Today I want to tell you a story about losing confidence.
Have you experienced that before?
One day you’re on top the world and feel confident to chat boldly even with strangers. But the next day, that confidence disappears.
Maybe you feel lousy and inadequate again.
Well, it used to happen to me ALL the time. I could never understand why.
But finally an incident from my past shed some light on the problem and helped me figure out how to feel confident more often than not.
Like I said, I want to tell you the story, but it’s kinda gross.
Strange as it sounds, it involves VERY hairy (sexy) legs…
So if you’re ok with that then…
“Once upon a time…”
You CAN Gain Confidence, But It Might Not Last
I’ve mentioned before I worked on cruise ships for five years.
- The first 3 years I was a Social Host, the guy paid to be fun and outgoing with the guests.
- My final 2 years I was Auctioneer, connecting with clients and selling hand signed Picasso etchings.
This is still amazing to me because my first month or so on ships, I stayed shy and alone in my cabin every night.
See, I joined ships right out of college and at that point in my life, I had already begun improving my social skills and ability to be outgoing.
In fact, that’s the reason I was ABLE to get a job working on cruise ships as a social host.
But for me, joining ships at that time was similar to switching from grade school to high school or from high school to college. I was thrust from being a “big fish” to bottom of the totem pole.
Have you ever had that happen to you? Where you felt confident in your life but for some reason, you lost all your self-esteem and fell back to square one?
Well, being fresh “ON the boat” and uncertain of my new surroundings, all my insecurities and self-doubt resurfaced.
It’s like I had begun to make progress and feel confidence in some social settings, but suddenly I fell all the way back into insecurity and self-doubt.
This can happen sometimes, to all of us.
It’s important to understand so I’ll tell you more about it in a bit.
All the Ladies Love Erhan
What made it worse though was my roommate was the most charming and charismatic guy you ever met.
Erhan was from Turkey.
The ladies loved him, and he loved the ladies.
While we were on duty, he always seemed to have the right things to say to the guests. Off duty, well…let’s just say when he finally DID return to the cabin each night, I got to hear of his exploits with one female guest or another.
Just about everyone loved him, which was a problem for me as his roommate. When you’re a rock standing next to the sun, you look a whole lot duller in comparison.
It made me feel even more of a hopeless case. I thought, “there’s no way I can be as charming as him, so why even try?”
So there I was, sitting in my cabin each night, the opportunity of a lifetime passing me by.
I mean can you imagine?
I was surrounded by crew members from 60 different countries! There was so much exciting new culture and diversity and adventure for me to find in the people around me…
…but I was missing out on ALL of it.
All because I didn’t feel the confidence to get out of my comfort zone and try making friends.
Hairy Legs and Microphones
I wasn’t in complete isolation. As a Social Host, I was a member of a 5 person team and luckily, they took me under their wing.
I began to feel comfortable with them and at least had somewhat of a social outlet.
But just like when you’re at a party and you cling to the people you know, I was glued to my department. It was tough at first to branch out to new people.
Things started to change after my first month however.
See, being a social host on cruise ships is pretty much a “learn on the job” type of gig. You don’t really prepare in advance.
So the other social hosts taught me the ropes. They showed me how to host the entertainment programs and gave me suggestions of how to talk to the guests more effortlessly.
One of the programs my department hosted was the Men’s Sexy Legs Competition.
It took place on the Pool Deck and basically involved getting a panel of expert (i.e. drunk) female judges to pick the “Sexiest” (usually the sweatiest and hairiest) legs of whatever men were bold enough to enter the contest.
It was loud, boisterous and well…kinda gross.
In fact, one of the “stock” jokes of the event was…
…are you ready?
“Sir…sir, we’re in the Caribbean so please take off that sweater. What’s that? Oh you’re not wearing a sweater…”
So, I began my decent into hosting the sexy legs event by first watching my teammates host it several times while I took notes.
Eventually, it was my turn to give it a go.
And yup, I totally botched it…
I don’t remember much of what happened, but I know my voice cracked several times and I screwed up the order of the event.
But, I kept at it and after a few more times hosting, I began to like it.
Eventually, the Men’s Sexy Legs Competition was MY event. The guests had a blast and so did I. I could host it better than the other social hosts, even Erhan.
The “Secret” of My SuccessAnd so it went for many of the other events and mingling hours with the guests. Over time, I gradually got better and better.
Incrementally, I overcame my anxiety and built my confidence.
And of course, getting into the swing of socializing and being outgoing with the guests transferred to my “real” life among the crew.
I built friendships with people from all over: England, Australia, Canada, the Philippines, Romania, France, Ireland, Spain, South America…
And really, the secret of how I did it was the GRADUAL nature of improving.
For example, I didn’t just jump right into hosting the Men’s Sexy Legs Competition. I watched my co-workers do it several times first. They gave me pointers and I rehearsed it with them in advance.
Then I tried and failed a bit before I finally got the hang of it.
This is the way you need to look at building YOUR social confidence.
No, I’m not suggesting you go to the EXTREME lengths I did and get a job where you’re forced to be outgoing (although that CAN help).
What I AM saying is you need to stop looking for the quick fix.
Just hearing some advice or a new trick here or there won’t cut it. You need to systematically put the right advice and techniques into play and improve bit by bit over time. You may also fail some – that’s just part of the process.
But if you keep at it, eventually you’ll get there.
Bottom Line: You CAN do this.
I thought I was a hopeless case, and I finally made it happen for myself. So if you think you’re a hopeless case, you can make it too.
More On the “Right” Way
I have a lot more to say on this gradual, systematic way of improving. But this post has gone on long enough.
Yet at the risk of saying this WAY too early, I’m working on something BIG along these lines. To quote Zoolander, “It’s nowhere near ready.” But you’ll be the first to know!
In the meantime, get out there and be more social where you can. Where it feels comfortable for you. Maybe that’s with friends or family or certain coworkers or classmates. Build from there.
By focusing on these “assets” instead of you social weak spots, it’s much easier to make progress.
All the best!
To your social success,
(sexy legs photo courtesy of Public Domain Photos via flikr)