What’s Wrong With Being Confident?

 

Would confidence come more naturally if women knew they were entitled to it?

I just finished reading Mindy Kaling’s new book, Why Not Me? in which she talks about confidence. After you finish reading this article, read the last chapter of the book for some particularly fabulous advice on confidence from Mindy herself.

Mindy talks about being asked “Where do you get your confidence?” and how that question coming from a white male is rude because of the pointed meaning behind it.

“You are a minority woman, who is not skinny and does not look like most women on TV. So how in the world are you confident when you clearly have no reason to be?”

Mindy says that while having articles like this one about confidence is good, it is also important to remember that girls don’t need to be told they should be confident.

The very fact of the matter is that most white males aren’t told they need to be confident, because they have no reason to believe that they shouldn’t be. But women—especially women of color, low-income women, and women of the LGBTQIA+ community—are told they should be confident mainly because we expect them to have low self-esteem.

What if we stopped telling women to be confident? Would confidence come naturally if women knew they were entitled to it?

I love being a girl. Wearing dresses and makeup makes me feel good. I am proud to be the same gender as Beyonce. We can literally grow freaking humans in our bodies and then just keep on living life. Nevertheless, being a woman has its difficulties, and honing confidence is often one of them.

“You’re just too intimidating; that’s why he’s not approaching you.”

“You just give off this vibe of being independent and not needing anyone.”

“She was so {insert derogatory way to say a woman was expressing her very valid opinion here} in that meeting.”

All women have fallen victim to statements like these, whether the criticisms are said to us, about us, or to someone we know. Every woman has dealt with being questioned for her independence, confidence, or the way that she lives her life.

No matter how far back into the recesses of our brains we place our pesky insecurities, someone in this world is going to drag them out, kicking and screaming, into daylight and ask you how you—a woman— dare to be so confident.

I struggle with being confident myself. Not every day, but enough. Some days I wake up feeling flawless and ready to take on the world, while other days I feel beat down and completely unsure of myself. This is normal.

It’s normal to feel bad and not feel confident every second of the day; no one does. But it’s also normal to feel self-assured, strong, and fierce. So why is it so hard? What’s wrong with being confident?

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Our world often tries to teach us that female independence and esteem are bad things. All of the words that are used negatively against confident women—intimidating, independent, free-spirited, bossy, stuck-up—are simply misogynistic code.

We live in a society in which women are expected to be just the right amount of confident; too much confidence makes a woman a bitch, overbearing, and stubborn.

Therefore, understand that the next time someone tells you that you are too “intimidating” for a guy (whatever the hell that means), that is a HUGE compliment. Anyone who would hold it against you that you are “intimidating” is someone who can’t fathom not caring what other people think of them.

Worrying about what men think of you often leads to a competitiveness and insecurity around other women; perhaps women that are seemingly more attractive. Comparison is a thief of joy. We compare ourselves to other women all the time due to our insecurities. We see skinny, beautiful models on the cover of magazines and want to look like them. We see women who are philanthropists and CEO’s of companies and admire their ambition and strength. We see women with the picture perfect family and wish that we had our lives more together.

But comparing yourself to someone else chips away at your own personal confidence, because you will never achieve exactly what another woman has. No matter what you do, you will never have precisely that woman’s life, or look exactly like her, or have her experiences. So why are we trying so hard to be like other people?

Instead, we should be confident in our own life stories, journeys and experiences. Be confident in the spaces of your life. Maybe you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but chances are you aren’t. Chances are you are a mom, a teacher, an artist, a barista, a woman working a couple different jobs living life in limbo.

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It’s fine to have dreams, even distant and fuzzy ones; but don’t let the pursuit of those dreams and the frustration of not always making them come true allow you to lose sight of the power and influence you do have, and your ability to feel proud of yourself anyway.

It doesn’t matter whatever your life circumstance, be all there. Be present in the life you are living at the moment and be confident in that life. Use your position to impress upon future woman of the world so they know they are strong, impressive, smart, capable, unstoppable, loved, and beautiful—no matter their career, relationship status, and what they have or haven’t fulfilled.

Be confident in the happy moments and the crappy moments: when your career goals are slipping away, after a break-up, when your fantasies don’t meet reality. Accept the messes and mistakes, the good days and the bad. It doesn’t matter what you do; confidence is achievable through self-acceptance.

I’m not going to tell you to be confident or that you can do anything you set your mind to; those are messages you can send yourself. I will just tell you to work hard, be kind, and live your life—nothing makes the haters angrier than you living your life without stopping to consider what they have to say about it.

Feature photo by Gabriella Duncan.

SELFBridget O'Toole