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Homework. V.

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This assignment was sent to me by Jeff Goins. I thought it was so great that I decided it should be put here. Tell me what you think.

When I was younger, I got bullied a lot. A short and chubby redhead, I was the kid you’d see getting teased at recess. And for most of my youth, I attracted bullies who made me feel small. They got the girl, and I got anxiety attacks.

Moving into my teenage years, the sense of victimhood didn’t leave me. I didn’t have much of a social life and rarely left the house. I had a pretty cynical worldview. If something could go wrong, it would.

When I started running and losing weight, a strange thing happened: I didn’t become more confident. I was still very scared and shy, and this surprised me.

I always thought I was timid because of how I looked, but the truth was I had learned to live into others’ expectations of me. I became what other people perceived me to be. And I couldn’t escape it.

This false self-image followed me into adulthood, and eventually, I realized my lack of confidence was not something I was going to grow out of. Not without a fight.

If I was going to live the life I wanted, I would have to learn to be assertive. I would have to find a way to be confident. To overcome my fears. Even if I had to fake it.

The Practice of Confidence

So I began observing confident people. I studied how they spoke and acted, what made them different from the rest of us. I watched their mannerisms and how they conducted themselves in public, and then I started copying them.

Little by little, I made daily decisions that exuded confidence. I haggled with retailers and demanded apologies from rude telemarketers. I got in people’s faces and looked them straight in the eyes. I acted as if I believed in myself, even though I didn’t. The crazy part? It worked.

The more I faked being confident, the more I actually became confident.

After standing up to my first bully in over two decades — a drunk who harassed my wife at a concert — I felt more alive than I had in years. Although I was scared to face him, I did it anyway. To my surprise, he didn’t pound me into a pulp. He backed down and apologized.

And I walked away with an unfamiliar feeling of strength and peace that I kind of liked.

This experience taught me something: confidence takes practice. Although some people may be born with it, others have to develop it. They don’t inherit it; they have to create it.

I’ve applied this principle to other areas of my life and seen great success. Now, I regularly speak for live audiences and get asked to do interviews. I communicate with a confidence that surprises even me — all because I’ve learned how to practice.

Sure, I still have twinges of self-doubt, but I am growing into the person I believe I was meant to be.

Homework

Your homework this week is to emulate someone who is more confident than you are. Find someone who is bolder and stronger and observe them. Then copy what they do, even if it feels uncomfortable.

Do they never slouch? Do the same. Do they tell the hard, brutal truth right to people’s faces? Do that. Confidence isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible, either. All you need is a little practice.

Everything we do in life is practice. If you constantly question yourself and wonder about your abilities, what do you think you’re doing? It’s not being humble. You’re practicing insecurity. And if you can do that as a practice, you can do the opposite.

Good luck with your assignment. Report back when in the comments when you are done.

P.S.: Check out Jeff’s ebooks The Writer’s Manifesto and You Are a Writer while you’re on his site. Good stuff.

* Filed by at 1:25 pm under homework


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26 Responses to “Homework. V.”

  1. Pat Crofoot Says:

    I grew up the short chubby kid. Not overweight but not fit. Always with the group, but not really part of it. Made me an uncaring jerk. I really have a hard time caring for anybody else.

    There are so many manifestations in my daily life that are creations of my childhood – high school.

    But number one is lack of confidence.

    If I can give my children one single life lesson, it’s be confident and assertive in every thing you do. If you can, then you will not have limits and enjoy life to the fullest, rather than see someone else doing what you want.

  2. Collin Says:

    In many regards this described quite about my life thus far. I’m 20 and I’m currently in the midst of emulating and following in the footsteps of those who can project confidence simply by the way they look at you. It hasn’t been easy and I have needed to get a little help but as I keep telling myself, it’s all for the best, to make sure the next 20 years are 10x better than the last.

    Side note: what’s with the 10 second countdown clock on the right side of the site?

  3. Alastair Says:

    Julien,
    I’m REALLY liking the way this blog is evolving, particularly the homework posts, they absolutely nail it and leave me thinking about what is suggested for ages afterwards – this post being no exception.

    I still remember being the kid who was pushed around by an older boy for years at school until I finally pushed through my worries and hit him squarely without a thought for the consequences. He never bullied me again and I learned that, yes, confidence can be created.

    I’ll be doing this homework for sure.

    • Harris Says:

      I did that too. I actually used the ‘flinch’ to make a bully cry, hit him very hard. And after that the bullying stopped.

      It’s one of my “greatest hits” in life, a really good feeling/memory, but it didn’t last… It’s like the bullies, all of them, got inside my head, forever, and I constantly feel inferior and afraid of humiliation. I’m the definition of low self-esteem.

      To be honest I’m a bit suicidal at this point. Since I don’t want to die yet, I have no choice but to grab life by the balls.

      BTW, a few months ago some friggin crackhead tried to mug me, I did exactly that. Sensed the flinch immediately and used it to counter-attack, I could have castrated him and probably would if I thought he was a threat. I told him, “if you don’t want to die right now, run like hell”, an so he did. I don’t think he saw it coming.

      So yeah. I have no choice but to say fuck it and do whatever.

      I’m tired of being afraid. Enough is enough.

  4. Kevin Says:

    Is this like fight club? I was expecting to see you say, “get in a fight with someone.”

  5. Momekh Says:

    Teacher, teacher, Go truth or dare with me, and I win. Period. 😛

    When I was in high school, I was very big on ‘be yourself’. That mantra made me question ‘yourself’. What am I to begin with!? If I want to be ‘myself’, what exactly does that damn thing mean!!??

    The coolest bit is when one realizes that most of ‘me’ is a copy of the people around me. Once that realization sets in, it almost becomes a pick-n-choose; emulate that person’s confidence, emulate that person’s resolve, that person’s commitment, charisma etc.

    This topic deserves a book or four in itself. Glad you brought it up, Jeff, and thanks Julien for sharing it here. 🙂

  6. Marcel Says:

    I just saw that “You Are a Writer” is also free for kindle (at least in my country)

  7. Gloria Lucia Says:

    Just want to share, that there are different ways to get to the point that Jeff achieved.
    I was pretty much like Jeff all my life.
    25 five years ago I had a severe accident which kept me in “coma” for more than 6 months.
    No one believed I was going to survive and Iif I made it , I was going to have brain damage.
    ……Well, I survived and when I realized everything that had happened to me, I also realized a had a different state of mind. I was decided to build a ” new me ” and take advantage to the second opportunity that I got.
    I think I am doing a good job and I still hane much to do.

  8. Jarkko Helenius Says:

    I resonated with Jeff’s story. I am anti-social and lacking confidence for different reasons, but result is the same – I am now cleaning up the fallout to slowly work my way to becoming more assertive and confident.

  9. Jo-Anne Says:

    Yes fake it till it’s real is something many people have to do, being confident isn’t something that comes easy to many people me included.

  10. Gervais Says:

    Is the suggestion here that we should give up self-questioning altogether?

    I’m in the process of building a more confident version of myself, but its based almost entirely on self-reflection.

    Why do I flinch when meeting new people? Why do I worry whether my new haircut/glasses/shoes make me look stupid? Why do I read emails and blog entries/comments over and over and over again before finally hitting Post? Why do I feel more comfortable buying a coffee from Tim Horton’s than the identical no-name place right next door? By means of whose indoctrination have I managed to get myself into this dejected state?

    By asking these questions, and finding the scary-as-fuck answers, you realise how much of a pussy you’ve been being…

    Maybe I’m just a navel-gazing, self-absorbed son of a bitch, but it seems to me that were you to build yourself out of other people’s parts – instead of finding bits inside your own personality to exercise and strengthen – you’d run a serious risk of becoming a psychological Frankenstein. The end game being that 20 or 30 years down the line you wake up one day and realize you’ve chosen to live life in the endless twilight of a thousand tiny shadows.

  11. Mike Says:

    It took me a long time to get it. Not giving a shit simply means knowing who you are, liking who you are and not allowing people to impose their beliefs and attitudes on you. I went through a phase after developing self esteem of being very angry. Then I realized that being angry only upset me. No one really gave a fuck.

    The best weapon to use is to REALLY not give a shit. As in IGNORING anything and anyone who interferes with your enjoyment of life. Clerk who has a bad attitude? Ignore ’em. Waiter/Waitress give you attitude? stay happy—and “forget” to leave a tip. Friends/family get on your nerves with their bullshit? Stop talking to them until they “get it”. Just be happy, treat people with only the level of respect they deserve from respecting you, and keep stepping.

    • vain Says:

      that’s what i do…i used to be the person who worries about everything…and so afraid of those people who’s giving me an atittude..but then ive realized why would i care??? worrying so much about them made me hate myself…for being so coward … i dont need to waste my time over thinking…ive learned not to give a fuck..and hell yeah it works..it really helps me.

  12. Sarah Says:

    Julien, I really like this. I was raised in the south, where “nice girls” don’t get up in people’s faces (for the most part). But maybe I can’t blame my region entirely – maybe playing nice has been my form of safety for too long. I’m looking forward to experimenting this week with telling the brutal truth and not beating myself up about it. It sure feels damn good.

  13. Kristi Says:

    I grew up relatively happy-go-lucky and was always normally confident. Something happened to me in my adult life though that changed that and I don’t know if I will ever get over it. It’s so hard. I’ve been doing things like this assignment for a while now, they do help. But the years I lost in brokenness…

  14. Philip Luca Says:

    awesome advice Julien- I’ll come back for more

  15. EntrepreneursAnonymous Says:

    Julien,

    Fantastic advice – and thanks for continuing to share so many of your insights, experiences, and ideas. I was the short, chubby black kid who got picked on by the black kids because I used good English, was soft-spoken, and not particularly interested in sports. I got picked on by the white kids because well, I didn’t look like them. All the kids made fun of my weight. Regardless, I experienced a similar arc and I’ve started to learn confidence but it still doesn’t come naturally, especially in the presence of dominant personalities. So, your homework assignment was timely.

    I’ve begun to “act confidently” in two ways that have been personally uncomfortable yet surprisingly empowering. First, I’ve decided to stop moving aside on the street in situations when there is plenty of walking space but people are walking in my path. For context, I tend to walk to the right, and whenever a group or an individual is crowding the sidewalk, I often bob and weave my way along the sidewalk, even moving into the street to avoid bumping into people who otherwise act as if I’m not even there. I thought I’d experience conflict by making this change, or be branded some sort of “a-hole” by doing the simple thing of asserting my own right to walk on the sidewalk. Funny enough, people simply move out of the way – or they pay attention and walk to the right rather than taking up the entire sidewalk. It’s a small, seemingly petty thing but it goes back to your statement about not giving up one’s power to anyone. You see, before, I was essentially letting others walk over me. Now, people acknowledge that there is another human being on the sidewalk with the same right to use it as they do.

    The other way I’ve applied this is to start embracing the opportunities to state my own opinion whenever I’m afraid that it will be rejected or that I’ll be judged for having a different point of view. What I’ve found is that, while some do judge, more often, others actually listen and give my ideas consideration. It’s early to tell, but I think that I’m beginning to be viewed as someone worth respecting rather than simply being the “nice guy” who everyone likes. More on this, as I continue to evolve…

  16. claartje Says:

    Thanks for this, Julien
    Also thanks to the other reply people.
    We’re on the same boat, it seems, and I like where it is going.

  17. Eric Says:

    This has been a life-long “work in progress” for me that continues to this day (into my 30’s now). I think my fear of confrontation / lack of willingness to stand up for something i believe in is based on a long history of being a “peace maker” in the family and not wanting to “piss people off” or worrying about what they think…

    So far i’ve figured out a few things about the subject though (for anyone that’s interested):
    1) Walk like you “know”, is one of them. Walk like you “know” something that they don’t. Look people in the eye as you go down the street. Most will look away, some will look back. Do they “know” as well? Find your “strut” and you’ll feel like you’re going down the street Reservoir Dogs-style, in slo-mo with your theme music playing behind you.

    2) Most people are as afraid as you are… or at the very least, are not as confident as they seem and are probably faking it as much as you. Let that knowledge comfort you next time. Remember, everybody’s afraid of something.

    3) I’m reading an old book on Negotiating called “Start with NO”, and essentially it argues against going into situations with a Win-Win mentality. I’ve been keeping the phrase “Start with NO” in the front of my consciousness lately, and using it as my base starting point for any interactions / confrontations that i bump into. Start with the “NO”, loud n’ proud, and you’ll soon find yourself owning the conversation. You can always apologize or back-track later if you go a bit too far… but don’t give up your hand before the cards are all dealt.

    Thanks Julien for another “keeper”.

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