Have you ever been in a social situation and found yourself thinking about what to say next? If so, you’re not alone. You also know how damn uncomfortable it feels. You’re trying to rack your brain to come up with something interesting to say, whilst simultaneously attempting to listen to what others are saying.
This is not ideal. When we’re in these moments it feels uncomfortable, we feel aphrenrsive and filled with a feeling more confident people wouldn’t face this problem. Naturally, we want to change this, however the majority of us tend to solve this problem through our analytical mind — which often makes things worse.
“What should I say next?”
“Should I share that, or is that oversharing?”
“Maybe I should talk about this instead”
Whenever we’re second-guessing ourselves, or having that internal dialogue it means we’re in our heads. And as Tony Robbinsin famously says: “If you’re in your head, you’re dead”. The majority of us recognize on some level, something is wrong and attempt to ease our discomfort in two ways:
Social confidence through ‘having’
The first and most mainstream approach to confidence through ‘having’ - this has been fuelled by social media in the last decade. This is where we convince ourselves that if we have more money, better looks, nicer clothes, a higher social status, a better group friends then we’ll feel more confident. Then we’ll be happier. Then we’ll be able to feel ‘more ourselves’. Only then we’ll be able to show up with more energy, more assertiveness and that will help us to be more confident.
When we subscribe to this strategy, we trick ourselves into thinking that we can only feel confident when we ‘have things’. You can only be good socially if you’re good looking. You can only be good socially with money and connections. You can only be good socially if you learn the right things to say.
The basis of this strategy is: status. ‘The more I have, the more confident I can be’. However, the problem with this is that even if you do temporarily feel a boost of confidence, it doesn’t last. Plus, its not true confidence because you’re giving your power away to external ‘things’ and if those ‘things’ you’ve collected are not available to you in another moment — you go right back to feeling anxious and wondering what to say next. This is how a social anxiety is born.
Social confidence through ‘doing’
The second strategy doesn’t revolve around what you have, but what you do. The premise of this is: the more action that I take, or prove that I take, the more confident I can be. This could look like leading the conversation, introducing new topics to speak about as this can make us feel more in control and can temporarily spike our self-confidence. Yet in the back of our minds we may be worrying about keeping the momentum going. We’re afraid of the silence…
”What if we run out of things to say”
”Eugh, that would be awkward”
“Okay, ask them about this next…”
Social confidence through ‘doing’ can also look like getting overly involved in other peoples personal problems and trying to find ways to be helpful, by either giving advice or taking action to prove (subconsciously) that you’re useful.
This strategy is much more subtle than gaining confidence through having, but ultimately it can come off a little ‘try hard’ and overdoing in social situations can completely drain your energy.
Social confidence through ‘being’
The last strategy for building confidence is rare and is never the go-to because it feels the most risky. This strategy can only be attained through ‘being’. Fundamentally, letting go is the foundation of socialising. Letting go of the need to think of something interesting to say, letting go of how we think others might perceive us, letting go of trying to control the conversation.
Each of us have an environment in which we already thrive in, socially. Be it with family, with a specific group of friends, or with the PlayStation headset on, hanging out with mates online. Confidence is already within us — the important part is when things get uncomfortable not to default to increasing our self-confidence through external strategies (having or doing).
Whenever we are trying to build ourself-confidence through either having or doing, it fluctuates constantly because it depends on what is going on around us. When we feel confident because we have this, or confident because we’re doing that — our emotional state is not controlled by us, but by external forces. Social confidence through ‘being’ is being confident, just because. You have nothing to prove to anyone, you’re at ease with who you are.
When we can drop into being, being present, being ourselves, being open — we become relaxed. We’re not looking for approval from anyone, because we’ve already given it to ourselves. The only thing confidence should depend on, is you. Have you given permission to yourself to be confident as you are?
Ultimately, the more effort you’re putting into your social interactions it is an indication that you’re trying to build confidence from either having, or doing. The more effortless and authentic youcan become, the more confident you’ll feel around others. Get out your head and stop over analysing your conversations! Learn to sink into yourself rather than trying to portray yourself in a certain light and you’ll gain deeper levels of confidence and become a true social master.