Here’s a wacky bit of classic Simpsons humour:
Ah, the hilarity. The idea that you could instil confidence in someone just by telling them to be confident and calling them stupid – such risible malarkey! In real life, everyone knows you give someone confidence by… that is to say… nope, it’s gone – help me out here, Salon.com:
Much of the PUA [Pickup Artist] canon focuses on feigning confidence — by taking up space and seeming unavailable. It’s true, confidence is wildly attractive — but instead of attempting to trick a woman into thinking that you’re a secure human being with a lot going for you, be one. This way everyone wins: You become happier with yourself and can show it off without being a false-advertiser. (And that’s one of the main problems I have with pickup artistry: Too often it involves trying to deceive women about who you really are. There’s no respect in that sort of sleight of hand.) This route may not be as fast as learning to lean against a bar like you own the place, but it will last much longer.
Oh, so basically, “get confident, stupid!” Seriously, “be one” – that’s the sum total of her advice on becoming a more confident person.
It is possible for fake confidence to turn into the real thing
This post is a bit of a throwback to the Nice Guy one – one of the few consistent bits of advice I was given at the time was that I needed to be more confident, and it certainly seemed to be the case that the women around me were attracted to more confident personality types. The thing is, if I knew what it meant to be confident, I already would be. Just telling someone to be more confident is useless unless you can tell them how that might be done*.
And it seems like the only people offering real advice on how to be more confident are these PUA arseholes, who do it in the context of “here’s how to get bitches to fuck you.” I’ll admit, I’ve not spent a lot of time looking into their techniques, because I’m married and also not a complete prick, but from what I can gather, it’s a “fake it ’til you make it” kind of plan – exhibit confident behaviour (“lean against a bar like you own the place”) and real confidence will eventually follow – success with women leads to confidence around woman, not the other way around. To be honest, strip away the misogyny, and this is about the best advice I could think of, and is certainly more substantial than the likes of that Salon quote.
It is possible for fake confidence to turn into the real thing – I’ve seen this happen in people I know – but it’s hard at the start. To begin with, you’re having to fight against the vicious cycle I’ve mentioned before, where a lack of confidence leads to rejection, which lowers your confidence, which makes rejection even more likely, etc. etc. Then there’s the fact that even faking confidence is hard when you don’t really know what you’re doing. It’s very easy to slip from “confident” into “annoying” or, even worse, “creepy” – I’ve seen this happen, too. And of course it can feel deceptive and dishonest, all of which is why I never bothered to try.
I’d certainly say that I’m a more confident person now than I was fifteen years ago, though – how did that come about? Fifteen years of experience for one thing – I’ve learned to have confidence in my abilities simply by seeing myself succeed at things. There’s a very specific “oh shit, I’m in over my head” feeling that I’ve come to recognise – I felt it when I started university, when I started my MA, when I started a full-time job, and each time it’s turned out to be bullshit – I wasn’t out of my depth and I ended up doing perfectly well. So I learned to ignore that feeling, and I don’t actually recall the last time it showed up.
That’s confidence in general – in the romantic arena, I don’t know if I ever really did get much more confident. Certainly, I’m more confident of my physical appearance, now that a couple of decades of weathering has put a little colour in my pallid complexion, and a slowing metabolism mixed with a little exercise has put some substance on my ectomorphic frame. If confidence did come, I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen until after I was in a relationship.
At the end of the day, all I’d have to offer to a hypothetical advice-seeker on the subject of confidence is just “be honest with yourself for, ooh ten or fifteen years, and it’ll eventually arrive. A bit. Probably.” Can anyone seriously do any better than that?
*Much as I dislike the current fashion of analysing all of human experience through the prism of privilege, “confidence privilege” is a good description of the phenomenon where those who have it don’t seem to recognise that there’s even an issue for those who don’t. About the only thing the non-confident have to console themselves with is the sour grapes offered by the Dunning-Kruger effect – those naturally confident people are just too stupid to know their limitations! Look at them, off being successful and happy – the morons…