I had been invited to this podcast and had almost said no. I was in a no time of my life. I would just say, no, no, no. The world was shutting down, I was about to close my company, I had quietly let go of social media. I had lost my confidence in being any type of a public person. Maybe this was it. Maybe I’d just disappear and find peace living an entirely private life.
I knew I had so much to say, so much to write. But maybe not to the entire world anymore. Maybe, that way, I’d be shielded from the suffering that comes with the spotlight.
But I said yes to the podcast. I still can’t remember why.
I got on, and for the first few minutes, I was almost disagreeable. I had no care for how I would come off. But then slowly, something weird started happening. My host’s attention, the substance of her questions, and hearing my own voice talking about what I love, what I care for, my mission—slowly I felt a surge, like a remembrance of who I was.
After the podcast, the little drop of trust I had been given kept nourishing me for days. I’d forget it, and then remember it and smile fondly. To this day I connect to this moment when I need to remember to my mission, my energy, my confidence.
Today, I want to talk to you about self-confidence, that life-changing source of energy. It’s a bit of a different letter, so grab a drink and make yourself comfortable!
It’s people’s confidence we’re jealous of.
Remember the rollercoaster of emotions we feel when we look at Instagram? Excitement, rejection, boredom, jealousy, and around and around we go?
As you know, I’ve recently gone through a lot of soul searching about my reaction to “mom posts.” You know the ones I am talking about. The ones that say things like “I was born the day you were born.” They used to completely shatter me.
Until one day I realised that, when a childfree woman would talk about her choice with a sense of ownership and confidence, I could plug into that and feel complete and aligned. It made no sense to me. What was I looking for that I didn’t have? It wasn’t a baby, since I had consciously made the choice not to pursue that route.
What I didn’t have was confidence in my choice.
Everything is nothing.
I’ve had a problem with commitment my whole life. It’s a problem that I am finally, slowly, painfully trying to come to terms with. In so many ways, my public life was a display of my lack of confidence.
I could never stay with a man. I could never stay with a job. I could never stay with a city. Until one day, my inability to makes choices brought me to my knees. Did I want a baby? Could I have both lives?
The one with the child, and the one without?
It brought me to my knees because, as much as you can try men, cities, and careers until you’re blue in the face, you can’t try motherhood and then decide it’s not good for you. You have to take a leap of faith in life and in yourself.
I was too immature to truly come to terms with the fact that you can’t have everything. You can’t be and experience everything. What you can do is pick one path and invest in it the best you can. Not only does it end the “stop and go” cycle, but committing allows you to deepen your relationships, become a true expert at the career you’ve chosen, and invest in your life in a profound way.
Confidence gives you that. I didn’t have it, and that’s why I was drifting, lost, trying to find it in other people, in books, in conversations, in podcasts, in social media—anywhere.
Anywhere but inside of me.
Forget about money. Forget about looks. Forget about celebrity. Confidence is an inside job. This is why famous people who look like they have it all do crazy things. The cognitive dissonance of having to appear confident when you feel small inside can be incredibly distressing.
This is also why women with inner confidence in their beauty stay gorgeous until they die, whether they decide to stay natural or to get a little help from their plastic surgeon.
This is also why some natural beauties destroy their looks like they’re fulfilling a self-inflicted prophecy.
Without confidence, your looks are never enough, your partner is never enough, your fortune is never enough, your life is never enough. Even your kids are not enough. You wander around, untethered. Till one day something forces you to wake up to yourself.
No one is 100% confident.
I am a confident woman. Even in my doubts and in my struggles, I am confident that I am a soul going through my human experience. I wasn’t always like that—my confidence grew from two things:
- Learning when I was seventeen that we’re all insecure, and, miraculously, acting on that knowledge. Consciously changing my attitude from one of shyness (I am terrified to speak so I’ll just shut up because I can’t bear failure) to one of vulnerability (I am terrified to speak so I’ll do it and own my mistakes, hoping that through them, people can connect to my humanity)(it worked!).
- Learning to cultivate and own a few skills that I draw a lot of confidence from.
Even so, I can sometimes lose it all in one instant. A bad comment. Not being invited to a party. Losing followers. Thinking I need to be a mother to be complete. When it happens, it feels like my entire ego collapses. I lose my life force and just want to crawl under my bed.
These moments show me how hard it must be for those living like that for their whole lives, and inspired me to write this.
No one is born confident. Well, actually, I take that back. Everyone is born confident, until slowly, our social circles, our parents, and our societies chip away at our sense of absolute power. And that’s a good thing, a thing which is called growing up.
This is why very often, Instagram quotes like “Be Confident!” sound hollow and work for about ten seconds before leaving us even emptier than we were before reading them.
Confidence can’t be forced.
You don’t have it out of just being. You build it out of doing.
It feels like fewer and fewer practical skills are being taught, leaving kids with nothing to latch on to but made up social media identities. They might be fun, but in no way can you draw real confidence from them. So you have fun, but at the first poke from life—and there will be pokes—your ego crumbles.
Real confidence is something you develop and cultivate. It’s a work in progress.
Beware the fakes.
What true confidence is…
- Knowing oneself
- Feeling validated first and foremost by oneself
- A sense of uniqueness
- A sense of boundaries
Fake confidence is…
- Mistaking what we are (a woman, a writer, a brunette) for who we are (thankfully too vast and infinite to define)
- In need of constant external validation
- Doing and thinking exactly what everyone else is doing and thinking
- Putting it “all out there,” having no personal boundaries
- A sense of hysteria
The reason we sometimes feel inexplicable feelings towards some friends, celebrities, and social media posts is because they’re displaying fake self-confidence. Deep down, we know something isn’t quite right, but we can’t put our fingers on it because what we see is incredibly convincing.
It is actually often unconsciously designed to make you feel inferior. It’s not malign—but by feeling inferior, you reassure the protagonist into whatever they’re trying to convince themselves about. Some childfree women feel the need to reassure themselves constantly that their life is SO MUCH BETTER than that of mothers.
Comparing lives: fake confidence.
Other signs of fake confidence: things are too perfect (My body is flawless!!!), they’re repeated too often (I love my husband!!!), or they’re caricatural (Activism is my whole life!!!).
The source of confidence…
You can have all the gifts of life and be utterly insecure. You can have none of them and become confident. Some things are given to us at birth, and others are acquired painstakingly. It doesn’t matter! What matters is how we draw from them.
Given Sources of Confidence
Power (money or social status)
Acquired Sources of Confidence
We all have a few. Some of them might need to be developed. Some can last for a lifetime (charm) while others fade if we let them (beauty), which is why it is important to grow and develop more than one.
Skills are the most democratic source of confidence. They don’t need to be major, profound, or life-changing. You can learn to code. You can knit. You can work out. Don’t count on just one source, or you will break down the second it’s challenged.
I am confident in my charm. Sometimes though, it doesn’t work. WHAT THE FUCK? I think. In these moments I feel betrayed, shaky, and weird.
So I let myself be humbled (having confidence in a trait doesn’t mean counting on it being infallible, and this is why I usually welcome the humbling)(it makes me realise how much I rely on my charm)(and how grateful I am for it) and move on. And when I am ready again, I go have a drink at my source.
…and how to drink from it.
The medicine doesn’t have to be related to the ill. What we’re doing is only as simple as filling our reservoir of confidence, and any fuel works. Correction: only natural fuel works. No dopamine fuel. Likes. Danger. Drugs… They’re not true healers. They’re treacherous. But you know that.
Apart from that, don’t judge the source of your confidence. The idea is that a small moment of confidence will radiate through the entire you, shining a light on your whole life experience. Like the podcast that lit me up with one single drop of confidence.
The more sources of confidence you have, the easier it is to become a truly self-confident person.
Don’t cut yourself from your talents, your skills, your gifts. Enjoy your brains by challenging yourself with complicated reads. Learn to play the piano. Grow a garden. Move your body and feel the life pulsate inside of you. Enjoy your beauty without any guilt.
Do that, and your reservoir of confidence will always be full, ready for you to come drink at it.
A few confidence destroyers and some tools to heal.
Here are a few of my confidence destroyers:
Numbers. Not only do I hate numbers in general, I have to count of my fingers and cannot understand an Excel sheet for the life of me. The only thing that makes me feel safe is when they go in the right direction, and any complexity freaks the hell out of me. I am very immature with numbers, have zero confidence and, alas!!! I am not doing the work to overcome my lack in the matter.
Physical appearance. I had to accept that this will never go away, and learn to live with it. Having my photo taken is really difficult for me. As a public person, I’ve had to learn to manage my ambivalence between wanting to be in the shadow and also loving the light.
Rejection. Any type of rejection can put me through hell.
I could probably give you a breakdown of my childhood and how these insecurities were built, and why I chose to work on some of them and drop others.
But I just don’t think life has to become this exhausting project of overcoming all of your traumas and insecurities. Sometimes, you just have to accept them and move on.
You can always counter them with your confidence healers!
Here are a few my confidence healers:
Exercise. Running, dancing, hiking. Good music to go with it. Sex!
I can fix through my body things that have nothing to do with my body. The guy didn’t text me back? Go for a run! Nothing to do with it, but it works.
Spirituality. Meditation, reframing things, and see them in the bigger context. Astrology. Knowing that failures are merely a redirection. Not trying to convince myself but truly knowing it because I have learned it through my (ongoing, messy, fascinating) spiritual journey.
Taking back control. Control is not a bad word—Though I thought it was for such a long time. I thought I should be naturally organized, effortlessly healthy, innately calm. Instead I learnt that by pushing myself a tiny bit, I switch to a much better world where my house is clean and airy, my diet gives me pleasure and energy, and my breathing techniques bring me calm and composure. When I fall off the bandwagon, I know I can always get back on it.
Focusing on my skills. Shutting everything down and writing. Cooking. Coding. Ironing. Skills, whatever they are (they don’t need to be spectacular! I’m a terrible coder!) are an endless source of confidence.
The law of attraction.
Real confidence makes people attractive. As I explained in chapter one, it is not their attributes we’re attracted to, it’s their confidence in their attributes. Most of us are looking for confidence in other people because:
- We don’t have it ourselves and we love to plug into it.
- Truly confident people feel safe. They have everything they need. They won’t try to take from us or to make us feel smaller.
- Confident people are contained, and therefore able to make space for others.
They’re also open-minded, self-deprecating, and not easily offended because they know who they are and not a word from anyone else can change that.
Fake it till you make it.
We need to talk about fake it till you make it for a second, because it is true—confidence can be impersonated for a little bit. Not in an inauthentic way, and not in trying to be someone you’re not.
Faking confidence can only work if it’s here to serve a purpose that’s real. Let’s imagine you’re confident that you have the skill to do that job but you don’t have the confidence to go talk to your boss and ask for it. The source of your confidence is real, so faking yourself into a bit of a go-getter mindset can work. Go talk to your boss!
But layer fake confidence over a fake purpose, and it becomes delusion and inauthenticity. It makes others feel a weird sense of discomfort—and might end up making you feel miserable.
Three easy things that show confidence, whether they’re a bit manufactured or not.
A good posture.
Self care. It is a wonderful signal of respect for self and for others.
Calm. Radiating confidence, not always looking for the spotlight but happily talking when we have something to say. Histrionics, needing to be constantly in the light, oversharing—they can be very entertaining but they often show a huge lack of self-confidence. It is what a lot of artists create whole careers on, at their own expense. If they allow themselves to work on it, eventually, they will be able to find balance and plunge into their insecurities to come back with stellar work, while staying anchored into the safe harbor of their confidence. If not… well, we have countless examples.
Let’s talk about vulnerability.
Another Instaquote that came without a warning and threw a lot of us off: “Be vulnerable!!!” WTF.
What vulnerability is:
Being contained: being okay acknowledging your flaws and self-doubt, and moving on. Laughing about them is a plus, as humor is the loveliest sign of confidence.
What vulnerability is not:
Overflowing: dropping all of your self-doubt in other people’s laps and going on about yourself, hoping they will give you therapy, reassurance, or help you fix yourself. Comparing and despairing. Being offended when you don’t feel heard or understood.
This is not being vulnerable. It is being toxic.
It will make people run away from you as fast as they can. If you feel like you have overflow, ask a friend to lend you an ear for an hour, and thank them for listening. If it’s not enough, get yourself to a therapist, or keep a diary.
My boyfriend, who is an actor, is filming right now. Yesterday I asked him if I could come to see him at work—even though I don’t care about being on set, I am busy launching a brand (aargh!), and it’s a three-hour drive.
But there is one thing I adore, and it’s seeing the people I love at work, in their excellence. I can imagine him, cameras rolling, in full possession of his skill, totally focused, unaware of me. It rings millions of chimes of joys. Exactly like myself when I write, oblivious to the world around me, hours passing within a minute, and that feeling of being exactly right where I belong.
It is called flow. When we plug into it, we plug into a limitless source of confidence. We almost touch the divine. We disappear into love and presence.
And when we carry that with us, we can change the vibration everywhere we go.
That’s the gift of confidence. It’s a practice, until one day it’s a gift. The gift of being right here, fully present to our lives, present to ourselves and to others. Exactly like a child, but with the scars, the poise, and the uniqueness of a beautifully grown human.