Confidence is addictive.
I get asked this question all the time: “How are you so confident?”
The answer is both easy and rather complex. Growing up, I was cruelly bullied throughout middle school for several reasons. My mother was schizophrenic and abusive, my dad was never home, I was an extremely depressed 10 year old who never showered and walked with a hunched back. Kids can be cruel, especially to Frankenstein-like creatures with greasy hair, a big Arab nose, Gollum posture and complex-PTSD. People made fun of me, sent me death threats, refused to sit next to me, harassed me so badly I either ate lunch in the bathroom or stopped going to school for weeks at a time. I hated myself so much, I was suicidal for years. I believed I was the worst creature to walk this earth, and that nobody would ever find me beautiful or interesting. I thought I had no future.
I was wrong.
Pictured above: Me, three years ago, finally loving myself.
I healed, eventually. I realized a very simple fact: Nothing was stopping me from being the person I longed to be. I looked at all the beautiful, smart, outspoken women I’d idealized for years, wishing I was them, and it just struck me that… I could be them. Sure, I can’t grow 50 cm and become the next Kate Moss, but nothing was stopping me from adapting her attitude, her style, her confidence. I had been wallowing in my own misery, convinced I was utterly disgusting and unloveable, but these scars were from a long time ago. I was no longer that scared middle-grader getting bullied on the playground. I had the power to become someone I could be proud of.
I meet so many teenagers today going through similar versions of what I went through. They hate their appearance, they have no self confidence, they are so convinced they are “ugly” that it is impossible to make them think otherwise. I have found that when I tell them my story, their armour cracks a little. This goes for everyone, really. Most people have a self-confidence problem. I try to help whenever I can, and I am happy to say that it has worked a few times! Basically, I pretend to be in front of my 11 year old self, with the rotted hair and trauma and hunched back. As painful as it is, I put myself back into that space of mind. Then I talk to them.
Confidence is primarily an exercise in self-conviction. If you believe you are confident, then you will be confident. This is easier said than done, however. As someone with years of experience having zero confidence, I find it best to appeal to people’s psychological view of themselves. I talk to them. I ask them a simple question: Why do you think you are inferior to everyone else? Why do you think you are less worthy of love than everyone else? This usually helps them think it through. Why should another person’s opinion matter so much, dictate your entire life? You are just as worthy of taking up space as everyone else. They are not more important than you are.
Pictured above: Me, in Paris, feeling myself.
Another important step is allowing that person to express themselves. When you have no self-confidence, you try to hide yourself away. You just wear generic, off the rack clothes, hand-me-downs, anything. You have no personal style, you don’t dare to try to figure out your identity, because you cannot believe that something positive could come from it. You think you will look ridiculous if you even attempt to make yourself beautiful. This is the most painful part of the process, in my opinion. In order to gain confidence, you must convince yourself that nobody is going to laugh at you for wearing a a crazy pattern, for daring to be yourself.
When helping friends figure out their style identity, I recommend going to stores (high end or thrift stores, depending on the person’s budget), picking out outfits they like but that they would’ve never bought beforehand. Make sure the clothes fit, that they actually showcase their body. If they are willing, putting on a bit of makeup or styling their hair also helps. When they look in the mirror, they often do not recognize themselves. With just a few touches, someone who thought they were the third-removed cousin of Shrek suddenly realize they are a human being. Their are worthy of existing in the world. They are worthy of love.
Pictured above: My weird-ass style. And I love it.
That transformation is heart-wrenching to me. It took so, so long for me to accept myself, to discover my own style, to stop being afraid of people’s thoughts. I feel honoured when I can help free other people from the burden of society-mandated beauty standards. When they start to love themselves, they really thrive socially, since they finally dare to share their opinions without the fear of being judged. Confidence and conviction are the building stones of a person.
I hope that you, dear reader, will find the motivation to love yourself as much as I love you.