I still remember my first day as an intern at Siegfried, a wide-eyed 20-year-old with enough butterflies in my stomach I could probably levitate. It was a jam-packed day of handshaking and smiling, of sweaty palms and anxious phone checks.
But these were the in-office interactions, wholly more doable than my next task: lunch with my supervisor and another member of the team. As a picky eater, any meal in a professional setting sends me straight into panic mode. Free meals are, however, the most valued currency to any college student.
I scanned the menu, noting my preferred chicken fingers but desperately searching for something just slightly more exotic in a move to hide my picky preferences. But my instinct kicked in when I placed my order, defaulting to the tried and true chicken fingers.
“So you’re a picky eater?”
Cover blown, but I was far from doomed. That chicken finger meal was the start of my journey of growing into myself; of improving and owning my confidence to open up more opportunities.
It’s been almost three years since, and in that time I’ve traveled to the west coast to present at orientation, made connections with people far older than myself, tried and enjoyed foods that I’d expect myself to wince at, and now, I’m starting a video series to document myself trying new things with a growth mindset and wide smile.
The Confidence Series videos bring experts and novices together on one screen to try all the fulfilling activities life has to offer. With varying degrees of success, I’ve learned to knit scarves as well as cook a Chick-fil-A inspired sandwich in my kitchen, blazing new trails for myself and getting more and more excited to try new things.
Confidence is a key to being more respected, creating more opportunities, and ultimately finding more fulfillment for yourself. Lean into who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, and start assessing areas you can push yourself to naturally hone your confidence.
Manifest your unique ability
Each of us brings a unique and powerful intangible to whatever situation we are in. It’s what separates us as well as brings us together; no one can bring the perfect balance of a team. And that’s why, when you enter an unfamiliar scenario, you should trust the value you bring. It’s in our biological makeup to feel anxious about starting something new, but by believing in the value you offer, you can approach unfamiliarity with a healthier mix of fear and enthusiasm.
An easy way to do this is to focus on something that has a more predictable future value for you. Trying new foods and expanding my palate has shifted people’s eyes from my plate to, well, my eyes! Now my conversations are about my future goals and things I care most about, and not why I don’t eat pickled ginger.
The same goes for something like public speaking. In high school, a few short years ago for me, I was Hermione Granger, incessantly raising my hand to answer any question. Coming to college, and exiting the bubble of my childhood, stole that confidence away from me. Even today, I still feel my voice shaking when I pick up a microphone, but by asking my supervisor to have me present at orientation, I was able to confront my fear and start building my public speaking skills.
Confident people know that no one is perfect, including themselves. Instead, confidence means taking on a new challenge that might excite and scare you in equal parts, putting your own spin on it, and coming out the other side with a smile and things to do better the next time. After all, you are what makes you, you!
Control the voice in your head
We all have an internal dialog. You can see my own internal voice come out while I was at lunch that first day: What should I order, will they think I’m weird, oh no, they caught me, I’m picky!
Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier, explains it quite well: “But it was in this moment, lying in bed late at night, that I first realized that the voice in my head—the running commentary that had dominated my field of consciousness since I could remember—was kind of an asshole.”
The world has enough negative people to ruin your day, so you don’t need to fill that role yourself! Negative self-talk digs you into a trench that makes it twice as hard to go out on a limb and try something new.
Free yourself from internal second-guessing by starting small. You like the stationary bike, but you’re not a fan of that bossy spinning instructor, even though all your friends swear she’s great. Believe it! Try it! Envision your weekly routine with regular spinning classes and see how you feel. If the end goal excites you, the journey will certainly be worth it.
Confidence compounds like interest; growing exponentially over time through small actions reaps great rewards. The only one expecting you to be a pro tomorrow is yourself, so take a deep breath and enjoy the learning and growing.
Find a friend
Isn’t it crazy when these rich celebrities talk about how their lives have transformed, all thanks to listening and engaging with a new trainer, coach, or guru?
With the astounding majority of us not being blessed with extraordinary wealth, talks like these are bound to fall on deaf ears. If only I had an extra many thousands to pay my trainer’s retainer fee!
But thinking like that drives you away from the true purpose of these messages, hidden as that message may be. Connecting and engaging with someone you respect while you expose all your fragilities and come out stronger on the other side is an incredibly intimate and rewarding experience, but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of money you don’t have.
Find a friend, someone who is as interested in growing as you are, to be your sounding board and companion through this new process. Building confidence is ultimately for yourself, but by including another person, you bring in feedback to help you improve, as well as validation for your incremental success. Praise will never get old, and will always make you smile.
Start your journey towards a more confident you by leaning into what excites and scares you, eliminating negative self-talk, and finding a friend to laugh about your failures while singing the praises of your successes. The future holds a bolder, happier you.