I’m going to begin with a Mean Girls reference.
Remember when Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey) stands in front of the school’s population of young women in the gym and demands, “you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores”?
Mean Girls is a goldmine of fantastic points, but this one is particularly valuable to me, because it speaks to a major facet of self-love and confidence.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “You get out what you put in.” So when you tell everyone that you “have no chance at getting the job” or that you’re “ugly” or that you’re “not good enough”–eventually, with enough repetition, they might start to believe it.
Or worse–you might start to believe it.
Too often, I’ve used self-deprecation to fish for compliments, for reassurance. I turn to my boyfriend, poke at bits of post-dinner pudge around my waist, and wait for him to tell me that I am beautiful. I whine to my friends that I’ll never get a job until they tell me that I will, in fact, get a job. But this sort of tactic makes me reliant on other people to determine who I am. It also–and Ms. Norbury would agree–gives license to these people to treat me as badly as I treat myself.
I’ve come to realize that the language that we use to describe ourselves and to speak to ourselves not only reflects our self-image, but shapes it.
We must not underestimate the power of our own words. I mean, have you ever read The Little Engine That Could? “I think I can; I think I can” took that train all the way up the darn hill. If we took that kind of initiative to be our own cheerleaders, who knows how far we could go?
One of the things that I’ve learned while applying to jobs is that, in life, we must advocate for ourselves. Sometimes, we must speak up on our own behalf and make a case for why we are even “worth” other people’s time and energy. We must persuade people of our uniqueness and our strengths. Other times, we must speak up for what we think is right, just, or else we’re just waiting for other people to change the world for us.
Though self-deprecation might get us a forced compliment here and there, and though complacency might feel safer, we can’t always depend on others to do the gritty work for us–to fuel our confidence, to motivate us, to make our decisions, or to transform our visions into realities.
Why should we wait for other people to give us the green light and tell us that we’re beautiful? Why should we wait for other people to tell us that we’re smart, talented, and promising? Sure, it’s much easier–it’s so much easier to go out into the world when we have people cheering for us on the sidelines. And yes, it’s beyond difficult to maintain this love for ourselves when mass media and mass ideologies tell us that we shouldn’t. But we’ll never get anywhere if we don’t believe in ourselves and our voices enough to take that first step. We have to give ourselves the green light; we must tell ourselves that we can, we will, and we are. By doing that, we can [re]claim the power that we’ve surrendered to others–be it the ubiquitous “media” or our family and friends–to decide who we are and who we want to be.
As with all things “confidence,” this is all much easier in theory than it is in practice. However, if our thoughts and beliefs are the foundation of our actions, then theory is a good place to start. So is language.
Now, I turn this to you. Think of five positive words that you’d use to describe yourself. Then, put them in a sentence–rather, a statement–that asserts who you are. This is mine:
This is my mantra. This is my truth.
My identity, my say.