Sunday, March 9. 2008
Written in the autumn of 2004
[edit: Added the ‘Faking It USA’ links at the bottom. They are highly recommended to read]
Hello, I’m Topbit – and I’m shy.
Some would not believe it after the mini adventure that was the Bicon 2004 group photo (and more – but you had to be there), but I consider it to be utterly true. I’ve been the one stuck – of my own choice – on the furthest edge away from the dance-floor all night before, and it’s not somewhere I like to be.
Crunchtime for me came a few years ago, when after years of playing the wall-flower, I got smart enough to figure out it was just no fun – and certainly wasn’t going to become any more enjoyable – I was also alone, and that wasn’t likely to change either. I decided in that instant to do something about it, and so started a process that has, in some fits and starts, has, for the last three years or so, seen me taking a few more risks, and having a lot more fun in the meantime. Bicon, is simply the most recent fun (and what fun!) in a now long line of enjoyable experiences.
Be assured – if you don’t have some significant enjoyment on a regular basis, and you are doing nothing to help that along, nothing is going to change. Waiting for self-confidence to appear – I tried that, it doesn’t work. It won’t find you – you have to go and get it. If you are too shy to even ask for help, then you have a real problem – you may not be able to even get some advice on solving it. This article aims to give you a few ideas on those early steps, and maybe something of a roadmap, similar to what I’ve been following for these last few years.
Step One. Make a new choice.
If what you are doing right now isn’t fulfilling, then you have to recognise that you have to change your actions and your thoughts about what you do, and how you feel. In such a situation, doing nothing will never, and can never, help. Waiting for you to become suddenly more confident is waiting forever.
Getting involved is a choice. It’s not always easy, but it will be rewarding.
Maybe in the past, you’ve had some bad experiences, and some real failures that set you back. Everyone does. The most successful people in the world, be they in business, sport, politics or any other field will fail more often than they succeed. It’s inevitable. They will generally take that as a learning experience, garner the positives from it, and ultimately putting the worst behind them, even just forgetting the bad points.
If you are not happy, or self confident – decide that you don’t want to carry on being down.
Step Two. Take some risks
Everything worthwhile has some element of risk. From driving a car in traffic, to scuba-diving, things can go wrong. Its the same in human relations, and in self-confidence. Sometimes, we all get it wrong. The closest there is to a ‘trick’ of having self-confidence is to act, do something – anything – to be a little bit scared, but to then succeed, even if it’s by accident.
At Bicon, for me, my fears where to talk to people, or to speak out at the workshops with my ideas and opinions. Here I was, surrounded for four days with over two hundred people I had never met before, a handful of whom I had some small knowledge about them from their live-journals, but on the whole, I had no idea who they were.
And so, I made some plans – which workshops did I have an interest in, what could I say, who would I sit near in the bar, and what could I say beyond, ‘Hi’. Sometimes, it didn’t work out, and a couple of times I ended up taking some time out to think about what went wrong. Very quickly though I would go back, and take another small risk. Another scene of the horror movie that was Bicon 2004!
One scene at a time, it’s not so scary. The frights don’t actually hurt – no blood was spilled. And you need to realise that next time, those little risks are not quite so frightening.
All those tiny little risks, like going somewhere new, talking to someone you’ve only nodded to on the bus – just to say hello, asking a stranger for the time. All the successfully undertaken new situations add up, if you ask fourteen different people what the time is over the course of a few weeks, would the fifteenth be much more different? Would it be as scary as the first?
Ultimately, at Bicon, nothing bad happened to me, and even though some mistakes were made, by me, and towards me, but I took them in the same manner as how I found Bicon itself – a safe space, where mistakes were not dwelt on, and it was a supportive and occasionally forgiving place. I knew very quickly that everyone around me would catch me if I fell. Some did have some problems, with the weekend being maybe too intense, or too new for them. I suspect that some of them found new friends among those that offered to help them.
It’s not just Bicon where, if you need help, you will find people simply appearing to help you. It may just have been be a little more obvious. We’ve all heard of various good-Samaritan stories (and if you haven’t heard many recently, then let me recommend subscribing to the free email newsletter at http://heroicstories.com/) where those in need get help from people they’ve never met before.
For many sections of the community, there are also dedicated support lines, for transgendered, lesbians, gays and bisexuals – and for their partners, often from people that have gone through the same problems that you or I may have done. And of course, there is the Samaritans – they even have an email address you can use if you don’t want to call. If you feel it’s too much, any of these people – and more, would catch you if you fell.
Step Three. Fake it, until you make it.
We all have one or more subjects that we care passionately about, we may just have a interest, or maybe some expertise in it. If a friend asked you opinion about something you have such knowledge in, would you be able to be excited about it when you told them about what you knew? You already have confidence – in the areas in which you are competent.
Take a moment, and consider your favourite thing, something you care passionately about, and think how you would tell someone about it. How would you describe it? Maybe it’s a physical action, swimming, running, playing tennis. It might be a little more cerebral, an idea, or an opinion.
When you were thinking, did your body move? Maybe it relaxed, and opened up, or maybe you grunt a little as you smash the tennis ball back over the net in your mind. It’s hard to be excited about a subject and not reflect that in the way you sit and move.
The reverse is equally true. It’s just not easy to be depressed when you are dancing, or whooping with joy as you fall around a giant bouncy castle, or just standing, with your head held high because you know you’ve done something really great. A smile on your face, even if it’s a little forced, just makes it impossible to feel down.
“But my dog just died, my granny isn’t feeling so good and I’m about to get thrown out of my flat.” How you feel is a decision that you make every hour of every day. Some things you can’t control – why worry about them if you can’t do anything to change it? Those things for which you do have influence over, then of course you will try to point them towards a successful conclusion. Here’s the secret that too many people don’t already know – If you are generally happy, then the little things will more often go right, also when things do go wrong, they don’t seem so bad. Research backs this up, happy people literally don’t remember the bad things as much as the good.
But most of all, take that first little risk, and hold your head high as you do – it’s actually kinda fun.
Finally, I’m reminded of the TV program ‘Faking It USA’, one episode stands out for me. It was about a timid librarian going to work and learn at the Coyote Ugly bar in New Orleans, just in time for Mardi-Gras.
Haley Holmes said afterwards that she plans to audition for a job at the new Coyote Ugly in San Antonio, that she is a great deal more confident with people, and has the confidence to know she can control any situation – she was put into a situation where she then proved it – the risk, came good, like so many others do. I suspect that’s an opinion you would find from many of the guests on the program, especially from some quiet backgrounds as hers, that are thrust into completely different environment – as is the norm in this series.