They say, ‘confidence is key.’ In that case, a lot of people have been locked out! Not everyone is gifted with an extroverted or naturally sociable personality. Developing self-confidence in social settings means that you won’t have to be an eternal wallflower and missing out on some of the fun!
Building confidence in connecting with others can be both challenging and rewarding. Many people go through life having to build their social confidence – me included. You definitely have to push your comfort zones, but every small success you have helps you to become more confident and relaxed. It also helps you to be more present when you interact with people and therefore more likely to connect with them.
If you ever get stuck worrying about what others are thinking of you, please remember that they’re probably worrying about what others are thinking of them! One of the greatest gifts that you can give to others is being yourself and allowing them to see the real you. It takes courage and vulnerability.
What do we mean by self-confidence in social settings?
It’s an attitude that allows you to have a positive but realistic view of yourself and others you meet. If you’re self-confident, you’re able to value who you are as a person, and the ideas and beliefs that you have to offer. You are open-minded and respectful of others, as well as yourself. You can say ‘no’ to people if that’s the best way to care for yourself.
Fundamentally, self-confidence in social settings allows you to present to the world your true self with integrity and authenticity.
- You actually like who you are as a person, but accept that not everyone is going to like you.
- You don’t have to prove yourself, live up to anyone else’s standards or behave in prescribed ways.
- It’s obvious you are comfortable being yourself.
Consider this example…
Imagine you’ve been asked out on a date to a trendy new restaurant with a friend of a friend. You don’t normally go on blind dates but you’d like to be in a relationship and apparently you have quite a few things in common.
So, you decide to muster up your courage and confidence, keep an open mind and have a good time. You talk about your favourite movies, a couple of funny childhood experiences, the hobbies you have in common and savour the meal. You do your best to be as casual and friendly as possible, and your date does the same. However, you both realise that while it was a pleasant evening, you didn’t feel that spark of attraction.
A self-confident person doesn’t over-analyse the evening or buy into limiting beliefs that they’re never going to find anyone or go on a blind date again, etc. Instead, you know deep within yourself that you were showing your date who you truly are and enjoyed a sociable evening. You won’t let this one date discourage you from going on more dates with other promising prospects.
How to develop your social confidence
There are many ways you can build your self-confidence socially. However, you will need to practise them. Here are some tips to guide you on your journey of self-discovery and confidence, so you can feel more relaxed and at ease when connecting with others.
1. Know your strengths
Become aware of the things that you’re good at, and try to evaluate those abilities as objectively as you can. Remind yourself that you are good at certain things such as writing, playing the guitar, fixing computers or listening, and consider how these strengths can be valuable in social contexts.
Acknowledging the things that you’re good at will help you feel more confident about who you are as a person. Knowing your strengths also helps when learning new things and meeting new challenges – like talking to that lovely person you have secretly been admiring.
2. Face your ‘limitations’
In order to fully embrace who you are and what you have to offer, you must be able to accept the parts of yourself that you don’t like. Whether it’s a physical trait like your looks or your weight, or something more emotional such as feeling shame or guilt, it’s important to identify and get to the root of these perceptions.
Once you’ve identified these ‘limitations’, you’ll be better able to address them. Ask yourself to find valid evidence of the perceived limitation being true.
If there isn’t sufficient evidence – generally due to us judging ourselves too harshly – it will now seem false and we’re more likely to let the belief go.
If you catch yourself saying or doing the ‘wrong’ thing socially, you can acknowledge it to yourself or maybe even make fun of it in a way that demonstrates self-awareness. People are more likely to forgive someone who is ‘working’ on something rather than those who are oblivious.
There are times when people are too caught up in their own issues that they neglect the needs of those around them. If you feel that this is creeping into your life, try giving back to family, friends and/or the community. You’ll likely find there are people who are grateful or appreciative to have you around, and you won’t worry as much about your own issues.
Contributing to others often helps you feel more positive and confident about being able to connect with others in a way that is constructive, positive and uplifting.
And remember that there are different levels of contribution because letting a stranger have your seat on public transport, opening a door for someone, helping a complete stranger with a kind word, helpful act or compassionate smile could actually make a huge contribution to that person’s day. Their gratitude will also help boost your confidence to connect with others.
4. Express gratitude
Let your family and friends know when you feel grateful after having spent time with them. You might say something like:
- Thanks for catching-up with me today. I really needed some quality time with you. It’s been a stressful week but now I’m feeling a lot lighter.
- Thanks for ringing me. It was so nice to hear your voice and connect with you.
- Thanks for having me over for dinner. It was such a fun night. And thanks for the care you showed in selecting the menu.
Thank them for even the littlest things. Show your appreciation by giving them kind gestures such as a warm smile, a hug, a heartfelt compliment, or maybe even a surprise gift.
Showing them that you are grateful for the role they play in your life will likely establish a deeper connection between you and make them feel good as well.
Being grateful to others and helping them feel good about themselves will go a long way to helping you feel socially confident.
5. Receive praise well
Learn how to receive praise without deflecting or minimising your achievements and abilities. Sometimes you may dismiss compliments, and therefore dismiss your right to receive kind words. Importantly, you also deny the person the gift of giving.
Genuinely believe that you have earned the praise you receive and believe that you can do as well, if not better, at the next opportunity. Instead of focusing on a negative detail you’ve heard about yourself in the past, revel in the kind words of others and show them that their words matter.
Accepting praise and kind words and paying sincere compliments is a beautiful way to connect with others. It is actually a gift to both people – the giver and receiver. Being able to receive praise well is a sign of self-confidence.
6. Be bold and take some risks
Insecurity in social situations usually keeps people from going outside their comfort zones. But if you stick to doing the things you’ve always done, you’re effectively giving up the opportunity for growth and deeper connection with others.
It’s okay to be afraid to try something new like talking to a complete stranger, or presenting a proposal to a group of new people. But once you get over that initial hurdle, you’ll be well on your way to gaining the skills and self-confidence to do it again.
Remember, the first time you try something new is often the most challenging. Once you break the ice, you’ll be off! The more you push your comfort zones, the more confident you’ll feel in all aspects of your life.
And from my experience, it’s surprising how quickly your comfort zones can expand. There have been numerous occasions where something seemed incredibly scary and I made myself do it and within a matter of minutes it was my ‘new comfortable.’ Please trust how quickly we can adapt and expand.
7. Practise, practise, practise
Build your social self-confidence by practising the steps above with different people. Take a leap of faith and introduce yourself to someone new at a party, on a plane, or work meeting etc.
Think of the traits of confident people and emulate those traits whenever you’re in a social setting. Observe others who connect well with people and use them as a role model to develop new social skills.
Adjust your posture, dress in clothes you feel great in, make eye contact, and believe that your words are meaningful and can have a positive impact.
The way you present yourself to others greatly reflects who you are on the inside. Don’t be afraid to present yourself to the world in all your glorious truth! You’ve probably got much more to offer than you give yourself credit for.
And please, be kind and compassionate with yourself. We are all human after all, and making mistakes is an integral part of the learning process. Just trust that as humans we are social creatures and we all want to feel connected to one another.
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