What exactly IS confidence?
March 10, 2014 3:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm a 27 year old woman who is chronically unlucky in love. Everyone says the secret ingredient to meeting that special someone is confidence, but what exactly IS confidence in this context? Asking my girlfriends seems to have elicited two definitions, being confident enough to flirt and be 'emotionally available', and being the kind of confident where you're a fabulous conversationalist and everyone wants to talk to you. I can do the latter, but the former I have issues with...

I find sexual/emotional flirting can get out of control and I've had awful situations happen when what I thought was playful, harmless flirting was interpreted as something else and things went badly.

If you're interested in women, what IS confidence to you? And how much does this confidence influence whether you find a woman attractive?
posted by litereally to Human Relations (24 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
You can project confidence with deliberate body language choices even if you don't necessarily feel it. Stand up straight. Shoulders back, tits out, chin up. Walk at a slightly faster pace. Make eye contact and smile.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:47 AM on March 10, 2014

It's simply showing that you're comfortable with who you are. Easy to say, but not always easy to feel. Even for us guys.
posted by smelvis at 4:03 AM on March 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Confidence is just comfort in being yourself- not second guessing what you are saying or doing in order to make a certain impression on other people. Or, if it is a manipulative sort of confidence, then the ability to know that you are making the impression you set out to create. It's a belief in yourself basically..."I can do this" or "I like myself as a person". "I have a skill set I am proud of" etc. You can project it (fake it) but it will lead to relationship issues later if you don't really feel it inside (um, I'm assuming...no, unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that's the case). So that's why everyone says "work on yourself first".

The luck in love is just finding someone who matches you- not someone who falls for your "I am so fabulous" act- your last sentence makes it sound like "if I just had this ingredient, someone would like me, right?" whereas the whole point of confidence is that it's internal, not just a facade.
posted by bquarters at 4:13 AM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Everyone says the secret ingredient to meeting that special someone is confidence (...)
how much does this confidence influence whether you find a woman attractive?

I would be careful before accepting any assertion about people starting with EVERYONE. People are too diverse to make blanket generalizations. Personally, I have often found myself attracted to insecure, shy women. I know many other women (and men for that matter) who could be described as lacking self-confidence and who seem to be doing just fine with their romantic partners. Obviously, there must be other positive qualities which make these not-too-confident people attractive. But whereas developing what you call self-confidence might be helpful in a number of domains (I can think of career development in SOME fields, dating SOME people, etc.), being too assertive might actually intimidate and scare off some other people (including dateable men) from your life.
If your perceived insecurity is preventing you from expressing yourself, communicating with others, etc, I would work on it. But don't assume that it's lack of confidence, necessarily, which prevents you from being "successful" in love (whatever that means).
posted by kayrosianian at 4:31 AM on March 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

As a guy interested in women, confidence is the dating sense is often about two things: confidence in yourself, and confidence in the dating process.

The former is about avoiding some common tics - too many self-deprecating comments; being negative about your family, friends and work; and being too nervous or cautious to really show off the fun personality that the people in your life love about you. In my experience, confidence is an overall presentation of your life that you're in control of your life and living well.

The latter is different and can be challenging, especially when you feel like you're down on your luck dating-wise. Things to avoid are mentioning you've struck out on dates a lot to a date; worrying about "the game" if they doesn't call you right away; speaking badly about the gender you're dating; taking comments/texts as having a broader context than they actually do; and in general, sweating the small stuff.

Most people go on dates to meet fun people and to have a good time, and the people in my life that have the biggest trouble dating seem to forget that. They're so focused on the big picture (getting a relationship), that they forget to have fun in the process - and they're not very good dates as a result. Confidence means being comfortable enough in yourself to present yourself in a way that will interest someone else, and comfortable enough to just focus on having fun and getting to know someone new on the date. The more you can let go of the big picture, the better dates you're going to have.
posted by rutabega at 4:39 AM on March 10, 2014 [21 favorites]

Don't flirt, have interesting conversations instead. You are an intelligent and very active person with varied interests. If not, become so, but I'm pretty sure you are all of those things already.
posted by waving at 4:46 AM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Confidence looks different in different people. It can be very low key yet still effective. I think what it really boils down to, though, is an ability to relax. To be relaxed about yourself, the scene, the situation, the person. It is, of course, difficult to achieve when the stakes feel high.
posted by tomboko at 5:13 AM on March 10, 2014

Confidence is to act how you're comfortable acting and to hell with what everyone else thinks.

There are no secrets for finding that special someone, you just talk to men as though they are actual people, and you take them at face value.

We're all unlucky at love, until we meet the right person. That's the definition of dating. Concentrate more on being picky about the folks you give your heart to. Don't try to move a relationship forward just because you want to have someone to read the Sunday papers with.

Enjoy people as they are, and if they're not right for you, it's okay to let it go, the earlier the better.

Don't try and fit a square peg into a round hole.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:42 AM on March 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

I think confidence, in this instance, is knowing that you don't need this potential new relationship. It would totally be fun, but it's not necessary. Go on a date so you can laugh and meet some fun, interesting people, not so you can find a relationship. Obviously, that's why you're actually going on a date, but don't act like that's why. Know that if this particular date doesn't work out, there are many many more to be had.
posted by Solomon at 5:43 AM on March 10, 2014

Confidence is believing you're a desirable person to get to know.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:45 AM on March 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

I have really mixed feelings about the whole confidence as a cure all for any and all dating problems. For one, I think that when people say "be confident" they often use that as a catch all for a whole host of traits and they really mean "be infectiously charismatic and charming" or be unfazed by rejection or half a dozen other things depending on the situation. This is generally because they might know one person who despite not being conventionally attractive at all does very well in the dating world because they are one of those one in a million naturally charming and outgoing people who everyone can't help but love. However, that really isn't confidence that's a personality trait and one that is virtually impossible to fake or cultivate.

I also think we live in a society that highly values and rewards confidence in men and I am unconvinced that women are rewarded for confidence in the same way, if at all. A lot of the advice to be confident is directed at shy men who are uncomfortable with the dating paradigm of men being expected to confidently/aggressively pursue women with the understanding that 9 times out of 10 you will get rejected. I won't get into whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, but I think it's undeniable that that is the world we still live in. Under that paradigm women are rewarded who are somewhere in the middle of the confidence range. Women who are "too" confident are seen as intimidating to men and women who are not confident can be unreceptive to romantic overtures. There are a million exception to this of course, but I still think that generally this paradigm holds true making advice to women to "just be confident" problematic.

This isn't to say that I think confidence is of no value, but to take some the confidence advice with a grain of salt. If you lack confidence in general then yes I would say that is something you should work on because it's hard to like someone that doesn't even like themselves. However, if you are of average confidence in yourself, I don't think, especially as a woman, that cultivating an especially strong air of confidence is going to transform your love life.
posted by whoaali at 6:02 AM on March 10, 2014 [21 favorites]

Confidence to say no.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:03 AM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Everyone says the secret ingredient to meeting that special someone is confidence

Everyone also says if you're too confident you'll scare men away, so I wouldn't worry too much about Everyone's take on this.

If you truly lack confidence in yourself, to the degree that you frequently want to attempt things but don't because you believe you're incapable, then confidence is something you should work on. Otherwise, don't worry about it.

(On preview: whoaali is absolutely right.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:09 AM on March 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

My vote, in general, goes to something along the lines of: Like yourself, love yourself enough to want the best for you, to believe, without ego or narcissism, that you do, in fact, deserve the best! And then pursuing that at whatever pace you are comfortable with seems pretty natural.
posted by Jacen at 6:13 AM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

For me confidence is being unabashedly and totally yourself! Whatever quirkyness you have let it out! I used to pretend to be so normal when I was on dates, but this has three effects.

1. You are not being your authentic self,
2. The person you are with is liking someone who is not you, :/
3. When they do find out you are someone different they are pissed.

SO BE YOURSELF ALWAYS, you're perfect! ;)
posted by krisb1701d at 6:29 AM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sometimes "have confidence" means stop fluttering around people begging for or even demanding, in passive ways, validation.

Sometimes it means don't be in a place where you're just waiting for it to all go horribly, wrong, again, because you're a terrible pathetic loser, ha ha ha sorry I even got into this conversation and took up your valuable time.

My advice to you, to get what you imagine confidence would get you, is to stop trying to flirt - you seem to go over the line with bad results.

Talk to people like both of you are just people. And keep reminding yourself about
this because, when it doesn't come naturally, it's hard.

Think about things you do well - folding socks, making a dessert soufflé, performing autopsies (I don't know your life). The willingness and ease with which you approach those tasks is confidence.

Confidence in yourself should just be accepting the fact that you are in a world if equals and doing your best.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:41 AM on March 10, 2014 [12 favorites]

To me, confidence is believing that you are the hero of your own story; it is believing that you have something to offer while not being egotistical about it.

Confidence means that when you ask someone out, you're doing so because you think you'll both have a lot of fun. Otherwise, it's like - if you don't act like you think I should date you, then why would I want to? You know?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:59 AM on March 10, 2014

For me confidence is being unabashedly and totally yourself!

See, I'm going to have to disagree here and that's because I'm completely and totally self concious and constantly self critical. For me the "confidence" that everyone speaks of is NOT outwardly showing what is happening on the inside. When I'm "confident" I'm silencing the asshole in my head and appearing poised and crisp, prepared and witty rather than stammering and clumsy, which is, to be more honest, the real me.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:14 AM on March 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

I find sexual/emotional flirting can get out of control and I've had awful situations happen when what I thought was playful, harmless flirting was interpreted as something else and things went badly.

This is not a thing that can be solved with "confidence." I am not sure of the particulars of your situation, of course, but when people say "be more flirty," it means "be flirty with people when you WANT things to get sexual and emotional."

It isn't your fault that things went badly, at all, and it is fine that you wanted things to go thus far and no further. But in general, the aim of sexual flirting is for things to move from the platonic to the not platonic. So don't flirt with people if the idea of things getting non-platonic is awful to you. Flirt only with people you want to get romantical with.

Sure, some people can flirt lightly with everyone from the barista to the librarian and it means nothing, but that is not how they find "the one". That's just how some people enjoy interacting and it is more a personality trait than anything; you do not have this trait, and that's FINE.

THAT is where confidence comes in: you need to start believing that the way you interact and the things you're comfortable with are FINE, and not subject to "everyone" approving.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:17 AM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone, this has been really interesting and I appreciate all the answers, and marked my favourites. Any other contributions would still be appreciated, I feel like I've got some much needed perspective on the whole situation.
posted by litereally at 10:54 AM on March 10, 2014

Well, I equate this kind of confidence with the courage to be in the present moment with another human being, no matter what the context.
posted by macinchik at 10:45 PM on March 10, 2014

I just declined a 3rd date with someone. Not just because he lacked confidence, but it certainly didn't help. I couldn't get past the feeling that this guy's ego was really fragile, and instead of thinking "Hey, she seems cool, I'd like to get to know her, maybe we'll be a good fit," he was just desperately trying not to blow it, whatever "blowing it" means for him. We were not really getting to know each other.

Confidence means a lot of different things, and you have great answers above, but I thought I'd throw this one in here. The world of dating is scary and people get hurt. You want to go out with people who are healthy enough to withstand the ups and downs. You want to go out with people who are strong enough to see you and date you for you, not because thank god you are A female, and really almost any female would do.
posted by bunderful at 6:46 AM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

The problem with a lot of people looking for confidence is that they, in effect, want to imitate the symptoms of confidence - standing straight, smiling and effectively acting.

It doesn't matter - we're human beings with instincts and people can smell a poor self-esteem from a mile away.

The only way to be confident is to genuinely love yourself! To take no issue with who you are and not give a rat's arse about what others think of you. If you've confidence problems, you need to work on yourself :)
posted by Henners91 at 3:55 PM on March 11, 2014

For some people this just means avoid the "reek of desperation". Dating isn't precisely a job interview, but there are some surprising parallels, see the bottom two in this comic.
posted by anaelith at 4:50 AM on March 12, 2014

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