Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Confidence Spectrum

More than once when I was dating in my twenties, guys pointed out to me that I was less than confident. The boss in particular, who was 7 years older, told me that my lack of self-confidence greatly detracted from my attractiveness. Of course at the time, I thought he was being a condescending prick.

But his point also gave me pause. How could he think I was attractive and a great catch when I didn’t truly, wholeheartedly believe that myself?

Dating a younger guy in my later twenties didn’t solve the problem either. He, too, commented on my self-deprecating comments and off-kilter view of my worth. I didn’t even fully realize that I was portraying myself in a negative light. Things would fly out of my mouth and I didn’t hear how they sounded.

Then during my crazy course of online dating, I started to see how unattractive it was when other people did this. I went out with several guys who were good-hearted, cute, nice guys, but they way they put themselves down or let their insecurities cause them to act awkwardly was just downright unappealing. It was a shame because they were probably great catches, but the attraction just wasn’t there on my end because they didn’t seem to value themselves. And I didn’t want to be with someone like that…even though I had been accused of being that way, myself.

Enter counseling: the great game changer. Sitting across from a neutral party, having him say, “Did you just hear yourself? Why would you say that about yourself?” is a powerful thing. Suddenly you realize that what YOU are saying about who you are is largely dictating the perception others have about you. Thus, reinforcing what you don’t want them to think.

Having this click for me (and continuing my therapy stint) changed the way I spoke and thought about myself. I realized that I had no reason not to be confident in who I was. Instead of questioning myself and focusing on my flaws, I tried to hone in on my great traits and take on challenges that would make my confidence grow.

When I met Mr. Wonderful, one of the things I loved best about him was that he was unapologetically himself. Did he have some nerdy tendencies? Yes. Was he a bit nervous and awkward? Sure, he nearly fumbled the dinner he made on our second date when placing it in the oven. Was he shy as heck? Totally. But these things didn’t slow him down a bit. I could tell that he knew—and accepted—who he was, and really didn’t care what I or anyone else thought. It was incredibly sexy.

I think women have a harder time than men when it comes to tapping into their true confidence. For some reason, we never think we’re pretty enough, smart enough, worldly enough, thin enough. It’s really terrible and I think it causes us to compromise what we want when it comes to dating. We don’t think we are worthy and deserving, so we never get what we really deserve.

I would love for everyone to think of 5 things about themselves today that are completely amazing and awesome. Focus on how attractive you are, and others’ perceptions will follow.

And listen to this for a great example of what NOT to do. Confidence is a spectrum and this guy is absolutely on the other extreme end. No wonder so many great gals are single!


Wow, that was awkward said...

Confidence is powerful. And having the confidence to share your vulnerability with the right person is pretty darn powerful too.

I think my five things are that I shower five or six times a week, I know where to find great phad thai, my lack of good looks will make the person I'm with feel like the hot one, if you tell me to stop talking with my mouth full there is a good chance I will actually stop, and I sorta know Mel Heth at least in the online bloggy world.

Mel Heth said...

Wow TWA - You are a crack up. I love your list. And I like what you said about having confidence to share vulnerability. Very insightful point.

Danielle said...

Good post and it made me think. I just wrote my 5 down and am going to focus on them.

LesleyG said...

"...what YOU are saying about who you are is largely dictating the perception others have about you."

That is SO true. I find myself constantly working on the self-deprecation thing. It is only occasionally appropriate and I use it more than occasionally out of habit. I have been joking to relieve my discomfort for a couple decades, so it's tough to change that. I think there's a lot to be said for timing and letting yourself be yourself in the company of someone you love (that doesn't "have" to love you, like family).

I need to work on my five things. First, I think, would be that I can ramble on forever and ever in both written and spoken communication. Crazy awesome, right? :)

Jane Moneypenny said...

Ah, you hit the spot. Obviously you and I have had this discussion a lot and it's been a continual problem with me.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Henry Frederick Emile: "Learn to be what you are, and learn to resign with good grace all that you are not." You're very correct that it's time to focus on the good things and confidence, b/c I am #1 at self-deprecating humor. Thanks for the reminder!

blakspring said...

before i even get to what you wrote, i have to say WTF regarding the voice mails. is this guy for real? i hope that was a joke.

what you wrote is so true. i used to have very little confidence and it showed. now i tend to make a confident first impression. but what i've noticed about myself is that once i get to know the person better then i somehow start highlighting my flaws and negatives, maybe because i feel comfortable with that person. i hadn't really noticed till recently and your post is just more incentive to STOP IT. thanks.

laura said...

well said Melissa. BUT....one(NOT YOU)needs to understand there is a fine line between confidence and cockiness.

Having said that...I can't come up with 5 things nice to say about myself...but I am thankful for having such a great life....and sometimes that is enough!! :0)

Mandy's Kidding said...

Agreed. This is a lifelong process. For some of us, being nice to ourselves takes practice.

The thought of writing down five great things about me still makes me red-faced and ashamed. *Laugh* Maybe I'll just think 'em in my head instead.


SoMi's Nilsa said...

I think it takes most people, regardless of gender, reaching their 30s before they are truly confident in who they are. Unfortunately, so many women, in particular, feel the need to settle down in a serious relationship before that time. And the two definitely conflict with one another. I think the Grown Up Mel is pretty darn remarkable!

Mel Heth said...

Danielle - Good - you should be focusing on your best traits. :)

Lesley - I can think of 5 things for you: Awesome athlete/runner, insightful writer, world traveler, amazing photographer, looks good dressed up like a cowgirl. :)

Jane - You climb MOUNTAINS, girl! If anyone should be confident, it's you! Great quote - love it.

Blakspring - I know - the voicemails were unbelievable. I think you're right, that as we reveal ourselves to people we let some of our confidence go. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Laura - Yeah I meant more like quiet confidence, not blatant cockiness. That's no bueno. I can think of 5 things for you: Strong, awesome triathlete, hilarious sense of humor, loyal sister, great fashion sense, wonderful vacation planner. :)

Mandy - As long as you know what they are, I think it's ok not to write them down. :)

Nilsa - You and I need to write a book together, I think. I want to pass a law that bans people from getting married in their 20s. Thanks for the sweet compliment!

brookem said...

i think it takes some time and practice to get to a good, comfy, confidence point. at least i know it did for me, and i still struggle with it.
i too, find that quality in manfriend very attractive. he's bold and sure of himself and i always thought that was sexy.

brookem said...

and ohmygod, ive heard that dimitri thing before and my friends and i love it!

"i'm completely single..."
(i wonder why!)