It was an early lesson, first encountered in elementary school. “They’re just picking on you because they’re jealous. They feel bad about themselves, so they put other people down.” The idea being that if they pull people down to their “level” — or ideally lower — then they can feel better than other people. Finally confident.
I didn’t believe this explanation at the time, when a parent or teacher would advise me in this way. No, it struck me as a platitude. Something that they said so I could feel a little better about this or that kid being mean to me. I was of the strong opinion back then that they weren’t jealous of me at all. They just hated me.
But with time and distance and learning more about the world, I’ve seen this pattern so much — and in contexts where I have little bias, since it involves other people, sometimes near-strangers — that I’ve learned that those adults were right. There is an awful lot of it happening out in the wild, people putting others down in an attempt to feel better about themselves.
But they never quite manage it, do they? Not in a lasting way. Oh, perhaps these bullies have bombastic moments where they can puff themselves up and do the braggadocio schtick, but it never lasts. They continually need to keep doing the behavior. And I’ve known a few individuals like this quite well — ones who even came to trust me (which shocked me because I despise bullying) and confided in me that confidence was quite elusive, even so.
If You Want to Truly Become Confident, Build Others Up
So what’s a person supposed to do if confidence is what they’re seeking? It’s the exact opposite of what most people default to: You build other people up.
Yes, really. Practice looking for the good in others. Point it out to them even. If your friend creates something awesome and kickass, let them know. Tell that stranger that their T-shirt with the cool saying on it is awesome. Compliment internally and externally (if you have an easy opportunity).
Fall in love with what makes people good — instead of always being on the alert for their flaws. Stop correcting people’s grammar. Respond to the cool insights they’ve made instead.
You basically retrain your brain this way. It’s a lot like gratitude journaling — if you train yourself to look for things to be thankful for every day, you start to become more positive and less insecure. The same principle applies to looking for the good in other people. And if you stick with it long enough, there will come a day when you realize that you’re a person, too. And everything you love about other people applies to you, too.
I know, I know. Easier said than done (like practically everything in life). But it’s worth the effort. It is life changing.