What is self-confidence?
In 1890, the philosopher William James in his Principles of Psychology wrote, “Believe what is in the line of your needs, for only by such belief is the need fulled … Have faith that you can successfully make it, and your feet are nerved to its accomplishment,” expressing how self-confidence could be a virtue.
For me, confidence is about being:
- Being comfortable in your skin
- Being aware of your abilities and leveraging them to your advantage
- Knowing that you rock (or even, that you are the Rock)
- Knowing you can do anything you set your mind to.
There was a time when this confidence was non-existent to me.
It was like an emotion I felt – at the time – I could never experience. If your growing up and glowing up experience is similar to mine, the story begins at school. The environment at school did not help build up my confidence. In short, kids are mean.
I recall being pointed at in the playground because I resembled Tracey Beaker with her big, puffy, curly hair. I was made fun of for having darker skin compared to everyone else, for having a beauty spot on my face when I was, quote, “not even beautiful”.
It wasn’t just my appearance but my brain and my abilities that was picked on constantly. Do you remember when you had to read a book in front of the rest of class? I dreaded it when my teacher would ask me to read out a paragraph. I’d start hearing the giggles of some of the other kids because I’d read extremely slowly and stutter between words. At the end of one of my readings, I remember a boy coming up to me and asking me very slowly if I knew how to read and if my parents had taught me how to do so.
I wasn’t the greatest at Science (this was before I discovered my love for helping people and learning about how things worked.) Back then, I scored low grades because I found school a place of hell where I was called the “ugly, dumb, Asian” instead of a place of learning where I could apply the knowledge and be someone doing great things in the future.
I recall getting one of the lowest grades in my Physics class. I actively tried to hide it and not tell anyone. Of course, someone asked me – possibly knowing full well I probably didn’t do great. They asked loud enough at the right time: when everybody stopped talking. I don’t think I said it out loud, instead, they put their nose right on my paper and started telling the person next to them whilst looking back and forth at my paper smirking. Unsurprisingly, it made me feel awful. This memory sticks out to me the most because I remember tearing up and trying so hard not to cry.
I lacked so much self-confidence, cared so much about what other people thought of me and most significantly, believed that everything they had said from how my face looks weird to how I didn’t have any talents, a future and would “probably drop out” were true.
Day in day out I would return home, stare at myself in the mirror and hate everything I was seeing in my reflection. I wanted to be thinner and have bright blue eyes like the models I would see on magazines, I wanted to be smarter but the cool-type of smart – not coding, I was bullied for that, I wanted to look like and BE like x, y, z.
I just didn’t want to be me.
Over the next few years, I agreed with everyone who made fun of me so I dyed my hair blonde, I stayed out of the sun to avoid getting darker, I got my hair chemically straightened so nobody would call me out for having curls, I stopped openly talking about a sparkly website I built. I tried to blend in as much as I could until I blended so much into the crowd that I practically wasn’t even there.
Now don’t get me wrong, confidence isn’t about putting yourself in the spotlight all the time. You can be confident in yourself without even expressing it but I didn’t have any of those – confidence from within let alone enough to show it out to the world. Because I feared, if I took a step out, I would be ridiculed like I had been in the past.
I’m not sure exactly when I started building up my confidence.
It might’ve been when I joined the theatre group (I had wanted to be an actress so I could meet Zac Efron) where I could be anyone during a period of time from history or even the future. Do you know what I found? Acting took skills and talent from ME. Through theatre, I found I was pretty good at being overly dramatic, creative and even funny at times. I wrote scripts for my theatre group and performed them during shows in my school and other schools! My confidence in my abilities started to grow.
It might’ve been when I first discovered Kpop. This may seem silly to some of you, but discovering Kpop was such a game changer. Up to this point, I was only shown white, successful pop stars on TV growing up in the UK. I don’t recall ever seeing someone Asian to relate to in any way, but then Kpop made me realise that there are very successful Asians (especially females!) out there creating AMAZING things and putting themselves out there. I could be like them – ok, maybe not a Korean pop star – but the realisation that I could put myself out there, regardless of what I look like or where I’m from hit me hard.
It might’ve been when I studied my arse off for an exam then walked out Results Day, grinning with the highest grades I’ve ever achieved that boosted my belief and confidence that I wasn’t the dumbest one in the room.
It might’ve been when I signed up for Computing class and fought the looks and judgement from the rest of the class or when I found support groups like the blogging and coding community.
It might’ve been when my heart was broken with no explanation. Perhaps on the day I finally got up from bed and decided to tell myself that I am beautiful and am deserving of love without doubts.
It was probably multiple different things but I know that fundamentally, it started with a gradual mind shift away from constantly wanting to change to full acceptance of my differences and absolutely loving them.
Rewiring your brain to think this way isn’t easy and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. I wish I could give you a step-by-step guide on how to be a more confident but everyone is (and situations are) different.
One thing I do know is it starts in the mind. It starts with awareness. It starts with the courage to face things that scare you like bullies and not let their words or opinions affect you because YOU know yourself more than anyone else does.
The impact of self-confidence is incredible.
You shine. You feel it and people see it.
Now I proudly tell people where I’m from, I let my natural features shine, I fight any imposter syndrome or self-doubt that washes up my way, I speak up (literally on stage but also to speak my mind, I am no longer ashamed or afraid), I never let anyone undermine who I am, what I can do, judge if I’m x enough and most importantly, I want to become no one but my better self.
Obviously, I’m not perfect.
Most recently, rejections have taken a blow at my confidence.
I questioned EVERYTHING that further took a punch at my self-confidence.
I started focusing on the things that I was bad at,
wondered what I was even good at,
compared myself to people my age out there achieving great things.
Am I good eno– I stopped, I knew that was a dangerous path to go down on so I shifted gears; just in time.
I remembered the challenges in the past and how I overcame them, I remembered my achievements in JUST THE LAST MONTH, I thought of those who believed in me instead of reminding myself of the words of those that didn’t.
I began to believe too. And that belief in my abilities, in my worth, in ME.