Confidently Shy

It’s totally okay to be shy. To say that “confidence is sexy” isn’t much more profound than saying that cuteness is sexy. There are many ways to be confident; all of us are in different ways. It’s not always a good thing. Confidence means “with faith,” or without doubt. Doubt can be a good thing. That’s why it exists.

Ironically, I used to think or fear that I had to be some idealized, masculine kind of self-confident in order to find a healthy long-term sexual relationship. I had love interests who told me that shyness was bad, or that “confidence” was their type. I thought I must change, I must mold myself to that type. The reality is that we just weren’t that compatible.

By trying so hard to be confident in ways that I wasn’t, I kept attracting people into my life who wanted or expected me to be confident in ways that I wasn’t. Now, instead, I am interacting with a lot more people who appreciate my kind of self-confidence and don’t expect more than that.

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Travis T’s Drag Show Debut

This is my debut in a drag show:

“Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” by John Mayer
Blues dancing with Ray/Red.
The End of the World Show
Location: December 2012 at Phase One

King Ken, founder of the D.C. Kings, says that s/he grows more confident as a man on stage, taking on the theatrical role of a man. Confidence, as a man, just fits, because society programs men to be more confident. Drag king shows are to a large extent parody, intended to exaggerate and highlight masculinity as a social construct – as a social role.

I, too, felt much more comfortable flaunting socially constructed masculinity, with shoulders up and back – as a drag king. My friends told me afterward, “I had no idea you had so much swag. Sexy!” I almost never have friends tell me I look sexy, except for those who I am already sexually involved with. Of course, the drag king, as performance, is already more sexually charged, but it was certainly encouraging to receive these unusual compliments. I wouldn’t mind more women tugging on my tie on the dance floor. ;)DC Kings

The drag king performance is but another way to role play self-confidence, and a relatively easy space to do so – because the audience is expecting it. I even managed to do it through a sad, John Mayer break-up song.

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Finding My Unique Confidence

One thing I have realized from writing this blog and doing The Self-Confidence Experiment is that (self-)confidence is not a monolithic concept. It’s not an identity that defines your whole being. Even as I currently use “Self-Confidence” as my screen name, I realize that this is not my identity. To say, “I am self-confidence / self-confident,” can obscure the fact that no one is completely self-confident – that confidence comes in many forms; there are many ways to be self-confident, many aspects of ourselves and the world to be confident in or not.

Upon consideration, this is probably obvious, and yet, it is not how we talk about self-confidence in particular in our society, in our language. We like to say, “I’m very confident,” to describe our whole being. One reason for this is power dynamics (politics): to admit we are not 100% confident is to admit vulnerability, and many of us have fears of losing social power in doing so, especially men. One of the results is that many people pretend to be perfectly confident when they are not, but often without much if any of the self-reflection with which I conducted The Self-Confidence Experiment – they mask fears with a relentless façade of confidence. Confidence becomes linked to other forms of identity policing, based on purity of identity: Real men eat meat. Real Christians go to Church. Real women have XX chromosomes. True Scotsman don’t run. Identity policing is a tautology that can’t be proven wrong, like the existence of God. Noting that confidence derives from Latin for “with faith,” the parallel with Christianity is unsurprising. The result of this closed ideology is that self-doubt, self-reflection, and questioning are discouraged. For one must not violate the purity of the identity, lest one lose the perceived privileges with which it comes. One must not admit that one lacks confidence, lest one lose the privileges of being perceived as confidence.

As I detailed on this blog during The Self-Confidence Experiment, there were privileges that I found in pretending to be self-confident. I found that people were much more positive toward me. But while there were short-term and long-term benefits to this experiment, I actually took the whole act a bit too seriously. For a while, I wasn’t sure how to reconcile confidence as role play with confidence as authenticity. Now that I had some people viewing me as more confident than before, I was afraid to admit when I had doubts, when I regressed in some ways, especially since I wasn’t yet sure how to weave them into uplifting and cohesive thoughts.

What I have come to realize is that role play is but one of the many forms of confidence, but one of the many ways in which we may grow our self-confidence. Thus, by pretending to be self-confident – or self-confidence itself – I can let go of some fears and experience that natural, positive feedback that results in social settings and the universe. I can imagine new ways of being – role play is but an act of the imagination, and a very human one at that. We all role play, we all identity play, so to speak. Learning to loosen up the grip of certain identities by stepping into new roles is a healthy form of social and intellectual exploration. Even lion cubs do it when they play fight. It is a form of play.

As knowledge increases, beyond a certain point, confidence in one’s own viewpoints goes down.

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Secondary Blog

I have not updated in far too long, but I have started a new, secondary blog on self-confidence. The new blog is a tumblr blog, and it’s less formal. The reason I’ve started the new blog is because oftentimes, formality creates writer’s block, or at least makes it more challenging to write. I want to continue blogging about self-confidence without worrying that every post is thoroughly thought-out and polished. Some of the posts might be very stream-of-consciousness. This way, I will be able to post much more frequently. Some of the things I write on the new blog might end up here, too, more formally.

So if you’ve enjoyed this blog, but want more frequent updates via tumblr, please check out the new blog: The Self-Confidence Advocate.

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21-Day Self-Coaching Challenge

I am committing as of today to do 21 days in a row of daily self-coaching, for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Last time I said I was going to do it for 21 days, I did not make it into a daily practice – I never explicitly said they had to be in a row, but that’s part of the problem. Now I’m posting it here to enhance my level of commitment, and I want to tell you a little about what I’ve experienced so far and then the details of the challenge.

I have found these little sessions to be amazingly powerful. By recording them on my iPod/iPhone (using voice memos), I’m able to hold myself accountable to completing the 30 minute sessions. That is, to completing 30 minutes of intense, productive focus! Even when I’m at my laptop with the usual potential of getting distracted by a million little things, I just talk myself out of them by keeping the recorder on. The difference between using the recorder and not is incredible.

With only 8-10 complete sessions behind me, I have already accomplished so much. Continue reading

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Reframing the Issue

Ever meet someone who, whenever you complain to them about something, they just reframe the issue in an encouraging, solution-oriented way? They’re probably your friends, and they may not always be that way toward everyone, but they are toward you, and that’s why you’re friends.

To be the best friend to ourselves, we have to learn this skill of reframing the issue to encourage ourselves and get us moving in the right direction. Take a hint from your friends: you have got to see the light in yourself. It’s what you really want to see anyway: that’s why you feel so good when others see the light in you. Give yourself what deep down you know you ultimately want.

Any time you start complaining/worrying/etc., just think, “Time to reframe the issue.” Be resourceful and creative and scour your mind for positive perspectives only. You’ll be surprised what you find when you look – not to mention stop indulging in that unhelpful perspective.

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A Tip for Going Out: Ground Yourself

Do you get really anxious when you go out and surround yourself by people? Afraid to approach people you really want to talk to, afraid to ask someone on a date, afraid that you won’t have fun, etc? One thing you can do is simply to ask yourself what you will do to ground yourself before you go out.

The point is that you find a way to stay focused on the mental space you want to be in that will affect your experience and your relationships. And the key is that you do this beforehand when you have a chance to think before getting caught up in the social situation.

Meditating before interacting can be immensely helpful. One time I went to a bar, sat down, and meditated for two hours straight before getting up and going to socialize. I normally would have a lot of approach anxiety, but I approached several women that night and even danced by myself with everyone watching me because they were all too afraid to dance.

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