David Morin

How anxious people can become truly self-confident

Have you ever come across people who only seem confident on the surface? Like if their loudness, dominant manners and urge to take the center stage are more about compensating for insecurity?

Often, the reason for their overly confident manners deep down is a lack of confidence.

Then there are those whose confidence instead feels grounded and authentic. These people don’t need to show off. They can let others take the center stage, and when you talk to them, they don’t have to talk about how great they are. Still, they’re the ones people end up gravitating towards.

I have a friend, Nils, who started off as a rather self-conscious and socially anxious person (like most of us do). He managed to evolve through the “loud, compensating self-confidence” to finally arrive at the grounded, authentic confidence.

People who get to know him today are certain that he’s born with his confidence.

His journey is full of valuable lessons. Today, I want to share them with you.

During one period in his life, Nils tried pushing as far out of his comfort zone as he possibly could.

laying down in a busy streetLike laying down on a busy street

Speaking in front of a large crowd

Doing stand-up on the subway

Talking to girls he felt attracted to.

It’s worth noting that he didn’t pull off all of these things because he felt confident. He did it because he didn’t want to feel nervous.

Here’s what most people will never know about extreme out-of-your-comfort-zone stunts you see on Youtube: They aren’t very effective at building a permanent confidence.

Just after Nils had succeeded with a stunt, he obviously felt like he was on the top of the world. But after a few hours, the feeling had worn off. A few days after, he felt like he was back to square one.

He told me that during these years in his life, he didn’t feel secure in his confidence. It bothered him that he still had created this personality of being the one who could do anything but still felt nervous.

When you work hard towards eradicating nervousness, you might have some success. But then the following happens:

First, life throws you a situation where you WILL get nervous despite all your work to eradicate nervousness. As you’ve worked so hard to eradicate it, you feel like you’ve failed: “All this work to become truly confident and here I am still getting nervous”.

Obviously, you don’t want to end up in situations where you feel like a failure. So, your brain solves this by subconsciously avoiding situations that will make you feel nervous.

This is a truly ironic side effect of trying to live a confident life.

Nils made two huge realizations:

  • Acknowledging your weaknesses to yourself takes MORE strength than ignoring them
  • Acknowledging your weaknesses to others takes EVEN MORE strength than hiding them

So he decided to strive towards being open and acknowledge whatever he felt. He told me how people truly started to respect him when he stopped trying to hide his weaknesses. They respected him because they saw that he was authentic.

Because we are human, we are afraid at times. We can and should strive towards improving ourselves, but despite this, there will always be times in life when we are afraid. Superficial confidence is about trying to not come off as afraid. TRUE confidence is to be comfortable with being afraid.

In order for Nils to truly accept who he was in any given situation, he first had to acknowledge and accept whatever feelings or thoughts that situation provoked in him.

It makes sense when you think about it:

Because Nils accepts whatever feelings or thoughts any given situations provokes in him, he can truly accept who he becomes. That gives him a core confidence about himself that few people have. It’s the confidence of knowing that even if I become afraid, that’s OK. Even if I let others know that I’m afraid, that’s OK too.

When we stop being afraid of being afraid, core confidence starts replacing that fear.

I’m excited to hear your thoughts about this in the comments!

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Comments (3)

  1. Anonymous

    does make sense face your fears and do it anyway sinceley

  2. sven

    This one of the most important (and ironic) things that made me more confident.

    I read the advise to “fake it until you make it”. When I however tried to hide my nervousness or even pretended I was feeling just fine I got even more nervous which made it even harder to hide it. I used to do this all the time because I felt people would judge me if they knew I had no confidence. I also thought everyone else was always comfortable in social situations and it was just me who lacked something important.

    Interestingly the opposite happened when I accepted that I was afraid of doing something but that I was going to do it anyway. I was still anxious but it didn’t get worse and I didn’t feel like a fraud for trying to hide just how anxious I was.
    I eventually even started downright telling people just how nervous I was in certain situations. I’ve never had a bad reaction to that – even when I talked to girls I was attracted to. I actually only had positive reactions.

    I remember how I had trouble talking to a girl (who I ended up dating for almost two years) at a get together – we made awkward small talk and there was no bond between us. Then I just admitted that I was freaking out internally right now (which I absolutely was) because I thought she was incredibly attractive (which was also true ;)). For some reason that changed the whole atmosphere – she told me how sweet that was and a few minutes later I was totally relaxed and could be myself.

    • David Morin

      Thanks for sharing this fascinating story, Sven! Sounds like your approach to confidence is spot on, and glad that it helped you with that girl.