to speak – and she won third place! Who knew this would happen when we met in someone’s kitchen all those years ago?