Confidence, what is it? Where does it come from? Who is to say whether I really have it, or I don’t really have it? It is an internal concept that people can see from the outside. Or they think they can. I had a conversation with a friend today and it made me think about confidence. I want to share these thoughts so they may help you.
I was bullied throughout school. In elementary school it was because I was more physically mature than the other girls my age. In middle school, I am not sure why, but this girl decided she did not like me and she did everything she could to be cruel, including trying to have me jumped. She went to my high school as well and I feel like she was constantly trying to show she could do whatever I could. So, in middle school, I decided if people weren’t going to like me for no reason, I was going to give them many reasons to not like me. In high school, I began umpiring and I spent my money (pretty good money too) on clothes. I wore new stuff all the time. I drove, I snuck off campus for lunch, and I did my best at the sports I played. I was in ASB and I was an IB student. I tried to look like I had it all together and not a care in the world. I wanted to appear “Confident as F**k” (as the saying goes), so they might back off. I thought if they didn’t have the satisfaction of seeing me upset they would just go away. Obviously, that is never the case. Bullies are bullies because they dislike themselves, not you. But I didn’t know that.
Through doing all of this, I actually pushed nice people away and ended up with almost no friends and a really rough high school experience. And I ended up with a shopping addiction to cope with all that junk in my mind that I masked with this “super confident” facade. This was so bad that I couldn’t even tell people I would be going to a community college after high school. I was too ashamed that I couldn’t get into a 4-year university, (due to a bad counsellor and a lack of fine-arts units), and even worse, that I might not be ready for a four-year university.
So, last night I had an in-home jewelry party. While I was setting up, I kept telling myself that I need to social, I can’t be shy, I need to talk and mingle, I can’t be shy about my jewelry, the brand, why I love it, second guess the pricing, etc. My friend said he didn’t understand my lack of confidence because time and time again I have proven that I thrive in these social environments, that I am capable of selling in a conversational form and that I know my product, the brand and the reason why it is worth it. And he is right, the party was a tremendous success and the ladies were super excited to place orders. Once I started socializing, the rest just happened naturally. And I knew this would be the case, so why was I nervous? Did I really lack the confidence?
Confidence is defined as “the state of feeling certain about the truth of something.” By this definition, I suppose I wasn’t truly confident in the possible outcome of the party. I knew there were many different factors at play and that many different outcomes were possible. All I could do is be me, be knowledgeable and be friendly! But I did not feel truly certain. I think there are many things that we face on a daily basis that we are not truly confident about. We can have complete faith in ourselves, but lack it in others and that will affect our confidence in a situation depending on others.
In high school, I seemed like I had this confidence in myself, but I was constantly doubting myself because I was bullied. It is really hard to believe you are beautiful and awesome and smart and successful when people are telling you that you aren’t. But, ultimately, that confidence does have to come from inside of you. If I had portrayed an uncertain persona yesterday, been shy and not knowledgeable and helpful, I doubt the evening would have been a success. It was a success because I was these things. I started the night faking it but it quickly became the truth as the others believed that I was confident. And I was quickly able to truly feel that confidence as well.
I encourage you to think about things you know about yourself to be true. What about you gives you faith in yourself? That is your source of confidence. It doesn’t hurt to surround yourself with things that lead you to feel confident either. I wore a necklace yesterday that I got a couple of compliments on before the party while I was going through my day. That helped me feel great. A great blouse, feeling 5lbs. lighter, a great hair day, or a new pair of power pumps can help us feel great about ourselves. When we feel great about ourselves, we walk straighter, we smile more, and people believe we are confident. In turn, we feel confident. This feeling isn’t built overnight, but it is inspired daily. So, what do you feel confident about? What faith do you have in yourself? Channel that, wear your favorite dress, and go kick some butt!
It is not everyday that I get to sit down and have an open conversation with a woman who has admitted to posting suggestive pictures of herself on Craigslist. If you aren’t already aware, there is a page on Craigslist for Casual Encounters where posters can post about seeking any type of sexual experience. Requests vary from the most grotesque to the average three or foursome. There are swingers, transsexuals, homosexuals and others seeking a little bit of Fifty Shades.
The New York Times gives some statistics for the site in an article written a couple years back. The Casual Encounter section accounts for 2% of all posting on Craigslist. Despite this small percentage, the Personals section, (of which Casual Encounters is a part of), has a higher rate of traffic than any other online personals site, (eHarmony, Match and Yahoo! Personals included). One major draw is the ability to remain anonymous, at least initially, and therefore, be honest about what one’s true desire. Despite all of this, it remains a taboo that isn’t openly discussed.
Posters can attach pictures to their posts to attract a greater response. At first, it might be thought that posters are all social outcasts, 40-year old virgins, and prostitutes. But that is not the case. There are a great deal of everyday people posting, looking for the partner with which to fulfill their fantasies. Selena* chose to post on the site for another reason altogether. Yes, she wanted to fulfil the curiosity that the site naturally encourages, but she was primarily looking for a self-esteem boost.
My interview with her sheds light on an aspect of her personality that led her to need attention enough to result to this. While she did not pose nude or show any part of her you wouldn’t see in a bathing suit, she still felt dirty after receiving responses. Ultimately, her experience is not one she recommends. She reminds us the very real things that could happen if a woman did opt to follow through and meet with a responder.
My Interview with Selena* – A One-Time Craigslist Casual Encounter Poster
Q: Selena*, my first question, why would you want to post pictures of yourself online? And what kind of pictures did you post?
A: Well, honestly, I have always wondered about the people who post pictures of themselves in this casual encounter corner of Craigslist. Sometimes I just go through all the postings reading and wondering what drives a person to do this. And, of course, what kind of response they receive. Sometimes the posters will refer to the responses they received as being unwanted or different than what they asked for. I just really wanted to know. So, I took four pictures of myself from shoulders down in a deep-v lace body suit. I didn’t want my face to show and they weren’t overtly sexual. I don’t want to have those out there forever!
Me: I understand, everything is permanent online!
Selena*: (Laughing) Yes, it really is. And I do value my career and my future, I didn’t want this one experiment to label me. And worse, what if I did have my face in the picture and somebody on the street recognized me, that would be terrible!
Me: Indeed, it would be. But let me ask, interesting word choice. You saw this as an experiment?
Selena*: Yes, I really did. I am not going to say that sleeping around is bad, but it is not my personal choice. I prefer relations with men after a personal connection has been established. Even then, I am picky!
Me: So you weren’t actually attempting to solicit sex through this ad?
Selena*: Well, in regards to what I actually wrote, yes, I was. My post was short, just four sentences, but I made sure it reflected mainstream pornographic culture to garner a healthy response. But I didn’t personally want to solicit sex. I was trying to see what kind of responses I would receive.
Me: What else compelled you to do this experiment? You must have great self-esteem to post any part of you online in a suggestive way. Especially on a platform designed for hookups.
Selena*: Honestly, my self-esteem isn’t very good. I am often worrying about what others think of my body and whether men find me attractive sexually. I am of a curvy frame and I often feel that I am not what is generally considered attractive.
Me: So were you concerned about the responses then? Did you ever consider that you may receive rude responses from these men? How did you weigh this against possible positive responses?
Selena*: Yes, when I did this, I was worried that I would receive nasty responses from men calling me fat or undesirable. But I also needed the affirmation from the men that I was desirable. My need for someone to desire me, even a creepy man behind a computer, outweighed my fear of being ridiculed. I suppose I just wanted to know what it would feel like to get that kind of attention, the sexual kind, in a safe way.
Me: Well, I think you look fantastic today. I don’t know why anyone would find you unattractive.
Selena*: (blushing) Thank you, I am trying really hard to remind myself every day that I am beautiful. I think this experiment really opened my eyes to the despair I could fall into.
Me: Despair? Please elaborate.
Selena*: Well, I guess I mean that I now understand something key. I follow a lot of plus sized models on Instagram and they are always letting their bodies show, and I think that is beautiful, the confidence. But sometimes they let way more skin show than I would feel comfortable doing, and I am not plus sized. Then I go to bars with my friends and I see plus size girls dressing the same way and I wonder if there is something wrong with my thinking that keeps me from showing all that skin. I watch these girls throw themselves at these guys and the guys pay attention generally, but never to me. I can’t help but wonder if they are attracted to the confidence, the girl, or the fact that she is letting it all hang out.
Me: Interesting, this is something I have also wondered about. I am also curvy, not plus sized, and I often feel lost between the thin and the plus sized women. It is kind of a no man’s land.
Selena*: Seriously! And you are built much more athletically than I. I am totally envious of your muscle girl!
Me: (laughing) Thank you! Well, I think the main question now is, just what kind of responses did you get?! Where they like you expected?
Selena*: Oh my! (blushing) I received some interesting responses for sure. They were all positive though! That was the best part. It was actually funny, I posted it and then I opened my email. I had no responses for five minutes. I was so sad, so I closed my email and decided to take a shower. 15 minutes later, I checked my email again and I had 42 emails. All responses. After that, I was receiving about a response a minute. I was so overwhelmed!
Me: Wow! That’s a lot of responses. Any that were memorable?
Selena*: Yes, originally, I hadn’t intended to respond to anyone. However, as the responses started flooding in, I was pleasantly surprised. Some of the responders said really nice things and seemed like really nice guys. I had to remind myself under what circumstances they were emailing me!
Me: So is the posting still up?
Selena*: No, I took it down after about 30 minutes. I got such a large response that it was too much for me. Plus, I ultimately wasn’t comfortable with the kind of talk that the posting elicited. I am very private about my sex life so the blunt responses were very overwhelming and kind of gross. I could just imagine the type of guy who trolls Casual Encounter postings on Craig’s List.
Me: I take it you weren’t imaging Prince Charming.
Selena*: Not at all! (laughs) I was expecting some creepy guys.
Me: What is the weirdest response you received?
Selena*: One guy said some nice things, beautiful body, that type of thing. And at the end of his email, he asked to be notified of any donations.
Me: Oh! Wow, I hadn’t considered that.
Selena*: Neither had I! Honestly, I didn’t understand that at first. Then I realized, he meant money most likely. Which opened up a whole new world of possibilities and I thought to myself, wow, suddenly the number of people posting on here is more understandable. Not assuming all are looking for money, but if you are already willing to have a random hookup, then the idea of donations would be a bonus, I assume.
Me: Going back to your self-esteem, after all this attention, how do you feel now?
Selena*: I felt a bit dirty at first. Especially when the responses started rolling in. But I did feel good too. It was so heartening to receive all that attention. Granted it was sexual attention and it was because I elicited it, but I still felt good to hear that all these guys wanted me. I understand that they might just respond to anything or that they are totally gross, but I felt good. I left this experience knowing that if I chose to be overtly sexual and dress provocatively, I would get a response.
Me: Is this something you intend to do again?
Selena*: Absolutely not! Once was enough! It wasn’t a bad experience by any means, but I defiantly realized how precious my body is and how much I value myself. I don’t want to receive attention just for the sake of attention, and that’s what I did with this. I want honest attention from guys interested in me, not my body. So, going back to the previous question, I suppose my self-esteem was affected because I am much more self-assured now.
Me: Is this something you would recommend other women do?
Selena*: Well, I suppose if you really want to, sure. But I would caution against it. You just never know with the internet. I realized afterwards that somebody could maybe trace my IP Address and find out my location or something like that. I am probably paranoid, but safety is important! And never actually respond or meet with these guys. The least worry is that they have a disease, the worst is that something terrible could happen.
*Name has been changed for confidentiality reasons.