How do I stop feeling like a wallflower?
I’ve always felt like the wallflower. How do I get in touch with my confidence?
I first want to counter your question with a question—for whom? I’m assuming, since you’re asking this question, that you want to step into yourself more fully and are excited about the prospect. But know this: being social is not the same as being confident. If you feel like you must emerge as a social butterfly because of outside expectations, I’m here to remind you that you don’t have to.
But I feel you, and I recognize this feeling. I’m on this same path. I’ve lived much of my life in search of positive attention and recognition. Because of that pursuit, I constantly pushed myself to be as perfect as I could be—meanwhile, tearing myself down internally because I wasn’t good enough. I tried to feed a hurting heart with outside validation.
Unsurprising plot twist: it didn’t work. So I’ve been on a mission to cultivate confidence from the inside out. Here’s the new recipe I’m nourishing myself with: self-acknowledgement, embodiment, a network of reliable friends, and time.
I think most people want someone to look us square in the eyes and say: “You are special.” We want to know that we are needed, that we provide something unique, that we are not entirely replaceable. Take a moment to think about how you can do this for yourself. Maybe it looks like speaking affirming words in the mirror each morning, writing your goals in a journal, or giving your arm a squeeze of reassurance in challenging situations. Recognize the things you are good at, the intentions of your heart, and the energy you bring to the world. Name those qualities you love most about yourself and carry them with you.
Now, connect those things with your behavior. How can you amplify the things that are core to you? This, I’ve found, is the root of confidence: if you know and love who you are at your core, being confident in yourself comes more easily. Place your confidence in who you are, rather than trying to force yourself into a confidence that doesn’t fit you.
While your friends can’t make you confident, they can support your evolution. Invite the friends who know you most authentically to help you face this question. Maybe they have an additional perspective about your strengths and your growth that you aren’t able to see at this moment. Being honest with people you are closest to can be a step towards greater confidence, and chances are that they’ll be enthusiastic supporters.
So much of my self-confidence has only come because I’ve existed longer on this planet. There’s a gut instinct honed only through experience, and the best way to get experience is to move forward through life. I’m not saying this because I have a lot of life behind me, but rather, because I have so much learning yet to do. The (hopeful) decades ahead are full of challenges and unanswered questions—all of which will require time to solve. Look at where you’ve come from, learn from it, and stay open to a future that will hold more answers for you.
If you’re thinking “but what about right now?” I can share a handful of small things that have helped me feel confident on a day-to-day basis.
Wear the colors you love, not the colors that are trending or that you think you have to wear. Same goes for beauty products. Change your hair, get a piercing, plan out a thoughtful tattoo—anyone who tells you that you cannot present your body in the way you want to present it can politely take a seat. Listen to the music you like without shame. You’ll feel more pulled together, and thus more confident, if you are exploring those things that feel authentic to you.
And finally, explore what lies near (or just past) the borders of your comfort zone. You can take an improv or sketch comedy class, find or become a mentor, or simply wear something you’ve felt too timid to wear by mixing new patterns, colors, and textures.
Pursue the things you find most beautiful about yourself, and you will most certainly bloom.
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Emily Torres is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her rabbits, or practicing at the yoga studio.