How to Be Confident (When You're Not)

7:30 AM

This in response to how to be a popular girl:

So, on a slightly different note, do you have any *real* tips for girls who aren't very good in social settings? I mean, from a biblical stand-point (not trying to just be "popular"). I know you're friendly and "sociable." I'm naturally very closed-in and quiet. I'm scared to talk in big groups.

Any little tips just to boost the GOOD kind of confidence (God-honoring), would be HUGELY appreciated, as this is something I struggle with all the time.

Thank you
Any social fear can be boiled into two categories: self-consciousness and shyness. One is a sin, the other an excuse. Both are extremely painful, socially crippling and absolutely horrendous on the self-esteem levels. And unfortunately, bad things come in pairs.

You know the awkward pre-teen birthday scene: the birthday girl turns the shade of her pink party dress while the guests count the cracks in their fingernails and giggle every five seconds on the dot. Nothing is said without a breathy half-laugh, a stretchy smile or a quick eye-dart toward the amazing properties of carpeting. It's awkward. Stiflingly awkward. When Mama comes in, the ice melts a bit, so to speak, enough to propel the paralyzed birthday girl to open up a present or two, but when she leaves, the guests flounder while the birthday girl indulges in total self-consciousness.

I hate those birthday parties. Anybody with me on that? I'd rather watch a train wreck than watch shy pre-teens interact...or, as it were, not.

It's a private belief of mine that the things we hate in others are the faults closest to our own hearts. And in this case, it's true: I'm shy. Big time. I didn't start answering the phone until last year, for heaven's sake - and you certainly couldn't have got me to call anyone on that instrument of torture. I watched group events move slowly; if someone cared enough to ask, I'd join. Otherwise I was perfectly content to watch the grass grow. "No, seriously, nice people, leave me alone." Less pain, more interest, I always say.

People don't usually understand this about me - people who know me, I mean. How could a jump-up-and-down, mile-a-minute talker confess to shyness? Liar. And people who don't know me? Well, you see, there are only two categories of people who have opinions of me: those who do and those who don't. Those who do are the ones who know me. Those who don't are the ones who haven't even noticed I'm under their nose. Besides being very short, I can also be incredibly quiet and inconsequential (don't spoil my point with sarcasm, dear Bethany): "Bailey? Who's Bailey?"

Up until the last six months or so, that is. Perhaps I am not so very shy anymore, but I don't see myself as a very sociable person nor a very confident one all the time. I'm vocally shy, if you can believe it.

If there's a party to be avoided, I'll avoid it. Less pain, more interest. And did I mention I despise making friends? I mean, I don't, of course, but I do all the same. Know what I mean? One can only talk nonstop for so long. And holding staring contests with the Asian beetle on the concrete while my "new friend" does the same isn't exactly what I'd call sociable.

All that to say, do I ever relate to shyness!

I think there are two steps to overcoming shyness: focusing on yourself and not focusing on yourself.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the majority of girls seem quite infatuated with how they look, as if that has any bearing on their friendliness. Girls who major in looks belong in the popular group who catcall to boys and pick on girls in the halls. Let's steer clear of that route totally.

But think about it: When you're going to the park to meet a group of friends, what's your instant womanly instinct? The mirror! Gotta find one! *gasp* Okay, find a brush, find a brush. Oh, ew, now it's frizzy. Five minutes to go...grab the lip gloss, the necklace, spray on the mango smell. NO. I look horrible.

If you're self-conscious enough to put all your eggs in the basket of Looks, I guarantee you people will pass over all your efforts. Besides, zits inevitably pop up on the day you need to look pretty the most. Trust me. Don't emphasize your exterior. Chances are, you aren't very good at make-up, color coordination and shoe styles in the first place - nobody can feel confident running around with a fake face. If someone would have told nine-year-old me that white sparkly stuff scraped on my lips wasn't the be-all end-all to gaining friends, I would have spared my seventeen-year-old self a lot of embarrassment.

The thing is, shy girls (*raises hand*) tend to focus so much on the outside of everyone else too. All we see are waves of gorgeous girls - or at least girls with outward features we don't have: earrings, a neat bun, a dazzling smile. Letting go of "looking good" feels like missing out on the Friend Connection. I know. But when you start deemphasizing your outward appearance, you'll start deemphasizing others' outward appearances. That's when imaginary bonds fall to pieces and people become people, not insurmountable barriers. You might even end up best pals with that stunning blonde - simply because you realized that her love of literature or horses or Jesus outweighs her shade of lipstick and brand of jeans.

So what's left besides the cell shell? You. The real you.

I think so much of shyness stems from self-consciousness; they compliment each other beautifully. To be honest, I don't think I'm the greatest sometime. I'll say something dumb. I'll do something dumb. Worst of all, sometimes I'm convinced I'm just dumb, period.

I don't buy into the whole self-esteem bid, but I do know that we can easily trick ourselves into false, self-effacing "humility," thus spoiling our chances of developing hardcore humility. Humility is seeing ourselves as we are: created in the image of God, no better than anyone else and not necessarily any worse.

This self-consciousness is a type of pride--desperately desiring to make ourselves look good. This self-consciousness can be a type of rebellion: "No, God. I'm not going to speak up. I'm shy. No, God. I'm not going to befriend that lonely girl. What if I look dumb?"

Here I pause to point something out. This all seems abstract. There's not a one-two-bam route to confidence (despite wikiHow's promises to the contrary). Why? Because most of the roadblocks to confidence are mental, mere paper giants we invent to keep us locked up and ineffective. No amount of mascara, no new t-shirts, no fake smile can replace genuine confidence, cultivated from a heart on-fire to love others. No lack of mascara, old t-shirts and braces-infested grin can stop genuine confidence from happening. It's not so much what you do, what you wear, but who you are...and who you choose to be.

You know, I do not think one is born "shy" or "outgoing." To a certain extent, of course, a person may be quieter or louder--I get that (being on the loudish side myself). Yet I know quiet people who aren't in the least shy, or outgoing.

Shyness is a choice.

Once, I had a chance to run for office in a student election sort of thing at a government camp. Anyone could. All she had to do was say so. Me--well, I wasn't that amazing at politics, not like the rest of the young people. Me--eh, I wasn't all the best public speaker. Me--let's just say that even though I wanted to and knew that I could, I wasn't willing to risk having fun. I chose silence. I lost the thrill of making campaign signs, drafting speeches and gathering together a crew of new friends.

I chose to miss out. To be shy. To be stuck in my boring comfort zone, watching the world pass by while I struggled with regret and loneliness.

What cured my shyness? I chose the opposite. I chose friendliness. I chose to give a hug, speak a word and laugh at myself.

Remember those horrid silences when the Sunday school teachers asks for a volunteer to pray...and talking with the One who loves you most suddenly becomes the most terrifying thing in the world? I was the girl who prolonged the silence. Until the day I just spoke up. I raised my hand. No special classes, pills or magic tricks about it. I prayed, aloud, a knee-knocking phobia conquered. All because I just didn't not do it.

Another thing to keep in mind? Most girls--even the talkative ones--are self-conscious. Most girls--even the confident ones--appreciate a gesture of friendship. (More on that next week.) You're not alone. So unite!

Questions? Comments? Ready, set, go! All shy people to the comment box, please. Don't be shy, now. :)

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11 impressions

  1. Great post! I can definitely relate. I struggle with both self-consciousness and shyness. In my case, my shyness is definitely a result of the self-consciousness.

    I'm naturally a quiet introvert. I don't mind being alone, and I've never been one of those people who has to have a friend or someone with them all the time.

    But I am always so self-conscious. I'm a people pleaser (trying to get over that!). I'm always insecure about the way I look and the dorky things I tend to say. I compare myself to the pretty, confident, have-it-all-together girls, though I know deep down that they likely struggle with the same insecurities I do.

    {I was required to take a public speaking class to graduate from college, and honestly, it did not help me. If anything, I was more critical of myself- you are when you realize you're going to be standing up in a classroom talking for 15 minutes while 35 other people stare at you. Is my hair frizzy? Is that zit too noticable? How can I prevent myself from talking too fast, like I always do when I get nervous?}

    I hate being embarrassed. But that mostly comes down to a pride thing, right? Wow, I've really got some issues. :) But I'm working on it and hoping that God will help me through.

    One of the worst things I can imagine is letting this (shyness and self-consciousness) make me miss out on things in life. I don't want to look back on my life when I'm older and realize that my cautiousness and fear of getting out of my comfort zone held me back from experiencing some amazing things.

    Wow. Long, personal comment. :) I might not be a big talker, but I sure do know how to write a book-sized comment.


  2. Thanks for you tips, Bailey. I used to be more shy than I am now, and I just decided not to care about what others think. I also started listening to God more. I've got to admit - I'm certainly not the shy one anymore! Being shy can be a sin, or just an excuse not to get to know people.

  3. I'm afraid I do struggle with being both shy and self-conscious. (That's the main reason I don't comment very much, even on blogs I read. I can write to the world at large with fluency, but, try to find the words to talk to one person, and my sentences start to look like a third grader's. I think partially because I'm afraid of offending someone by acting too buddy-buddy when I just met them for the first time on the Internet.)

    Yes, I realize that self-consciousness is a sin and it's one I'm having to work on. I've been in youth group at my church for the past couple years and I am making friends and learning how to talk to people for the first time in my life. It's unnerving but I am learning.

    It's nice to know there are other people out there who can feel my pain.

  4. You have great thoughts about self-consciousness! 'Tis true that so often we think we're so much "worse" than others when, really, they're thinking the same thing, and none of it matters anyway! But on the topic of getting over shyness, something simple that I've found helpful (having been so extremely shy that I literally wouldn't speak a word to people I didn't know) is asking God to give me His heart for others. It's amazing how quickly shyness can disappear when you really do love other people (at least somewhat) like He does!

  5. *shyly raises hand* Yep, I am/was a shy girl too. ;)

    Pride... fear... yes, I agree that these sinful thought patterns inhibit us - yet, the antidote is so simple. Love. It does not boast, is not arrogant or rude, does not take offense; it is not proud or self-seeking.

    Yes, I have struggled with social phobia and still do to a certain extent, and you're right, Bailey, it is a choice. But a choice that so essentially begins with love. I'm a quieter person by nature, but even if there are a few awkward moments of silence, I'm learning that there are unique opportunities to encourage, to listen, to make others feel like they matter. Surrender of selfish fears requires love lived out. Perfect love casts out all fear.

  6. Yep, this is definitely me! I'm the one that is perfectly content to watch people that I don't know, have fun. I trip over my words when someone I don't know talks to me. I have trouble calling people and having to ask someone for something is equal to being stretched on the rack. God, though, is not leaving me in this. I do still have trouble if I'm in a group of people I don't know, but He is giving me the strength to reach out to others when me and my friends are the people they don't know. He, is so good, and though I know that I can't conquer my social fears, He reminds me that He can and will. It is wonderful to lean on His strength instead of my own.

  7. Oh, Kristin...honestly, I never could have guessed you were one of the shier types. :D But I so relate to your fear of public speaking. Talking in front of a thousand people? Easy peasy. Standing in front of a class - a class full of people I know? I WILL up and panic attack.


    So you're not alone. You are definitely not alone. *HUGS*

    Melody, you nailed one of the other issues I have with shyness...that fear of offending people by commenting on their blogs. :P I hope you feel total confidence in "talking" to me one-on-one. There's no cool factor on my blog. I mean, y'all are pretty cool. In the awesome cool way, not the snotty one. ;o)

  8. I think you definitely hit the nail on the head. So often, I find myself choosing not to get involved, not to put myself out on the line simply to avoid drawing any form of attention by myself, and worse....because I don't care. I'm quite happy with no new friends, with not being seen as friendly or nice. Which is NOT what our Saviour wants of us. We are to exemplify His love for others and shyness and self-consciousness does exactly the opposite. Thanks for the great post. :)

  9. I do believe in two basic personality types: Introverted and Extroverted. While the extrovert thrives on being with people and having lots of friends, the introvert gains strength from being alone, and desires depth over breadth.
    BUT, introverted people do not have to be shy. Just because you enjoy being alone, more than your extrovert sister does :), that is not an excuse to slink away from gatherings, ignore new people, and generally act unfriendly.

    You know something I discovered once? If you find yourself and another equally shy person standing there staring at the floor, just say something like "Well, this is awkward." You'll both realize you are comrades in shyness; in this together. :)

  10. This is so true, Bailey--the self-consciousness thing. Think back to the Garden of Eden when Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit. They realized they were naked. In other words, they were...self-conscious. Their complete nakedness and vulnerability hadn't bothered them one iota before sin entered the world.

    And then...then what did they do?

    They hid.

  11. This has definitely reinforced my latest convictions about shyness.
    Thank you so much for writing this post. I am very grateful.



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