I stood in the corridor of the stranger’s house, reeling.
I’ve pulled it off, I thought.
I’ve actually pulled it off.
I was in my third year of University in Edinburgh.
It was not long after I’d first worked in a bar – the place where I learnt how to talk to people I don’t know (which you can read about here).
But I still considered myself A Shy Person.
If you’re shy, you just are, right?
One Saturday night at some friend-of-a-friend’s house party, I stood chatting with two of my workmates from my part-time job at the local cinema.
Beth had a long term boyfriend. Anna and I were both single.
We were talking about self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.
Anna was surprised to hear that Beth still had issues around that; she’d assumed that when you have a partner, all that stuff goes away.
I chipped in that it hadn’t during my last relationship, and that it was still a big issue for me.
“But Marsha,” said Anna, with confusion.
“You’re so fantastic!”.
I remember it to the extent that, almost 15 years later, I can still hear her Scottish lilt saying those exact words.
(B’t Marrsha! Yer soh f’nTAStic!)
As we continued talking, I realised from what Anna and Beth told me, that all the effort I’d put into faking my own self-confidence had worked.
I had spent the best part of the last few years trying to pretend to the world that I had more confidence than I felt.
- When I walked into a party where I hardly knew anyone, I held my shoulders back and smiled beatifically, looking around the room.
- When deciding what to wear, I went for the brighter, more zazzy clothes, hoping they’d do the work for me. (They usually did).
- When I bumped into someone I hardly knew, instead of running away before they could see me, I made myself say hello and ask how it was going.
- When I had to chat to someone I didn’t know well, I made myself ask questions, so it looked like I was super-involved in the conversation (however much I was blanking and freaking out inside my head).
At first I felt a bit like an actor within my own life.
But soon I got pretty comfortable with pretending to be the kind of person I wished I actually was.
When Anna explained that, to her, I just was that person, I had a crashing realisation:
I wasn’t only pretending to be confident any more.
I was confident.
I had spent my entire life thinking:
I am a Shy Person. I will always be a Shy Person.
So this realisation that perhaps I was no longer A Shy Person was a pretty crazy one to take on board.
I’ve talked before about how I still have moments of this shyness.
But most of the time, I don’t have it.
And on those occasions when I do, I get through my freaking out by reminding myself that:
Historically, I always get through it, so I like will this time as well.
Amy Cuddy, in her incredible TED Talk (one of my favourites) puts it brilliantly:
“Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it”.
In other words, it’s not about pretending to be someone you’re not.
It’s about pretending to be someone you will be.
The pretending is what’ll make the change happen.
Over To You
Have you ever pretended to be more confident or comfortable than you felt inside? What effect did it have on the people around you?
Let me know in the comments!
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Thanks for reading,
xx (Yes Yes) Marsha