I have always been called confident throughout my life. I was always the one to ring up the takeaway when we were 14 and order for my friends and I, or the one to ask for directions when we were lost on D of E; I wasn’t afraid to question the teacher when the whole class and I couldn’t understand, and I ended up doing the reading in assembly. I began to strive off communication and made and maintained friends through just talking to people I only-kind-of-knew-of. I got into arguments for being outspoken and I was “the one who is full of opinion” (Parents evening, Allan Williams 2010). I really was unafraid to walk out on stage and speak a paragraph I had memorised or firmly shake a stranger’s hand and talk for half an hour or tell them about my day.
But I think over the last three years that total fearlessness has been dulled down a bit. I’m still pretty confident, don’t get me wrong, and I still most certainly get into arguments for being outspoken. I’m definitely the one who rings for a curry with the girls still and I’m forever asking for directions. But I think as I’ve become a little bit older, and just a little bit wiser, I’ve also become a little bit more of a realist. I know what there is to lose if you put your foot in it. And I’m most certainly not fearless of it.
I’m scared. I’m scared to get it wrong, and I’m scared to say something that I haven’t thought through for the fear of that all too familiar sinking feeling at the pit of my stomach.
But the stupid thing here is that it’s never wrong. My opinion is exactly that, an opinion. And there really is nothing worse than not having an opinion. So why am I shying away? Why do I suddenly feel this sense of “What do I say ??!!!!????!!” going through my head. It’s totally new, before now I had never really experienced it, and it’s really bloody weird.
So here’s a few tips from the former, slightly more fearless me, to myself now, and to you, if you have also felt the same. (and if you have for your entire life god I admire you because this is not easy no no no)
- Nobody cares.
Providing you’re not a total weirdo, who does genuinely weird things (if you are sorry I can’t help you) in reality, no one gives a monkey’s.
No one is looking at you when you’re waiting for the train if you’re not looking at your phone.
No one can sense that awkward feeling of what to do with your arms when you’re talking to them if you’re not holding something.
No one is thinking about that slightly overly keen ‘Heeeelllooo’ that squeaked out of your mouth with a tone you are totally unfamiliar with.
And honestly no one is thinking back to that one time two years ago when you said something a bit weird and didn’t look him in the eye properly even though he’s really important.. no one apart from you. Nobody cares, we are all far too self-absorbed to care even just a little bit. When was the last time you thought about the tone in which someone said hi to you three weeks ago? Exactly.
- Everyone’s in the same boat.
Now I know earlier I was saying fearless youth blah blah blah etc. but really everyone knows what it’s like to be uncomfortable, they just fake it really well. Everyone has been there, it’s not just you- and they came out the other side. There’s 100% someone who has felt really awkward and scared speaking to you before, but did you notice? (okay forget about that one really nervous sweaty guy who hit on you in year 9) So that leads me onto no. 3….
- Fake it.
Fake a smile, fake a laugh, fake confidence, look what other people are doing, and copy them. If you can’t do that, then think about what the most confident person you know would be doing in your situation, and do it. To help, go home and write a list of things to say and questions to ask. If you’ve got a friend that knows you really well and you feel comfortable being serious around, then ask them to practice with you.
- People are nice. (but busy)
The majority of people are really nice. Think of yourself as a real- life- non- afraid- successful- person. Put yourself in your future self’s shoes. What are you like? Are you nice? What would you say if someone came over and said hi without much agenda of what to say? But people are busy, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk to you, and it doesn’t mean they won’t talk if you approach them, you’ve just got to bite the bullet and say “Hey, sorry for interrupting, I’m …… and I…..” Then just and it over to them. As soon as they answer, you’ll chill out and conversation will start to flow.
- Questions are Key.
What’s your name?
What do you do?
How did you get into that?
What’s it like?
How long have you been here?
What have you done before?
Did you see this…. ?
What did you think of this…?
If the person you are talking to knows you’re feeling full of fear, or a little bit nervous, it’ll put you at ease. Straight away it’ll make you feel like they know why you might come across a bit stumbly or shy, but it’ll also mean that you feel more relaxed, so won’t come across as stumbly or shy. Win win.
7. What’s the worst that can happen?
Honestly, what is the worst that can happen? You might feel like a bit of a tit, but you already feel like that for being nervous. That person might think you’re a bit strange. But the chances are that:
A) You’re never going to see them again= totally doesn’t matter.
B) You are going to see them again, so you will build a relationship and they will totally forget about that one slightly awkward convo and will remember you for genuinely who you are- just a nice, normal, chilled out person.
Now suck it up, get over yourself and get the hell on with it.