It takes practice to be confident socially. Some of us feel like we don't know enough to have conversations with others, or we feel unworthy compared to others. This increases our anxiety.
Often, we compare ourselves to others, sometimes falsely assuming others are better. We think other people are smarter, more confident, better off in all the ways we are not. But making assumptions is a cognitive distortion, and we need to challenge it when we notice it coming up. Remember, to compare is to despair.
Let's look at some ways to build our confidence in social settings and challenge our thinking.
First, make sure the people you spend time with are positive and supportive people. Sometimes, we outgrow friendships and that's okay. Sometimes we realize our friend always talks about herself, but never really asks about us. Or they don't offer words of encouragement or affirmation as one would expect from a good friend.
Think about where you could find people that share more of your values or interests. Look on meetup.com or join a club or attend workshops. When I looked at where my people might be, I decided the Buddhist community would be a supportive community.
We experience what's called mirror neurons when in the company of others. That means that the energy we give out, the body language and emotions we express, are all mirrored. They start to effect the room. That's why when we are around someone sad or depressed or negative, we may notice we feel down too. And, conversely, positive or happy or peaceful people spread that energy around. I suggest asking yourself how you feel when you leave someone's company. That can be a helpful clue as to who you may want to spend more or less time with. And think about your own energy. If you are feeling resistant or defended or even insecure, others may be sensing that too. Give yourself a pep talk before heading out.
Social facilitation is a very complex theory. The basic concept is that we generally improve our performance and skill
base in the presence of others. We try harder, we may focus better and, we end up better as a result. Once we start to feel some mastery over something, confidence builds. Think of examples like: working out in a gym makes us work out harder than if we were home alone. Being at Starbucks or the library to study makes us focus better than if alone. Toastmasters, an international organization designed to help people learn confidence in public speaking and leadership, works off this theory. They have an audience where you practice simple speeches. This makes you try harder; and, over time, you get better and more confident. The Israeli military even uses this theory in having female military train male counterparts because they found the men are more competitive and work harder in the presence of the opposite gender. Use this idea next time you want to improve a skill.
Stop Idealizing Others
Remember back to this saying: “to compare is to despair” and the theory of growth mindset from my previous post. Don’t forget that deciding to give up on yourself because others do it better, have more talent, are just lucky, etc. is an excuse not to try. Instead, look at who you admire or feel envious of, and look at what they might be doing to improve themselves. The most successful people typically have good habits they have built including discipline, effort, consistency and the willingness to take action. A life coach can help you build good habits, too.
Play a Role
Lastly, Act As If. Sometimes we have to take on a persona, or act like the person we admire or want to become. If you think about actors and performers, they are playing a role. People have stage names, they dress a certain way in that role and they show only certain appealing aspects of themselves. We can do that too until it becomes more internalized. Do you want to be more friendly, or more adventurous or smarter? Look at what the friendly people you know do. They probably smile a lot and ask people questions and remember details about others to follow up with. Someone who is smart probably reads a lot and listens to podcasts and the news. Or they attend classes or workshops. Try to take on some of those qualities until they start to feel more ingrained.
Nothing comes without effort, but with effort you can become your best self.
If you are interested in learning more about being your best self, I can help.