Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Note on Confidence

By Lauren Panepinto
  
It's funny how sometimes trends will happen in conversations, and I think it's the universe (or at least the Muse of Muddy Colors) trying to tell me what my next post should be. Recently I've been having a ton of conversations about confidence. People seem to think I am a confidence expert, and I think they assume my ability to be silly and geeky and loud and have green hair has to do with an abundance of confidence...when in reality they're mixing up the chicken and the egg a bit. The more weird shit I do, the more people love it and the more positive reinforcement for my decisions — that's what gives me the confidence to go do more weird shit like dye my hair and wear leggings and be walk into rooms full of strangers and get up an speak in front of heaps of people. But even more than the wins, it's the fails that reinforce my confidence, because nothing builds your confidence more than surviving something you were afraid of, and finding out it really wasn't that bad. You pick yourself up and keep going, even more secure inside.

By the way, this isn't the first column I've written on the topic, so definitely check out Confidence 101 in The Con(fidence) Game, then come on back.

In that article we talked about Imposter Syndrome, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and Power Poses. Now we're going to fine-tune the conversation a bit.

When we talk about confidence, what we're really talking about is fear. What's the opposite of confidence? Insecurity. And all insecurity comes from fear—generally fear of rejection. Rejection sucks and feels horrible. There have been studies that prove being rejected actually physically hurts. And there's a reason for that. Back in the caveman days, when we were all huddled together in tribes,  we had to work together to stay safe and fed. If you got kicked out of the tribe's cave, it was a toss-up whether you were going to starve or become a sabertooth tiger snack first. Rejection equaled death, and rejection still feels, instinctively, like pain and dying.


But we are not cavemen anymore, and you are not going to die from rejection. Embarassment is not fatal, or none of us would have made it out of high school. Fear exists to warn of us risks. Your goal is actually not to never feel fear, but really to embrace fear and choose to do a thing anyway. That's risk-assessment. And that is the way to gain confidence.

So we fear rejection. That's evolutionarily valid. The fear is there to warn us of a possible risk. But we have to dial the fear back down to match the real-world risk. You shouldn't have getting-eaten-by -a-sabertooth-tiger-level fear for a situation where the worst thing that could happen to you is embarassment.

Confidence is not fearlessness. Confidence is acknowledging that you do feel fear, telling yourself that's a rational response to a scary situation, but then adjusting your response to the actual risks. It's saying I know there is a chance, at worst, that X might happen, but the payoff is probably going to be worth it. And if the worst thing happens, you know you'll be ok. It's saying I know the risks, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Confidence is also not arrogance — It's not I AM THE BEST HERE. It's I AM WORTHY OF BEING HERE. And that's a big difference.


Here's a list of things that people I've talked to lately have said they wished they had the confidence to do:

—The confidence to post sketches and process online, not just the perfect final image.
—The confidence to email art directors their work.
—The confidence to go to a networking event that you don't know anyone at.
—The confidence to go to a new convention.
—The confidence to ask an art director for a portfolio review.
—The confidence to start a big crowdfunding project.
—The confidence to walk up to a group of strangers and work your way into a conversation.

So, ask yourself...what's the worst case scenario? But also remember to think just as hard about the BEST case scenario, because it's at least as likely to happen, statistically. And is generally more likely to happen, in my personal experience:

—The confidence to post sketches and process online, not just the perfect final image.
Worst Case Scenario: people post mean comments about how your art sucks.
Likely Scenario: some friends will like it, no one will say anything bad, maybe some people will say something nice.
Best Case Scenario: It gets a bunch of shares and new followers and nice comments.

—The confidence to email art directors their work.
Worst Case Scenario: an AD will write back and say your work doesn't fit their needs, and ask to be taken off your list.
Likely Scenario: you will get no answer.
Best Case Scenario: An email hits an AD just at the right moment and you get a job out of it.

—The confidence to go to a networking event that you don't know anyone at.
Worst Case Scenario: You stand around awkwardly and don't talk to anyone.
Likely Scenario: You'll make some perfectly fine smalltalk, some awkward smalltalk, you'll make a new friend or two. No one remembers the awkward bits but you.
Best Case Scenario: You end up meeting some art friends, strengthen your peer network, and maybe meet someone that leads to being hired.

—The confidence to go to a new convention.
Worst Case Scenario: you hate it and people are creepy and you go home.
Likely Scenario: You'll meet a ton of new people, get a little tipsy in the hotel bar, and spend the rest of the year on social media keeping up with the new friends.
Best Case Scenario: You make a new art bestie or meet an AD that leads directly to a dream job.

—The confidence to ask an art director for a portfolio review.
Worst Case Scenario: they say they're too busy and walk away.
Likely Scenario: they'll give you a time to meet them later or they'll give you a business card and ask to email your portfolio to them.
Best Case Scenario: They say yes and you guys have a great in-depth review

—The confidence to start a big crowdfunding project.
Worst Case Scenario: it won't get backed.
Likely Scenario: it'll get backed and you'll have to spend way more time than you expected figuring out shipping to all your backers.
Best Case Scenario: It will get 500% backed and be a career launcher.

—The confidence to walk up to a group of strangers and work your way into a conversation.
Worst Case Scenario: everyone stares at you when you try to join the conversation, acts awkward and conversation dies until you leave the group.
Likely Scenario: the conversation will expand and you'll feel a little awkward at first, but settle down and have a nice conversation.
Best Case Scenario: You exchange info with the group, expanding your peer group, and maybe get a job out of it.



Look back up at all the worst case scenarios. Not such a big deal, right? You'd survive any of them and move on. In most cases the potential reward with beat the potential damage by multiple times over. 

And that's how you build confidence. You realize most things fall into the "likely" or "best" case scenarios, and you survive a few "worst" case scenarios and realize they're not actually so life-threatening. Keep flexing that confidence muscle, and after a while that insecurity voice inside you will slowly start to starve and lose volume. And poof, like magic, you too are a confident person, and people will talk about you in that wistful tone of "If I was as confident as you I could...X" and you'll smile and send them the link to this post.






15 comments:

  1. It's amazing how your posts are always exactly what I need to hear at the exact time I need to hear them. Thanks Lauren!

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  2. You're welcome Matt! I think it's more likely that we're just all struggling with the same things at the same time : )

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  3. Thank you so much for this, Lauren! It’s very helpful to hear from confident-looking people that your confidence isn’t just something you have naturally, but that you grew it over time and with experience - and hence others (me!) can, too.
    The breakdown of worst, likely and best case scenarios is something I definitely need to remind myself of more often. Right now I feel like I did just enough scary things (attending conferences etc.) to recognize myself in your example scenarios, but not quite enough to really overcome those insecurities - it’s a long learning process, I guess. Thank you so much for writing it out so nicely, understanding those thinking patterns helps greatly in dealing with them!

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    1. It's also not constant - just because you feel confident sometimes doesn't mean it's constant. I still have these conversations with myself constantly - but over time & practice you trust yourself more

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  4. I have facial paralysis. My childhood told me people/children will go out of there way to screw you if they hate you for what you are, rather then what you've done. The extreme of confidence is hubris. As an adult you're right, what can they really do to you? The sticks and stones theory I suppose, but in order to develop confidence you have to start at a point of clarity. Hubris generally starts at a point of control, at any cost.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4UMyTnlaMY&fref=gc

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    1. Children are brutal to each other, it's true. And it's very hard as an adult to shake off the fear reactions and insecurities we had drilled into us as children. I'm privileged to be a completely able-bodied person, and I still was teased mercilessly. I can't imagine how much harder it is to network and feel confident with presenting your work when you have to get over an extra challenge. But I know that you can, and the confidence you win from the experience will be that much more unshakeable.

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  5. P'taah:

    https://www.facebook.com/EsotericEmpyre/photos/a.939367542820587.1073741829.938227152934626/1466214423469227/?type=3&theater

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    1. Wacky Australian Cult, still like the message.

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    2. Absolutely. The bullies are the most insecure.So we should be less afraid of what they think.

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  6. Thank you! Definitely is a post with punctual timing!

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