How are you so confident in life?
How can I be confident?
Friend of GLSEN, Jeffrey Marsh, is often asked these questions. The online sensation, public speaker and youth advocate extraordinaire whose videos on social media have encouraged millions answers questions like these—about confidence, self-discovery and self-love—in their new book, How To Be You. Pre-order your copy now!
Sharing their story of growing up fabulous in farmland Pennsylvania, Jeffrey’s book is a powerful combination of a memoir, a manual with advice on how to live a fulfilling life and a workbook with activities that can help you grow into the very best version of yourself. Before the book’s release on August 2, Jeffrey shared with us an exclusive excerpt where they answer the question they receive most: How can I be confident?
Want to read the whole book and start celebrating who you truly are? Pre-order How To Be You by clicking here. At the same time, you’ll be helping support safe and affirming schools, because $1 from every book sold during pre-sales will benefit GLSEN.
The confidence question is the most common one I get across all social media, and it’s confession time: I’m not confident. At least, I don’t always feel confident. But I suspect that when people ask me about being confident they are really asking me about trusting myself. “How can I be confident?” is another way of saying, “How can I trust myself?” If you learn to trust yourself completely, deep down, confidence isn’t an issue anymore. Confidence comes naturally if trust is present.
Let me back up a second. The first step to developing a strong sense of trust in yourself is understanding that other people’s opinions of you are almost always bunk—they are based on next to nothing. Most opinions are based on next to nothing! I don’t ever feel sure about anything, and I bet you feel the same way sometimes. Once you get past the initial shock and fear of realizing that few of us know even fewer things, it is amazing. It is freeing. It is fun. Feeling sure about knowing something and learning to trust yourself are two different things. So do I trust myself more than I trust other people’s opinions of me? I do now. And that, to me, is what is meant by confidence, trusting yourself. I couldn’t have any confidence without trusting my own perspective on the world, instead of someone else’s.
Choose one thing you think you’d like to be more confident about and take the time to look within yourself. If you want to feel more confident about reading things aloud at school or at work, say, you’d need to examine what you’ve already been taught about reading aloud, and decide what you believe about it. Does the ability or inability to read aloud mean something about you? Is it something that everyone should do really well? I’m not saying that uncovering and trusting what seems true for you automatically makes you confident, or that, in our example, it makes you excellent at reading aloud. To me, confidence is not attached to the outcome (whether you read well or not), it’s attached to the process: How do you treat yourself while you’re reading aloud? Can you trust your adequacy no matter what happens? If you know what’s most important to you, it doesn’t matter whether the reading goes well. This is hard to talk about because you were probably programmed to focus on how you perform in that situation. I’m asking you to focus on how you do what you do. That’s trust. Take a big step back. See a bigger picture. Trusting yourself in every situation takes time and practice, and it takes focus. It’s not about reading well, it’s about staying in that trusting place with yourself while you read. That is the path of a superhero.
We tend to think of superheroines as the other people, these separate and superior superhumans who possess extra special skills and thoughts. That isn’t true. They are just people who trust in themselves. Heroines are just like you. Heroes doubt themselves at first, just like you, but they go ahead anyway. Maybe what makes people seem confident is their ability to move forward even as they are building faith in themselves. They know they might make fools of themselves; they know they might fall flat on their faces. But they go ahead anyway, building trust along the way.
I see everyone as a hero. Life can be so tough sometimes. Other people’s opinions can wear on you. Other people’s hatred can make life feel very difficult for some of us. Anyone who can go through the challenges of dealing with others’ negative opinions, of having their dreams mocked, or their feelings ridiculed, and still get out of bed, willing to do it again the next day . . . Whew! That person is a hero. You are a hero.
You need to trust yourself, and your own story. You need to add yourself to the list of heroic do-gooders because you have something to contribute. Maybe you don’t wear a cape. (But, of course you could!) In your own way, though, you are brave. You have the ability to go ahead and do things you aren’t sure about. You have the ability to go ahead and try things that other people think are stupid and wrong, but that you, in your heart, trust is right.
And aren’t you lucky that you have the chance to do that? Aren’t you lucky that you get this life, this chance, to learn to set aside the yuck and muck of other people’s sometimes nasty words and do your best to live your life as fully as you know how? You don’t need to be confident to do that. You just need to be a dreamer and a questioner, and have the willingness to trust that your experience—your way of seeing things—is valid. You need to practice trusting that you are worthy.
How do I know you can trust yourself and your instincts? Because I’ve been through it myself. When I was growing up, everyone I knew (adults and kids alike) was trying to get me to suppress my natural qualities—my “too much-ness.” They tried everything! They called me names, they threatened me, they used violence and emotional abuse, all to get me to change. And thank goodness I couldn’t change. I tried for years, but I was horrible at pretending to be what I thought they wanted. You know what I learned from all this? Even if it seems like the whole world is against you, you’ve got to trust yourself. Even if no one else will honor you, you must honor what your truth is in any given moment.
This excerpt was printed with the permission of TarcherPerigee/Penguin, a division of Penguin Random House. Copyright Jeffrey Marsh. ©2016.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Marsh
Jeffrey Marsh’s book How To Be You is available for pre-order here, and $1 from every pre-order helps advance GLSEN’s mission of creating safe and affirming schools for all.