Last year, I was at a friend’s apartment with a bunch of other girls. We were getting ready to go out that night, and I, fresh off a breakup, had made a habit of making attention-seeking comments about guys not approaching me in bars. I said something like that, and one of my friends responded with, “Chloe! You just have to be confident. Guys like confidence.” Innocent enough, but I immediately became incredibly upset. I retreated into myself and seethed in anger for the rest of the night. I’ve never been a super self-assured person, but for some reason, the suggestion that I wasn’t confident made me want to flip a table.
I think part of the anger came from my general aversion to any sentence that begins with, “Guys like …” Okay? So guys don’t like girls who are constantly seeking out compliments. That makes it tough for me, but whatever. I also think guys don’t even know what they mean when they say they like confidence. If you ask any male islander on Love Island what their type is, I can almost guarantee they will say some version of “I like a confident bird.” What I find myself think-yelling at the screen is, “Actually, you just don’t want to have to cater to someone’s emotional needs and a girl who needs words of affirmation is simply needy to you and not worth your time.” I try to keep to myself that words of affirmation is one of my big ~love languages~ (I know, I’m sorry and I’m gagging too). I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but my brain takes it too far. Compliments are unnecessarily consequential in my mood each day, so much so that I will sometimes not compliment someone because that person didn’t previously compliment me. And that’s my issue, I know. I don’t want to admit that half the reason I’ll post a good selfie on Instagram is because I know the types of comments it’ll get, but what’s a blog if not a place to publicly announce the worst things about yourself? It isn’t the end all be all of everyday life, but some days I need a little help feeling good about myself. And what’s so wrong with that?
I’ve gotten a little off-topic here. Anyway, I didn’t like the suggestion that I wasn’t confident because deep down, beneath all the self-degrading thoughts, I like myself. I like how I look. I like my personality. I think I’m pretty cool and you bitches are lucky to know me. I don’t like to think of myself as someone who needs outside affirmation, even though that’s exactly what I am. My friend pointed out something I was afraid of—that people saw me as insecure. I can be insecure all I want but I don’t want people to KNOW.
If I’m honest, I think even the idea of confidence is a sham. These days, “confidence” doesn’t mean having love for yourself. It doesn’t mean believing in yourself or being surrounded with people who make you feel good. Confidence isn’t meant to be a personality trait, it’s meant to be a feeling. You can’t feel anything 24/7, so sometimes it just feels like another thing to add to the list of things we aren’t doing enough of. Confidence has become slightly—I’m gonna say the word—toxic. Awhile ago, I watched this YouTube video that I really liked. Mina talks about how while self-confidence is not a bad thing to have, it has become like a cult. We are encouraged to “lean in” in the workplace and be more assertive, but when we do that, people either think we’re acting like a bitch or we are actually just being a bitch. Instead of encouraging women to be more “confident” like men, maybe we should be encouraging men to be a bit softer and more understanding. I know a few people who might read this and think “What the fuck are you talking about?” I’m not saying having confidence is bad or that you should never be assertive. I just think a lot of people really take the word confidence and run with it.
Much of what I’ve written about today can be traced back to the patriarchy. I’m not going to get on my pro-women soapbox now, but I will say we’re much better caring too much about what Sandra Bullock and Jane Lynch think about us than the 72 frat boys I’m forced to walk past on my way to class. And if those guys would rather I be “confident,” well, I might just keep being insecure on purpose.