The idea of Confidence and expectations set by society is a confusing and contentious topic. Complicating this further are gender stereotypes that influence how “you should act”.
People and society have an expectation (often unrealistic) of how we should act and live our lives, telling women to be outgoing, funny, carefree and men to be strong and make bold moves. At the same time, however, you’re still not good enough – because you have become too loud, less feminine, too feminine, too confident, etc.
By dictionary definition, a woman is “an adult female human being” but clearly it’s more complex than that… way more complex. A recent study identified that being an ideal woman is about being beautiful, feminine, outgoing, and to have perfect (stereotyped) bodies. But ironically, this long-lasting and widely supported view has been developed and then driven by the expectations of men during ancient times.
Now, is this you? Do you know anyone who fits this standard? Do you think anyone even believes they’re perfect, flawlessly beautiful, and immaculate? And does this ridiculous standard even matter in 2020 (or in any other time in history)?
Feeling confident in yourself has turned into a concept feared by many people. But we shouldn’t let others opinions negatively affect how we feel about yourself and your life. Feeling awesome in your own skin and being confident should be something that is admired, loved, and embraced by everyone.
What about being happy? Don’t we all deserve that – male or female?
Which brings me back to confidence, and what I think it means to be a confident woman in 2020.
One significant impact on confidence is Social Anxiety (social phobia) – a chronic condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety. Social Anxiety is tough and it limits the ability to engage in social settings without being encumbered by irrational fear. For people with Social Anxiety Disorder, everyday social interactions can be unbearable, with overwhelming feelings of self-consciousness and embarrassment. Like anything you practice, you get better at it each time you experience it. So recurring Social Anxiety episodes do the same – you get better and better about feeling anxious! This can, in time, lead to further mental health challenges. While I still don’t know too much about Social Anxiety Disorder, I do (like most) suffer from some degree of Social Anxiety. For me, the best thing I’ve focused on to manage anxiety is to regain and then increase confidence.
This year has been hard for everyone, from COVID to BLM and back! For me, I’ve had additional challenges. Spoiler alert… self-awareness, dedication, and gratitude has helped me fight through things that have attacked my self-confidence.
Unfortunately, I’m an over-thinker. I literally over-think everything. For example, I’ve had Insta for about 3 years (since 10 years old). At first, I would post anything I felt like – it was a true reflection of “me”. More recently, it has become a curated group of images that I believed at the time would put me in the right “look” within my friend groups. Recently, I was at the beach with my whole year (grade) at school. We had some really cool pictures that I loved, but I was so nervous about what other people at my school would think about me that I was the only one to not post anything. Crazy!
Earlier this year I had to present a speech to my class. For as long as I can remember, I have hated speeches, but this time was worse. For weeks before presenting the speech I would be feeling sick and scared about what people would think about me if I stuffed up. But why? Everyone in our class would probably make at least one mistake, right? Right before the speech, I thought I was about to throw up – I felt very faint and queasy. But after, it all turned out to be completely fine… and I was completely fine too.
I could see this getting out of control. These small things were making a big impact. I decided I needed to get my reality of the situation in-check before it got away from me.
Now, I’m no therapist, but from my personal experience, the key to self-confidence is coming back to reality, putting things in context, and realizing what makes you feel anxious in the first instance… understanding it, compartmentalizing it, and dealing with it.
What I have done (to become “human” again), is to focus on sticking with my tribe: the people that make me feel great about myself, safe, trust and allow me to be me. In addition to this, I talk about my problems with them, and most under-rated… have extreme fun! I’m also trying (like crazy) to not care what others think about me. Right now, I’m ‘faking it until I make it’.
I’ve also more recently been in the fortunate position to be able to disassociate myself from the people in my life that have contributed to feelings of anxiety. Not every 13 years old can do that.
Having confidence and belief in yourself can completely change your life. We know that, right? But confidence is an ongoing challenge, that (for me anyway) needs to be constantly worked on.
I think this year has made me a better person. Going through what I have, realizing why I’m feeling the way I am, and being able to actively control the situation has been empowering. I feel stronger for it. And I feel more aware of other people’s feelings. I say ‘hi’ and ask people how they are more often, I tell my friends how amazing they are (and why they’re so amazing).
So, I’m confidently confident in my continued confidence. Will I still be socially anxious? Yes. But will I care about what people think about me a bit less than I did at the start of the year? Yes.
2021 isn’t going to be much easier than 2020, but I am going into it with my eyes open wider and my confidence in check. And how this all relates to the definition of being a woman? Well, I’m going back to the dictionary definition for a while; “an adult female human being” just adding some flavor! That is, to feel human, confident, in a female boss kind of way! 🙂