Something I hear quite often, especially as we are coming out of lockdown, is people being worried about what other people think and having that stopping them do things. This is absolutely understandable, perhaps it’s fear of embarrassment or some kind of social anxiety, but as understandable as it is, to me it as an absolute tragedy that anyone would let other peoples’ opinions in any way restrict you from becoming the person that you want to be.
It sounds cheesy but I think true enlightenment comes from fully understanding yourself as a person and actually living as closely to that as possible. My fiancé and I have really in depth conversations quite often, a few times the subject has come up of how little I actually let other peoples’ opinions influence my decision making and where that comes from, because believe me, I wasn't always confident, far from it.
Perhaps it’s because being a scruffy little metal head kid getting picked on and ridiculed, I had a baptism of fire and flat out stopped caring what people think of me because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have made it.
Perhaps it comes from being so close to the edge of not being here any longer that you strip back what’s not important and embrace that which makes you feel good, authentically yourself.
Perhaps it was striving so hard for someone’s approval for so long and not getting it that you have to stop defining your life by that or else you would never succeed.
Perhaps it comes from having been 6ft tall since I was 13 or so, so physical reprisal wasn’t really a threat.
I think that it’s a mixture of all of these things with a healthy dose of simple confidence. Those first three cannot be manufactured, it’s just the shittier parts of life experience that now benefit me, however I truly believe that one can manufacture confidence, and it’s actually very simple.
Put yourself out there, just once. Write a poem or sing a song and let people see it. Go to the gym. Wear that item of clothing in public, whatever it may be. Do it once and look back on the fact that you did it. When you look back on it remember that the ONLY measure of success isn’t how well the thing is received, it isn’t whether or not someone made a judgemental comment, the only measure of success should be that you did it. That’s it.
Then do it again. And one more time, then maybe something else. The only sure fire way I’ve ever known how to build confidence is to do things that you’re not sure if you can actually succeed at but do them anyway. Succeed or fail, it doesn’t matter.
Someone might look at you, someone might give you a funny look, they might even say something snarky and judgemental. And here is the very important bit……so what? Who cares? Those words only have the power that we give them.
I respect and hold dear the opinions of people close to me if it’s based on how my actions are impacting others. If I’m saying something that I didn’t realise was inappropriate or inflammatory. If my actions are in any way inconsiderate or may get me, or worse still the people close to me, in trouble or danger then I will of course listen. After that, people’s opinions on how I express myself or live my life do not matter to me. At all. Even the people I love the most. If I put myself out there and a friend started being sarky or actually mean about it then I have to question whether that person is actually a friend at all. If it happens more and more then I’ll move away from them, no one person’s friendship is important enough to me for me to accept being made to feel like crap for.
Now, that’s all well and good, but here is the really cool bit. If you do this more and more and peoples’ opinions hold less and less weight, negative opinions will actually start fuelling you. Honestly. There is nothing more motivating to me than having people think I’m not able to do something. I call it the “Is that right, is it?” reflex. The following is a shortlist of some of the things I’ve done that directly drew ridicule, criticism or doubt:
Being a 300lb man that constantly tries to do physical things that he really can’t do and openly say “I just like testing myself”
I am happy to tell people that I don’t necessarily agree with them even though they might give me shit for it. This has happened more and more during the pandemic
I tried stand up comedy…….4 times
I write poetry
I make emotional, heart felt speeches and cry, all the time
I take pictures and publish pictures of my food unironically because I like it
I wear suspender braces with my jeans at times because I like that "Southern Gent" vibe
I take selfies with my girl
I call my fiancé "my girl"
I’d love to try acting at some point in my lifetime
I wear long socks to the gym to deadlift in because I think it looks cool to me and that motivates me
I cry at films
I get totally lost in music at public gigs. One of the best feelings for me in life is closing my eyes, tilting my head back and screaming into the air at a gig. I’ll happily close my eyes and just vibe out
I am a middle aged, middle class white man who uses terms like “vibe out”
I’ll wear a dress out in public with absolutely no intention of being “outrageous”, just because I like it
At times I am POWERFULLY un-cool and I don’t care
I have pet names for my fiancé and she has pet names for me. I use mine for her in public, she’s yet to stoop this low
I really explore the more “free spirited” side of myself and talk about it publicly
I’m in the early stages of writing a book
I tell my male friends I love them
I will converse with anyone like I’ve known them forever. It can come off like I’m clingy with people, but if they think this then this is their burden, I just genuinely enjoy connecting with people
I keep mementos of things I’m proud of and often express that in public. I climbed a mountain recently that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Best believe I got a commemorative Velcro patch that goes on my rucksack!
And potentially most of all, I write blogs like this so all of my thoughts are out there like I am some authority on healthy lives or that I have the answers
So, as an exercise, as long as it isn’t illegal and doesn’t hurt anyone, put yourself out there. Express yourself somehow in a way that will mean people see it. Do it just once and see how it goes, then do it again, and maybe again and again.
Doing things that you think you can do and failing is where development comes from
Doing things that you don’t think you can do and failing is where confidence comes from
Doing things that you don’t think you can do and succeeding is where glory comes from
Doing things you think you can do and succeeding is pure confirmation and experience
Put yourself out there, the benefits are there for the taking.