I recently received a message on Facebook from a woman who had watched me speak publicly about how to start your own digital company as a 20something. After watching me speak, she asked how she could grow her confidence to speak in public and chase her dreams the way I was seemingly doing. I was flattered that she asked me, and told her that despite looking like I love standing behind a podium and giving speeches, I constantly have to overcome my fear of speaking publicly. I also told her that once you allow yourself to create confidence, it acts like a muscle that you can srengthen over the years with a few tricks.
So I wanted to take a hot second to blog about how creating my own mountain of confidence actually changed my life.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not a Leo, I didn’t study performing arts, never took an acting class, shivered at the thought of public speaking 101, and barely studied languages. But yet, two years after graduating college and I’ve been paying my bills bills bills by talking about travel on camera for multilingual audiences, giving speeches, convincing business execs to pay for a passion, and making it seem like all of the above is true, when it’s absolutely not. I’m actually still wondering how I fool even myself.
I wasn’t always confident. Oh no, I was a painfully shy, cry baby kind of a kid. Around my teens, I would hide behind my cheesy metallic wire framed glasses, braces, and brittle straightened hair. I would crab walk against the lockers so people wouldn’t see my curves, true story. Short version: I used to try to suppress all that was me.
For a lot of my childhood, I was drowning in my own pool of insecurities. And where did this insecurity and doubt come from? Other people who told me I wasn’t good enough. Whether they were joking or not, my sensitivities got the best of me and I believed what these strangers or even family members would say to me. Things like “you’re not a people person,” “kids don’t like you,” “you’ll never be a singer.” The list of irrelevant bullcrap that would enter my atmosphere goes on and on.
And then, something dangerous and destructive happened; I began creating my own negative affirmations. I would start telling myself that I would never be a good public speaker, that if I didn’t straighten my big hair, and suppress my personality, I would never thrive in the corporate world, which I also allowed society to brainwash me into thinking I wanted to be a part of. These thoughts polluted all of my possibilities and in turn created a Joanna, who would never be capable of creating or accomplishing anything above ordinary.
Then I left my comfort zone of Connecticut and started tackling the world alone. I began creating my own definitions of myself sans negative assumptions.
My first dose of confidence kicked in one night, during sophomore year of college, after a bad break up, meaningless internships, mediocre grades, and realizing a lot of my friends were false. It was one of those rare and beautiful climates where you feel completely alone and you’re convinced everything is falling apart, when in fact it’s the perfect combination of things to make you have a pep talk with yourself to finally cut the crap.
I took a mirror, stared into my bloodshot eyes (totally normal everyone) and began thinking the following:
“Are you kidding me right now? Are you really going to spend hours of your life trying to blend in? Are you really letting other crappy people have an effect on your mental and physical well being? Are you really letting society dictate your life choices?
Then I got even more feisty:
“You didn’t fight this hard to just “get by?” Think of all those extra jobs you juggled to save money so you could pursue opportunities, or all of those sleepless nights with “entrepreneurs brain” when you’d go over how exciting it would be to have your own business. Business owners are leaders, and leaders don’t blend in.”
“You didn’t work your ass off just to feel “ok” about your life. Are you seriously letting your numbered days in this lifetime just float on by because you’re afraid of what other people will think if you make drastic changes? You’re seriously afraid of expressing your own worth to people who don’t know anything about you? ARE YOU REALLY DOING THAT? Because that’s the dumbest thing you could ever do.”
From that point on, I’ve come to five conclusions about confidence that I keep near and dear.
First of all, realize we’re all
We fart, pick wedgies, sweat, cry, fall in love, make mistakes, get dumped, tell a joke that people might not laugh at, etc. One of the biggest culprits of insecurity is this: firmly believing other people are better than you, or that they’re more talented, more beautiful, capable of things you’re not, etc. Don’t ever for one damn second think you’re any less or more* than anyone else on this earth. If you have a disadvantage, consider it an opportunity to create an advantage. Embrace your difference and let it not define you, but help you redefine the meaning of whatever that “disadvantage” may be.
*Thinking you’re better than everyone else is definitely your ticket into douchebag land, so chill before getting carried away ;).
Don’t even dare compare your worth to someone else’s.
Have you ever thought about the fact that you’re the only YOU the universe is lucky enough to experience? Take a moment to believe in the fact that that uniqueness is immeasurably precious, and needs to be celebrated. When you hold back a thought, suppress an opinion, stop yourself from creating something awesome, or simply don’t speak up in a crowd, realize you’re taking away a bit of that celebration; you’re depriving your own soul of the praise that it deserves.
And worst of all, you’re sucking the light out of yourself before the outside world even has its chance to dim it, because trust me, ruthless mofos will run up right next to the dimming light switch to dim yours the first chance they get. Of course, all to make their own light seem as though it shines brighter, when clearly it doesn’t if they have to sabotage yours.
Build your personal mental army.
Create and hold on to a “DAMN I’M GOOD” affirmation as your commander in chief. For me, that’s the phrase that I repeat time and time again; “My name is Joanna Franco, and I have goals. I will not leave this place until I accomplish those goals.” The goal changes from time to time; overall it’s to make people laugh as much as possible, or to remind myself to not take things too seriously. Other times it’s negotiating properly, learning a song on the ukulele, befriending an interesting person, showing my family how much I care, or whatever else I’ve tasked myself with. I say these words in my head so often that I truly, truly believe them. Yeah, a little crazy, but empowering. It’s my little secret; mine and now yours.
Kill fear before fear kills confidence.
Remember when you were little and were deathly afraid of asking your parents to let you sleep over a friend’s house? Or stopped yourself from speaking up in class because you were unsure if you had the right answer and were afraid that the mean kids in class would laugh at you? Well, in real life, that same behavior will land you a spot in complacency land. Confident people don’t wait for things, they go after them, and for that you have to realize that your goals and happiness are more valuable than a few moments of embarrassment that will only matter if you let it. You’re not a kid anymore, and no one will baby you. You need to stand up, take a deep breath, and do the damn thang.
Confide in yourself, you’ll create your own confidence.
You are your own MVP. No one will have your back the way you’ll have your back. Build a relationship with yourself, and you’ll start realizing you can walk into any room like a massive group of friends are awaiting your arrival. Your friendship with yourself will be able to convince rooms filled with people that you got it goin’ on by your damn self, and from that point on, things will naturally start happening like magic. If you believe in you, others will believe in you too, promise it works everytime.