Try to imagine the last time you were in a situation where you felt supremely confident. Whether you were playing scrabble with a couple 9 years olds or doing whatever it is you do best, makes no difference. Now, do you remember the apprehensiveness that came about when you thought about how confident you were in that situation? Were you afraid that showing your higher ability in that situation would distance you from the others in the group?
There’s a certain type of fear associated with standing out in most social situations. If you are at a restaurant and sneeze, for instance, everyone notices. Or if you are in a doctor’s waiting room and you laugh far too loud, everyone looks at you. Most of us react to this situation with embarrassment or even shame. Why is that?
Standing out implies greatly differentiating ourselves from those around us in some way. And as racism and stereotypes have taught us, anything that is different, is socially “unacceptable.” So, by definition anything that causes us to stand out is suppressed by the invisible hand of society. Right? But what about self confidence? Do we suppress this as well?
I can remember vividly being in the 5th grade and being quite happy with a grade that I received on a math test. I received the test and saw the large “A” at the top in red ink. And yet, before the surprise had even began to subside I heard my friend across from me say, “HEY! What’d you get???” Instinctually, I flipped my paper over and swiftly slipped it into my backpack, as if I had received a terrible score. My friend then proceeded to tease me for getting a bad grade, and I went on with my day feeling better about myself because I had done that. But what is wrong with this picture? Why was I, and I’m sure many others can relate, so afraid to show my own self confidence in that situation?
THE TAKEAWAY: Humans are social beings. We are hard wired to form social groups based on situations, common interests, and values. And yet, sometimes those hard wired habits lead us to suppress the very abilities that we should be proud of. So today, I challenge you to question why you suppress the outstanding qualities you have? If you have surrounded yourself with people who make you feel guilty for such qualities, maybe new surroundings are needed. If you simply feel more comfortable hiding behind the social wall, maybe its time to step into the light. In the words of the author and poet Marianne Williams,
“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So please, be confident. And give others the gift that you have been lucky enough to find yourself. Shine.