“Thank you,” I thought to myself, but the words didn’t leave my mouth. “Thank you, just say it.” I thought again. Yet again my mouth didn’t move. I didn’t say a word and instead made the entire situation awkward. She only helped me with my work. There wasn’t anything special about this moment. I just had to say thank you for what she did. “Just say it,” I repeated in my mind, as she looked at me wondering what I was thinking. She had that look on her face that told me she was both waiting for an answer and at the same time a kind smile that told me she wasn’t feeling awkward at all. It was just me. Again self-conscious of my behavior in front of someone.
I ended up not saying a word and instead released a shy and awkward smile. One of those smiles where everyone could see the agony and self-shaming that was going on inside. She laughed at me and continued with her work. “You f*cked it up,” I said to myself. Only making the situation worse in my mind. I continued with my work, but couldn’t let the thought go. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and now I was thinking about stepping up to her and saying thank you for helping me. Even though the moment had long passed. I waited for her to pass, and when she did, I froze again. Not a word left my mouth and I again just smiled. “What is this?” I thought to myself. “How can I be so incredibly dumb and awkward.” She laughed kindly and again turned towards her work.
I decided to not say a word again and just mind my own business. It would only make it worse if I continued trying to just say two simple words, and completely freezing as I tried to. I could see her looking at me in the corner of my eye at times, and I started thinking that she didn’t like me. After all, who wouldn’t have said thank you to someone who helped you out? Only an incredibly rude person would do so. Or someone like me. Completely self-conscious and socially awkward.
That’s me, and it has been a journey going through this. It’s a part of me that I wished I didn’t have. I wished to be confident, and more extrovert at times. To be authentically me, and not be this weirdo who freezes the moment he speaks to someone who he doesn’t know. If only I could express myself in person the way I could in words or videos. Then I would be a whole lot more confident. And that is something I wanted to reflect on, so I did. So why not share this with you, because I think I am not the only one. It’s confronting and painful to share it, but I feel that this is actually part of human life. Which makes it worth sharing, for those going through the same thing. I found that a lot of other people feel self-conscious and shy, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t confident or awkward, nor that you aren’t socially skilled. It could just mean that you are you, and that of course is authentic as well.
Part One: Shame and Self-Conscious
Why do we blame ourselves? Or shame ourselves when we stumble with our words when we walk up to a guy or a girl we like and just completely obliterate the sentence, or just awkwardly smiling at them as I did? Why are we shaming ourselves for that? Because that’s what I feel we are doing a lot of the time.
It’s that voice in my head, that you have as well, it’s called the ego. Which is easy to judge, and to blame on us. It’s that voice that told me I f*cked it up, and that I was dumb, and that she would for sure not like me anymore. It’s weird to me that we say this to ourselves. I think most of us never want to be this rude or hateful to someone else. Especially not if they are as close to us, as we are to ourselves. Yet we are this rude to ourselves. And after some self-awareness and journalling, it occurred to me that the ego, that voice inside our head is being hateful towards itself. It is shaming and blaming itself. Why? Because we aren’t the ego, we aren’t that voice, we instead are a more authentic and pure version. The soul.
That part of us that doesn’t judge, shame, or blame anyone, nor ourselves. And this part is simply observing what is happening. My true self was overhearing the entire conversation going on inside my head. This sounds crazy but bear with me, please. You see on the one hand I was blaming myself for being so shy and awkward when on the other hand I was desperately trying to fix it and just say thank you to her. Although I thought that these were two different parts of me, they are the same. Why? Because they are both judging the situation.
One side of the ego is judging the situation and trying to motivate and encourage me to say something, the other is judging the situation by telling me I am awkward and dumb. Whilst the third part of me which is my pure self is simply observing with a smile on its face. It’s that ego part of me that’s constantly shaming myself, and making me self-conscious. It’s making me feel bad about myself. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Part Two: Confidence Isn’t the Same as Being Socially Skilled
It’s the pure self, the observer, the awareness that can bring light to our internal battle. Because what if we can just observe what is going on within ourselves? Simply feel it. I feel that in these moments all I need is to just be aware for a moment. We all want to be confident in these moments. We all want to be less awkward, and be socially more skilled. But why? Why do we need to be anything else than we are?
It is by wanting to be something that we are not, that we start to think too much. That thinking is what then gets in the way of speaking, and we become self-conscious. We think too much and feel too little, which starts the self-conscious cycle. When I started to think about my actions, about what I had to say or do, I started to think about what could go wrong. That turned into actually thinking too much and not speaking the words I wanted to say. Which in its turn, changed into shaming myself for being so awkward. All in all, a continuous cycle of thinking and not feeling. And it is because of this that we want to be more confident, that we feel like we need to act differently. Because we don’t want to feel awkward.
But doesn’t that mean we are not okay with who we are? I didn’t want to be awkward, of course, I wanted to be able to be more extroverted. I just ain’t. It’s not the way I like to live. Yet I do put myself up to these high standards. It’s actually that many people have started to believe that being confident is associated with being social and being extroverted. That confidence means we can be at a party and talk to anyone and everyone. But that’s not what confidence means. That would mean a large part of the people on this earth would never be able to be confident, simply because they don’t want to talk to everyone, or be constantly social, or don’t like to go to parties anyway.
Confidence is being completely okay with who we are. Not wanting to be like someone else, but instead stepping into our authentic selves.
Confidence doesn’t mean we have to be socially skilled. Although I was thinking of it this way. I thought that to be confident I had to be able to speak up in large groups, to step up to random new people at parties, at work, or in any other situation. But it is not. Confidence has nothing to do with the way you act but instead has everything to do with the way you feel about how you act. That’s again a line you should read again. Confidence has nothing to do with the way you act but instead has everything to do with the way you feel about how you act.
It again has everything to do with feeling. I didn’t feel confident today when I stumbled, and awkwardly smiled, but that was only because I wasn’t okay with myself. Now as I took some time to go over what happened I can laugh about it. I see that this, awkward, shy, sometimes clumsy guy is who I am and want to be. I don’t need to step up to strangers at an event. I don’t need to talk about the weather or any other small talk. I want to be kind, loving, and open. I want to have deep conversations, and am okay with standing or sitting by myself when everyone is having conversations. It’s not that I don’t like talking to people. It’s just that I don’t need to be social to make myself look good.
Confidence has nothing to do with the way you act but instead has everything to do with the way you feel about how you act.
That’s power. That’s what I believe is confidence. To be you, the way you want to be. It’s stepping into your authentic self. So what does that mean?
Part Three: Authentically Being Myself
To be authentically you is something I’ve heard being thrown around regularly. Especially by motivational speakers. It sounds empowering, it sounds encouraging. Yet again I thought it would mean that I became this confident and extrovert personality. This is an illusion I created for myself. Being authentically me means to be that awkward, clumsy, stumbling, but also kind, loving, and compassionate human being. It’s knowing your strengths and weaknesses. And yes we can grow past these weaknesses and become more socially skilled. But the better question to ask is why do we want to?
In some situations, we want to. We want to be able to keep a long deep conversation with people we care about, we want to not run away from people or situations with people. But there is no need to go around an event, or party and socialize if that would mean you weren’t authentically you. Know that the most important thing is to be confident with yourself. It’s both being confident when you are at the side, sitting all by yourself, as well as being confident when speaking to someone. It’s being who you want to be without excusing yourself.
After what happened this morning at work I feel refreshed, way more confident. I forgot what it meant to be me. To be authentically awkwardly me. In fact, I feel that this is the kind and clumsy side of me. Which I actually adore, because it gives me something to laugh about. It’s something that when I get to know people better, they appreciate about me. It makes me, me. It’s what I use to make jokes about. It’s what makes me kind, and human. Something others can laugh about, and relate to. They can feel better about themselves, and I feel good about myself being this way. And that’s all that I wanted to share with you.
That if you ever feel self-conscious, or ashamed, just start to feel again. It’s at these moments that we start to get caught up in our thoughts. We start to think instead of feel. And it is that feeling that empowers us. That makes us authentic. Embracing who we are is such a large part of this life, and it gives us the power to experience joy in so many ways. In the years that I embraced being fully me, I have felt completely alive. Yes, I was awkward, yes I didn’t speak to everyone and anyone. I often would just sit at a lunch break with a colleague and enjoyed my food. Without saying a word, but with a smile on my face. I didn’t need to impress anyone, not even myself.
That’s what I think people mean to say with being authentically yourself. To stand in your power, even the power you think is awkward and introverted. That’s you too. If you want to be at least. If you accept that and embrace this part of you, life will be much less of a battle and way more of a loving and kind rollercoaster. In which I feel that we can start to express our feelings more clearly and purely. It helps us to be present and loving off the here and now. Even when alone, even when being clumsy in a conversation with someone. You can smile and just say “oh wow, that was awkward.” And make a joke out of it. Don’t take it so seriously. Don’t make the same mistake as I did, by shaming yourself. You’re beautiful, you’re kind, you’re loving, you’re compassionate. You’re alive that’s the most important thing.
Before clicking away, before closing down this article I want to ask you to take a small moment. Just a few seconds maybe a minute to breath and think of the parts of yourself that you at first hated, or felt ashamed off, but that you now love. That you cherish and adore. Isn’t it beautiful to be authentically yourself? Now what are things you might want to change about yourself? Aren’t they beautiful as well? See yourself messing up, failure, stumbling on your words, being awkward, all of it. And simply smile. Isn’t it cute to see a little kid stumble around? Why should we be cute when we mess up and stumble around then? It’s you. It’s authentic, don’t be ashamed. Now take one final breath and continue with your beautiful life. Embrace who you are, and it will allow you to say Today I Lived. I made the most of who I am.