How can I be who I want to be?
May 15, 2010 9:43 AM   Subscribe

How can I be who I want to be?

I want to project an image of cool competency, assurance, manliness...basically confidence. I want people to seek my company and like me. I want to be driven and motivated. I have dreams but am not working towards them in a goal oriented fashion.
I feel like an unsatisfied dreamer, prone to bouts of excitement but lacking drive,also prone to bouts of depression and escapism in books.
I feel insecure and sometimes I feel unliked.
I am 30 and have been ( and still going) through some difficult and life changing events. But I want to change my life around for good and become the person I want to be.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
I hate to give the stereotypical answer, but you sound like the perfect candidate for therapy.
posted by amro at 9:47 AM on May 15, 2010

My New Year's resolution this year was "Be awesome." For the first month or so (it was a New Year's resolution, after all) in bed every night I'd review the day and think "Was I awesome? Could I have been more awesome?" It sounds cheesy as hell, but it was a really good way for me to figure out what "awesome" really meant for me in practical terms - not just vague adjectives but concrete actions I could take in my day-to-day life.

And yeah, I think I am pretty awesome these days.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:48 AM on May 15, 2010 [57 favorites]

Fake it 'til you make it.

posted by jgirl at 9:50 AM on May 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

I want to project an image of...... I want people to seek my company and like me.

I want to be driven and motivated. I have dreams but am not working towards them in a goal oriented fashion.....But I want to change my life around for good and become the person I want to be.

Those are two different things- what you want to project/want people to see you as and what YOU want to be.

If you want to work on the first, you are essentially going to want to please a variety of people with different likes and dislikes. Its kind of hard to proceed from there.

If you want to change you for yourself, you already know what you want- what you don't like about yourself and what you would do different to change that. This requires more introspection.... a bunch of strangers may not be able to help as well as you expect.
posted by xm at 9:55 AM on May 15, 2010

Take up hunting.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:02 AM on May 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

I found a lot of confidence came from developing my own sense of dignity, which I defined as being able to go to sleep without regretting what I did that day. I'm one of those people who have a very intense burst of thinkiness in the time between getting into bed and falling asleep, and I very often ended up having my own little two minute (self) hate at that time as I obsessed over saying something stupid or missing something obvious or doing something dumb. At some point I started making that a consideration in my decisions--it became a reason to pay attention, or not say something, or avoid doing something that someone else wanted or I thought they wanted. In other words, I started asking myself "am I going to be lying in bed tonight, tearing my guts out because of this?"

Once I started thinking that way, and avoiding doing things that I knew I'd regret later, I felt better about how I was acting in general, and those late-night self-criticism sessions stopped happening because they had fewer reasons to happen. This made me feel a lot more confident during the day in making decisions and acting on them because I felt like I had a handle on the feedback loop, a way to check myself and avoid a lot of self-defeating behaviour. "I will regret doing/not doing X" became its own motivator. I feel more self-contained, and more willing to accept the consequences of my own decisions.

The confidence other people see is the result of this sort of mechanism on your part: that you're secure in your judgment, even when you make mistakes, and that you're not crippled by doubt and insecurity. Figure out how to find that security, and others will see confidence.
posted by fatbird at 10:31 AM on May 15, 2010 [28 favorites]

Throw yourself into a hobby that is outside yourself. I'm personally not a huge fan of hunting, but I think that comment is right on. Hunting generally involves focus, knowledge, and patience. Develop a skill and knowledge that does not center around yourself, and you might find that you might develop the qualities you're looking to project to others. This could even be achieved through community service - just choose one specific service or skill and develop it.
posted by belau at 10:39 AM on May 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

What do you want to DO? Character is made up of doing, not being. You can't just be something all of a sudden, but you can definitely do something. Virtue is a habit of acting, as Aristotle said (I think).
posted by yarly at 10:41 AM on May 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

You're pretty much the perfect candidate for the Real Social Dynamics guys. Google them for more info, I recommend "RSD Nation" (their forum and fourth link on the Google search) for discussion about this kind of area.

They sell DVDs and stuff but they're easily acquired through *cough* other methods. There's also a bunch of books which I haven't read.

Good luck - soon you will be looking back on this day as when it all changed.

P.S. the RSD stuff is very much geared towards 'picking up women', but is still 100% useful even if you're not into that
posted by loveyourfellowman at 10:45 AM on May 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

The difference between "I suck" and "I am sooo cool" is just that, those words. You have a constant voice in your head telling you what you are, and you are going to have to change that.
Positive affirmations. Yes it's corny but once you start doing them it's like night and day.
-Write up a series of goals of who, what and how you want to be.
-Write up how perfect day would go for you.
-Write up what you world view or your philosphy.

Just write start writing. Don't worry if they aren't specific enough at first. Revise them. Rewrite them. Make them as intense and extreme as you can. Incorporate as much meaningful language (to you) as you can.
Your affirmation should be one sentence or so. About five to ten. Keep them on a small piece of paper so you can read them all morning, day and night. Record yourself saying them. Play that back to yourself whenever you can.

People say "be more confident" or "fake it til you make it" but they don't tell you how. This is how. Also, you aren't faking anything. You are creating new beliefs for and in yourself. The minute you do that, you should be taking on those ideas as truisms and not "faking" anything.
The problem you'll run into when doing this is you just won't believe them or you'll have constant reasoning to the contrary of what you are trying to create. "My happiness is ethereal, it radiates outward and warms others as they see me. Tthey feel it as they come near me." Then you think, "Well, that just isn't true" FUCKING STOP THAT. It is true as long as you let it be true.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:45 AM on May 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seek out a Lacanian psychoanalyst.
posted by matkline at 10:54 AM on May 15, 2010

I want to change my life around for good

I don't think this can ever be 'achieved', as such. There is very little 'for good' in life, just like there is no 'for good' in, say, cleaning your teeth. Ok, they're totally clean for a while, but you just have to keep on cleaning them, day-in, day-out. Sometimes you're going to forget to clean them, but if you don't do it too often, and you keep on cleaning them, then they're going to be ok. You just have to keep on going.

(This is a terrible analogy and I am bad person for making it.)
posted by robself at 10:56 AM on May 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I feel insecure and sometimes I feel unliked.

I think that a big part of confidence is knowing that some people will not like you, knowing that sometimes you will be wrong, knowing that sometimes you will say something stupid or make a fool of yourself--and accepting it and carrying on anyway. When I am feeling my most insecure, I am desperately trying not to make any move or do anything that might be embarrassing or look stupid. My insecurity makes me freeze up and avoid any risk of looking foolish. When I feel confident, I unfreeze--not because I feel like I'm guaranteed not to do anything stupid or feel like I'm guaranteed to be liked, but because I'm able to take that risk.

I think you should focus on liking yourself and building your confidence--setting and achieving goals that matter to you, gaining new skills you find impressive, aiming for accomplishments that are currently beyond your reach--rather than trying to mold yourself into someone other people will like. Some people won't like you. It doesn't make you incompetent or un-manly. It's just life, and it's ok.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:00 AM on May 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Confidance--make your life comfortable for yourself and your confidance will go up.

Likability--like yourself and others will gravitate toward you.

Also you need to know where you're going if you want to be a leader. Continue making and working toward goals. People won't know where you're going but they really won't care. It's the spirit that counts.
posted by Honkshu at 11:36 AM on May 15, 2010

I want to project an image of...

There's your problem. It's the same as the "fake it til you make it" thing. You're already thinking in terms of seeming like something you're not. That's called being a poser. People (the kind you want to know) can tell and don't like it.

How can you be who you want to be? What other options do you have? Why are you someone you don't want to be? How are you someone you don't want to be? I know these are nearly unanswerable. It's been said and will be said again, but you seem like a very good candidate for therapy, given my extremely limited information.
posted by cmoj at 11:39 AM on May 15, 2010

Anonymous said: "How can I be who I want to be?"

By being who you want to be. It really is that simple.

"I want to project an image of cool competency, assurance, manliness...basically confidence."

Do you want to just project this, or actually have this? Those are two different things. If you just want to project it, then keep your body language up and out - make eye contact, smile, keep your shoulders back, stand up straight, etc. Be the first person to talk in a group. Introduce yourself first, and extend your hand for the handshake first.

If you want to have it, then that's a slightly different story. Projecting it is all about other people's opinions of you. A projection like this is how you think other people think about you. To actually have confidence, you'll need to work out what it is that's stopping you from having it. It's possibly some kind of self talk - "I tried this once before and failed so therefore I will fail every time in the future so therefore there's no point trying". Change that to "I failed at some point in the past, so now I know an approach that won't work. Perhaps I could try [this] this time". Something liek that seems to work for me.

"I want people to seek my company and like me."

Make them laugh. That's been the most effective thing that I've tried that has encouraged people to like me. Note, though, that you can't make people like you. Some people will just dislike you. Everyone is an acquired taste, which is the reason we have societal rules and politeness - it's the sublimation of ourselves into a bunch of similar traits when lots of people who don't know each other get together. You might also try complimenting (in a non creepy way) and getting people to talk about themselves. They seem to like that. Also see this book.

"I want to be driven and motivated."

To do what? There are two main reasons you aren't driven to do something. The first is that you're depressed for some reason (and in that, I'm including worthlessness, guilt and other such emotions) and the second is that you don't actually want it. CBT is a wonderful self-help approach to the first issue. It's worth a quick look even if you aren't depressed. The second is more tricky. I know that I ought to diet, but I eat too much chocolate. I want the chocolate. I feel I ought to diet. Telling yourself that you really want something doesn't work. It's OK to have a dream because it will get you out of bed in the morning. Perhaps you go to work to earn money to buy an expensive house. If you actually want the house, nothing will stand in your way of getting it. If you just feel you ought to want the big house because someone else has told you in some way that you ought to have it, then you're much more likely to give up trying to get it. CBT will go some way to clearing the clouds from your thinking, so you'll be better able to decide whether or not you're going to go all out for something.

Also, consider that you could just be lazy. I don't mean that in a negative sense. Some people just aren't wired to work hard for stuff. That's OK. That's fine, if that's who you are. Not everyone as to climb Everest. Some people just want to look at pictures, some want to plan the expedition for someone else to take and some don't care about Everest at all.

"I have dreams but am not working towards them in a goal oriented fashion."

Dreams are not goals. There are many more dreams than there ever will be goals. You don't have to act on every single whim you have. Anything that you don't act on is a whim.

"I feel like an unsatisfied dreamer, prone to bouts of excitement but lacking drive,also prone to bouts of depression and escapism in books."

That escapism thing? That's something that you're driven to do. That's what it feels like to be driven to do something. You might not want to be driven to do it, but that's a totally separate issue.

There's nothing inherently wrong in reading a book. It only becomes a problem when it becomes a problem for you. You must get something out of it or you wouldn't keep doing it. Perhaps you read to avoid thinking about ways to help shift your depression, for example. Read this book, in that case. There's nothing wrong with anything until it gets in the way of you doing stuff that you want to do. Depression will tend to do that, quite effectively. So, start dealing with that first. You might find the self-help route best, or you might prefer some kind of professional help. I went down the self-help route, because I like being able to effect my own cure (which was a great boost to my confidence...). The problem with depression is that it blankets your will and drive, so try combining something you're already motivated to do with your need to get out from underneath it.

"I feel insecure and sometimes I feel unliked."

Seriously, try CBT. It works wonders on this kind of stuff.

"I am 30 and have been ( and still going) through some difficult and life changing events."

Those life changing events won't last for ever. And flux is good, because it keeps you on your toes and keeps things fresh. Things change. Welcome to living.

"But I want to change my life around for good and become the person I want to be."

How much do you want it?

Start small. You might want one of everything from the menu right now, but you can't eat it all at once. Start with just one dish. The rest of the menu will still be there later. Work on one thing that you want right now, right now. It could be taking up jogging or something. Just do that for a few weeks. You might find that you don't like the taste of this dish, that you're allergic, or that it needs some seasoning. That's fine. That's change. Once you've worked out how you like one dish, move on to another. But first you have to be hungry, and if I were you, I'd suggest getting your depression treated as a priority. Once that veil has been lifted you'll be able to see the menu much more clearly. If you want to chat, then ask one of the mods to pass my email address on to you. Good luck.
posted by Solomon at 12:19 PM on May 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Be responsible, and find a way to get fulfillment out of that.

I think you'll find that completing what you start, when it counts, will make you happy. Get your shit done, and you'll have plenty of time to indulge whims.
posted by gjc at 12:58 PM on May 15, 2010

Let go. Figure out all of the things that hold you back from being the man you want to be, and let them go. In fact, try choosing the opposite. You may not be able to choose a new job, but there's so much more of your life that you can change in huge ways if you choose to.

I know of which I speak. I was a country kid from a white trash family and I was never happy, but I couldn't figure out why. I couldn't even figure out if I knew how to be happy. I made some major changes that, although they happened accidentally at first, led me to a better life.

Are you happy living where you do? If not, move. Don't look for the approval of family or friends. Just figure out where you want to live and go for it. Think Big. Do Big. In my case, I was a country kid who wanted to live in a vibrant big-city downtown. I tried compromises for years, living in the burbs... but I didn't find happiness until I finally went for it. I left the huge suburb apartments and moved into a tiny studio right in the heart of the city (I also moved to a better city). I thought "I'll just live in this tiny studio until I can find what I really want." As it turned out, I really love living in small spaces right in the heart of the city.

What do YOU want? What makes YOU happy? What do you want to try? Think Big! Do Big.

Another thing that really helped me was selling just about everything I owned and starting over with a blank slate. I had boring stuff and a lot of it. I let that crap go. This helped me to develop a sense of style. As I became proud of my home, I started dating more and wanting to have company over. I also started making changes that felt like things a gentleman should do. I bought cloth napkins and stopped using paper towels. I bought a wine rack and learned red wine. Etc etc etc.

I also highly highly highly recommend you develop hobbies. I do creative writing and lots of photography (link in my profile). These things make me a more interesting person in the eyes of others, but they also help me to learn about myself and develop a fuller sense of self. Too many people are little more than a name and an occupation. Be more than that. If you don't know who you are, then get out there and start trying new things to figure out what clicks. My hobbies are things I discovered by accident. If you'd asked me ten years ago what I like to do, I'd have said "Uhm... I don't know... the usual stuff." To hell with that! Develop hobbies. You'll also develop a stronger sense of self.

You're only 30. Make big Big BIG changes and see how they work out. If they don't... who cares? Try again. The key is to try and to learn as you do. The only way to be the man you want to be is to be the man you want to be. So, figure out who that man is and start taking big steps in that direction.

Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:03 PM on May 15, 2010

I was kinda like this until I got my ADHD fixed. It's kinda funny how I throw that into random, abstract meaning-of-life questions but really the whole lack of drive, wanting to be someone but not knowing largely stemmed from my inability to see through projects, keep in constant touch with people, maintain a consistent and relatively neat style of dress, etc.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:21 PM on May 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Watch out for "should". It sounds like you need to get in touch with what you want to do and be, but maybe you're getting muddled up because you have some idea of what other people think you should be, in order to be "cool" and "well-liked".

If you learn how to be at home in yourself, you'll soon find that plenty of people are drawn to that sort of person. The tricky part is that learning to be at home in yourself can sort of be a life-long process. That's okay.

CBT and other kinds of talk therapy might help with this. Journaling might also help. Take a couple steps back & stop "shoulding" yourself for a little while, and give yourself some space to listen to what you want to do, and how you might want to do it.
posted by dryad at 4:33 PM on May 15, 2010

Along with the recommendations for cbt, which I found IMMENSELY helpful for my "should's" and "do they like me's", I also suggest something that worked for me in addition: mimicking behavior you admire. "Fake it until you make it" works; do anything often enough and you build a habit. If you follow the suggestions for CBT, you'll find that mimicking concept addressed. Until I came across CBT, though, I watched others for how and when they did certain actions I admired and learned to become like that myself.
posted by _paegan_ at 6:57 PM on May 15, 2010

Find some aspect of work you enjoy, and get good at it.

When someone comes to you to ask for something, drop what you're doing and help them. Offer to help people who look like they might need it. Never be too busy for this.

Volunteer for things - be the guy who'll do the stuff nobody wants to do.

Be loyal.

Be nice to people; even the ones you don't like. You'll either work with them or need a favor from them someday.

Be honest.

Do things the right way, regardless of whether it's easier or benefits you personally. People will trust your opinion, and ask you for it.

Soon, you will be a respectable, stand up guy.
posted by fixer at 8:52 PM on May 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Be happy. Genuinely like yourself. Fake it until you make it. I'm still leagues away for actually making it, myself.

Genuinely like other people, and let them know in a sincere way. You can try to fake this, but it won't last. Yes, I know. This is easier said than done. If you don't know how to do this, don't go overboard. When you notice something cool about someone or what someone did, verbalize briefly that you thought that the cool thing that you just noticed was ____.

Remember the subjects/subject matters that other people tend to talk about. Familiarize yourself with the subject. Depressingly, a lot of it will typically be television. Now you have something in common. I theorize that of all graduate level theses, at least 0.5% are on how advertising (ads) are a common shared experience which strengthens/polarizes social bonds.

As for competency, again, you can only fake this so far and when it crumbles (and it will), you'll fall hard. Blowhards and people who talk the talk but can't actually do the walk get very little respect, especially behind their backs especially from people who can do the walk. If you aren't generally competent, keep your mouth shut and pay attention to people who you consider competent. Learn from these people. Ask them for advice. Listen to their advice. Practice what you've learned.

Also, you don't have to be competent at every single thing/situation, if you aren't generally competent. Find a niche or niches (food/cooking, computers/technology, plumbing/electrical/mechanical, comedy/humour, movies/tv/pop-culture/psych, bio/chem/phys, whatever - depending on your general company being a heavy weapons-, alternative sexual lifestyle-, explosives-, whatever- expert can be counterproductive). Make a hobby of it; you'll improve upon it and you'll get satisfaction from it.

Be humble about your skills and achievements, volunteer your help when you have the skillset, keep your mouth shut when you don't but praise others who do. If someone comes to you for help, make the effort and the time to help them. Even if you don't have the direct skills - do you know someone else who does? Go ahead and refer them and show that you at least understand the situation well enough to refer to someone who might be able to offer a solution. If you're interested in the subject matter, use this reference as an excuse to hang around and absorb some information/expertise. Sure, competency is about having a brain, but it's also about filling that brain with the right/enough information (and then practice using that to be able to synthesize new information).

Get into strength (weights) and endurance (running/cycling/whatever) training. Remember to work in stretching to maintain/expand on your flexibility. Unless you've an history of being self-depreciating about how puny your arms are, don't go to work wearing a T-shirt printed with "Gun Show" and arrows pointing at the arms.
posted by porpoise at 9:48 PM on May 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Define for yourself what your values are. Make it a goal to live those values as well as you can. People don't notice right away, but over time, they do. And once you decide your life is important, with an important, worthwhile goal, that knowledge will give you the bearing that commands the respect you crave.

In short, earn it.
posted by theora55 at 9:48 AM on May 16, 2010

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