Today I want to talk a bit about how to be confident, especially when you are in the face of anxiety. This is something that I have experienced quite often in the past. You get worked up over social situations because you are uncertain about what to expect. You let those anxious feelings take over you and compromise your ability to talk to people. I am sure this is something a lot of you can relate to. It can seem very intimidating when we focus on the potential negative outcomes of a social situation. Instead, we should see the positive side – which is how fun and exciting the situation can be!
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About a month ago, I attended a formal at my fraternity house. In this particular situation, I was being matched up with a date who I have never met or even seen in person! I am sure this would be an uncomfortable circumstance for most people. Especially as a guy, and welcoming the girl into my fraternity house as a host, I am expected to be a leader and make her feel as comfortable as possible.
Thoughts ran through my head such as: Will she like me? or Will I like her? The uncertainty of the situation caused me to put a lot of pressure on myself, and I am sure you have gone through similar feelings yourselves. I’m going to talk a bit about how to be confident in a challenging situation like this and how I was able to put myself in a good state and have a very enjoyable night.
SO WHAT DID I DO?
When I arrived at the formal, I immediately joined a small group of my fraternity brothers who were chatting. Fortunately enough, not many people were there at that point, so I had the chance to get myself into a better state by talking in a small and manageable group. I contributed to the conversation where possible, and I slowly became more talkative and felt more confident. I was able to loosen up some of the tension that I arrived at the house with.
Another thing that helped me boost my state was that I ran into an old friend from elementary school (the one I talked about in my previous blog post). This was a very random and interesting circumstance. However, it allowed me to interact with someone that I used to know very well. This gave me a boost of confidence, and I was able to jump right in and make small talk. This gave me the energy to take on more intimidating interactions with people.
At this point, I had gotten in a decent amount of conversation. One thing I might add is that I did have a couple drinks. Personally, I think that having 1 drink to loosen you up is okay, but if you have more, you will increase your chance of feeling sleepy and also start to use alcohol as a crutch. It will become more of a determining factor for how you perform in a social situation. You should ultimately put yourself in a situation where you are growing, and not rely on a substance to help you do so.
WHEN SHE ARRIVED
Next, the girl arrived, and although it was originally something I was very worked up about, I noticed that I didn’t freak out when I saw her. Instead, I was very relaxed, composed, and my body language was upright and confident. Abraham Lincoln once said,
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”
Preparation is key. My anxiety level had decreased, and this was the result of the things I did earlier in the night to help me prepare.
So I wanted to give you some tips on how to be confident in social situations and get into a better social state when you are preparing for conversations. Here they are…
#1 FUEL YOURSELF PHYSICALLY
You have to make sure that you fuel yourself physically throughout the day, with proper nutrition and exercise. Last weekend when I went out, I had a very good night. Before I met up with my friend, I found a juice bar in the area and ordered a green juice, which was packed with nutrient filled foods like kale and ginger. When I drank it, I was filled with sustainable energy that carried me through the entire night; no alcohol beverages were necessary. You don’t have to drink something this exotic, but make sure that you at least have a clean meal and stay hydrated as well before you go out. You will see a difference in your mood, which will reflect on how confident you feel.
On the flip side, when I went out last night, I went to a pub night right before I met up with my friend, where there was free food. Of course, pub food is quite greasy, and I found myself eating french fries and other things that didn’t help me physically. There was also free beer which made me dehydrated. Although I felt okay initially, I noticed that my social state gradually dwindled throughout the night and I did not have the energy that I needed.
It is also helpful to exercise the day you go out as well. Focus on aerobic exercises like cardio, that will increase your oxygen intake and boost your energy level.
#2 GET THERE EARLY
If you want to see how to be confident, make sure that you get to your social event early. There will be fewer people there, which will give you a chance to comfortably ease into more challenging social interactions. Just like when I first arrived at the formal, you can also find a smaller group to talk to. There will be more opportunities to contribute to the conversation and the environment isn’t too loud.
Again, I will suggest avoiding alcohol when you first arrive. When you show confidence in your social abilities, and you accumulate successful conversations without any alcohol, this will teach you how to be confident even more. You will realize that you don’t need any substance to help you, especially in your day-to-day conversations at school or work where drinking isn’t an option.
#3 RECITE POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS AND MEDITATE
You can also recite positive affirmations to yourself before you leave for the event. You can do incantations, where you shout things that you want to manifest. For example, “I am confident!” or “I feel so happy and positive!” Say the phrase with the corresponding emotion and body language (ex. Saying that you feel so happy with a big smile on your face and raising your arms towards the ceiling). It is important to visualize yourself going out and having a great night with these positive emotions. It will help you feel these emotions to a stronger degree.
You can also meditate before the event as well, which will help you become more present during your social interactions. Ph.D. Psychologist Tara Brach has a large variety of free guided meditations on her website that I would recommend you check out.
#4 SMALL TALK WITH STRANGERS AND BE SOCIAL DURING THE DAY
Another thing you can do is have some mild small talk with strangers before the social event. You will probably have some sort of journey to get to where you are going. Maybe you are on the subway or taking an Uber or taxi to the event. You can talk to the driver if you are in an Uber or taxi. Or, if you are taking public transit, you can do some simple things like ask for the directions or ask for the time. These are simple things that I do that get me adjusted to talking with people if I do them consistently. It will prepare you for how to be confident at the social event where you will meet people that you don’t know.
In addition to that, put yourself in situations throughout the day where you are socializing. Personally, I work at a desk job in front of a computer, so I don’t get a lot of social practice throughout the day. Thus, I have to work a bit harder by doing things outside of work that will put me in a social state. The point is to see the opportunities where you can be social. Say “Hi” and “Have a great day!” to a stranger in the elevator, or go to a familiar club at your school during the day so you will be in a better state for the social event.
#5 START WITH EASY INTERACTIONS
The final tip is to start the social event with some quick and easy interactions. If the social situation seems intimidating at first, you want to give yourself a practical method to work your way up. You will eventually reach the point where you can handle challenging interactions with people that seem intimidating to you. Remember, your fear is an illusion of reality. Initially, your fear will lead you to believe that certain interactions are impossible, and feel that you don’t know how to be confident. But you should give yourself a chance to work your way up different interactions in a manageable way. Then you will gain the confidence to handle interactions that used to seem scary.
This is exactly what getting into state means – warming up to social situations that seem intimidating at first. So when you arrive at your event, look around the room and ask, “Who would I feel most comfortable talking to at the beginning?” Maybe you have a friend there, and that is great. You can start by talking to them. But remember that you don’t have to just talk to your friend. When you are in a better state, expand your comfort zone and meet some new people. You can eventually gain the courage to approach someone you are romantically interested in.
ONE FINAL THING TO ADD ON HOW TO BE CONFIDENT:
Don’t rush and don’t put too much pressure on yourself! When you are on your way to the event, do whatever you can to reduce your anxiety level. Listen to some music, meditate, or whatever else will help you stay calm. Everything will take care of itself, as long as you take steps to increase your social state throughout the night. Take action so you know how to be confident, and remember, socializing is meant to be fun!
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