Earlier this month, I had an interesting conversation with a few secondary school students regarding self-confidence. They all had different perceptions on this subject.
Some felt that self-confidence meant being bossy, while others believed that only certain personalities can have confidence. Some even decided that they did not have this attribute.
I was surprised by their reflections and wondered why they were unable to see in themselves, what I saw in them.
These students are motivated, smart, kind and above all, inspiring. When I mentioned these characteristics to them, they did not seem to accept it or believe in it. As the conversation continued, I began seeing a clearer picture and reflected on my own perception of self-confidence as I was growing up.
Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines self-confidence as "confidence in oneself and in one's powers and abilities".
However, in some communities, the definition is thought to be similar to arrogance and ego. This certainly discourages members of the community from building this skill and perceiving self-confidence as a strength.
This unfortunate definition is even more intensified if this characteristic is displayed by a woman. So, most young girls are trained and expected to be docile and passive. I was one of them.
SINGING A DIFFERENT TUNE
As a young girl, I was very tomboyish, loud and demanding (in a sweet way, of course). But I was often told to speak softly and not be demanding in any way.
Though it was advice that came from a caring and loving place, it taught me to not only be quieter and gentler, but also more passive. These characteristics certainly affected my confidence.
I was not taught how to be confident in myself and to speak up when I needed to; neither did I understand the difference between arrogance and self-confidence.
Eventually, I realised that it was easy for people to take advantage of my personality in different ways, and this was apparent in my family life, friendships, at college and at work.
Don't get me wrong, I am happy with the person I am today, but I certainly wished that I could have learnt the importance of being confident in myself.
Now I know that part of being self-confident is having the skills to speak up and take charge of my own life because certainly, no one else can or will do that for me.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
It took a lot of reflecting and motivation to build up my self-confidence, and honestly, it is still in the process.
So, the question here is how to take charge of my life differently and start building self-confidence? It can be difficult to do when people around you already see you as a passive person or a "yes man" or "yes woman".
This can be an extremely frustrating situation for a person trying to change the circumstances of his (or her) life.
However, I have come to realise that this may be my own fault, because I have not taken charge of making any changes. I was overly concerned about wanting to be liked or not offending other people.
I would tell myself it was not a big deal and that it was not worth having a conflict over that particular issue.
Ultimately, the question is: What does this mean for my self-confidence?
RESOLVING THE ISSUE
So how do I begin to take charge and start making some changes? How do I build my confidence but at the same time, remain the person I am?
The answer is to realise why and what it is about you that allows people to take you for granted.
Take accountability for your behaviour, such as passivity and low self-esteem. It is often easy to blame parents and even the community because you feel they should have guided you better.
But in truth, we fail to see that they are teaching us what they know and believe to be good traits. On our part, we have to review our "passive" behaviour and be motivated to make the necessary changes.
TAKING THE BULL BY THE HORNS
The next step is to be driven to change these aspects of yourself and gradually build your self-confidence. Of course, it is easier said than done.
However, when we have taken the time to reflect and take responsibility for our own behaviour, we will gradually begin to notice little opportunities that allow us to build self-confidence.
For me, it started with the feeling of discomfort or frustration when someone would take advantage of my passivity.
I could feel myself wanting to say "something" so that my opinion would be heard. This was a small step towards building self-confidence and speaking out loud.
It was certainly more nerve-racking in some situations than others, but I also felt proud for being able to express my thoughts.
Of course, it would not be smooth sailing in all situations, but the end result is the huge possibility of feeling confident about your abilities and being courageous enough to stand up for yourself in a variety of situations, big or small.
These are the little things that I have done to start building my self-confidence and I know that it can be achieved only if I am motivated to take charge and make positive changes in my life.
What I have learnt during this process is that I need to feel comfortable with myself and in any environment. I want to be heard and not to be taken for granted.
I am still a rather quiet and passive person, but I do not view it as a negative characteristic.
What is different is that I have added another strength: self-confidence.