Have you ever laid awake at night, plagued by negative comment after negative comment made by a friend, relative or even a stranger towards something you said, did or about your personality? And the more you think about it, the more your stomach shrinks in horror and your cheeks burn with embarrassment? And then you finally do fall asleep out of sheer mental exhaustion only to wake up with the same thoughts burning a hole in your mind?
I definitely have.
I dislike that I let negative comments stay with me for so long. Or that I let someone else’s opinion of me make me double guess my self-worth. I can understand why the age-old comeback, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is taught to kids at an early age. Not taking someone else’s negative words to heart is an important part of maintaining self-confidence and decreasing anxiety, as “self-esteem has a strong relation to happiness,” according to this 2003 study.
The other day, my friend and I were at a party having a conversation with someone who made me feel a little silly. Because of this, I immediately withdrew from the conversation and from all conversations with other people there. But I noticed the person said the same thing to my friend, and I watched how unfazed my friend was about it. My friend continued on happy as a clam, chatting away and having a great time. He even went on to say what a great person the guy was! It really made me think about how our experiences are shaped by how we react to situations. We all have a choice to react to negativity and insults however we want. I, as someone with lower self-confidence (but working on it!), became extremely offended and began to worry if I indeed sounded silly, resulting in becoming quiet for the rest of the night. My friend, who has a ton of self-confidence looked past the comment and engaged in a deep conversation with this person.
Harris and Orth report in The Link Between Self-Esteem and Social Relationships (2019) that “high self-esteem does lead to improvements in a person’s social relationships.” For example, next time my friend sees the aforementioned person, he will undoubtedly want to engage in another conversation. As for me, I would most certainly stay away. Where he has opened himself up to a social connection despite a small negative comment, I have closed myself off.
Which, as I write this, seems silly in itself, considering what don Miguel Ruiz claims in his book The Four Agreements. Ruiz writes, “All people live in their own dream, in their own mind…what they say, what they do and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds.” Most of what people say is usually less about you and more about themselves. Dr. Abigail Brenner tells us that by letting someone else’s words affect us, “we are giving [them] more power over us than they should ever have.”
Below are 3 of the most important tips, I believe, to build self-confidence by stopping taking things personally.
1. Know Yourself
A confidence person knows what they like and what they don’t, their strengths, and their weaknesses. For example, I’m not very good at basketball. So if someone said, “wow, you’re really bad at playing basketball,” I’d laugh and say, “you’re right.” The comment wouldn’t affect me because I know I’m good at other sports, and not being great at basketball isn’t a big deal.
2. Learn to Let Go
Remember that scenario I started this post with? Yeah, let’s promise each other never to do that again. Dwelling on ancient negativity isn’t going to do anyone any good. And the funny part is, the person who said it probably never thought about it again. They probably don’t even remember saying it. Let it go.
3. Stop Making Up a Backstory
This is the most important one for me. I’ll be honest here, I tend to over-think a lot. Someone used a curt tone? They’re mad at me, they don’t like me, it must have been the other day when I disagreed with them, etc. Spending hours worrying and making up a story on unknown pretenses makes me withdraw and gives me anxiety. Asking a simple question can solve that problem quickly.
Do you have any tried and true methods for generating self-confidence and preventing overthinking?
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Photo: Shawnee D, Trovato, Fuu J, Fernandez, Thian, Winkler; Unsplash.