There is nothing I admire more in a person than confidence. The kind of confidence that isn’t too overpowering and show-off, but just the kind which allows you to speak well in front of others, to be unafraid to make mistakes, to love yourself enough to tell people about both the good and bad sides of yourself.
The kind of confidence I have is faux confidence. I only gain the confidence because of external factors; it doesn’t come from myself. I only gain that confidence when people tell me that I can do something well and acknowledge that I am good. It is the kind of confidence that makes me only want to do the things I am good in, and avoid all things I am bad at. Because I want to keep remaining good in other people’s eyes, I avoid it for fear that they would change their minds, and consequently mine.
Hence it is also the kind of confidence which prevents me from being who I am and being who I could be. I am too afraid to embrace my weaknesses and show them to the world. I’ll just be really honest here and say that I seem to be a very good student in many peoples’ eyes. To my classmates and schoolmates, and to my teachers. Friends and friends of friends are always asking me how I am doing so well in school, and teachers tell me that I have so much more potential and that I should sign up for additional programmes, take up more responsibilities, things like that. But the truth is that I don’t always do that well, that I hide my struggles, and the only reason why I work hard to do well is because I don’t want people to suddenly realise that I’m not as smart as they made me out to be. And the reason why I never ever take my teachers’ offers of signing up for courses and competitions is because I’m afraid that they’d realise I’m really not good enough for such endeavours. But this is a vicious cycle because then I’d never ever get the chance to stretch myself, to just try things out and learn from experience. Unlike what some of my teachers say, it’s not that I’m complacent, or that I don’t care about these rare opportunities presented to me by others. It’s that I’m afraid. That’s how scary fear is. It stops you from truly becoming better.
Someone once asked me why I seemed so unconfident and uncertain even though I did well consistently in school. My answer was, “because that’s the only thing I’m good at”. I said that because it always felt like whenever people thought of me, the only word they used to describe me was “smart”. While it may be a good adjective to be described as, it really really sucked that that was the only trait that people knew me by. I wanted to be other things, like being kind-hearted, understanding, compassionate, generous, comfortable to be with, driven, strong-willed… Words that said something about my character, not just a word like “smart” which seemed so superficial to me. And yet because I was somewhat influenced into thinking that being smart was my only strength, I stubbornly stuck to it, unwilling to let go of the confidence people had in me in that single aspect. I was afraid that one mistake would erase all the positive impressions that people had of me. I was afraid that when people thought of me, they would only remember how I embarrassed myself when I fumbled as I spoke in front of my classmates, when I couldn’t think under everyone’s stare and gave unintellectual replies that the teacher criticised. I was afraid that once I made a mistake, that trait people thought I had would disappear, and suddenly I am nothing, not even just “smart”.
But I realise that sometimes it is the mistakes you make and how you deal with them that brings out your character. And I realise that making mistakes and being imperfect is human, that it makes people less intimidated by you and want to get to know you more beneath what you choose to show to the world. And that maybe I need to fall and rise again in order to gain confidence in myself, and rediscover that I am capable of doing things I thought I couldn’t.
I’m still working on being less afraid to make mistakes, so it may not be very fitting for me to say this, but I just want everyone to realise it with me. We are not alone in our fears. Everyone, no matter how great they may seem to you on the outside, has their own fair share of fears and insecurities. I truly believe that genuine confidence and fear are not mutually exclusive; that we can have both at the same time. Because by choosing to face the fear head on, we can build confidence. Along the way, even more fears may develop, but that is precisely how we can grow and develop our character and build resilience.
And also remember… never ever, ever, laugh at someone or gossip about someone because they are bad at something. We always get back what we give. Especially the bad things.
Fear is fiction; black & bold it.