Privilege to Pimp a Butterfly

To get people's respect in any situation, you first have to have confidence and respect in yourself – but this isn't always as easy as it looks . . . Molly Alessandra Cooper considers.

Whether it’s for a man or a woman, you’ve got to be confident, you’ve got to be comfortable, and you’ve got to feel good inside yourself.’ The modern day scholar that is Fred, the maitre’d from First Dates, knows the importance of confidence in dating; but this mantra is something which also applies to our daily lives. Fred has a lot of wisdom.

Confidence is necessary in order to become respected. We need confidence in order to be listened to, to be able to get what we want in the long and short term and to be able to feel comfortable in ourselves. It’s tricky, since in order to feel secure in yourself, you often need recognition from another person – and this recognition and respect isn’t likely to be fed back to you until you respect yourself, which isn’t always that easy. You must respect and show pride in your opinions and actions in order to gain the same respect from others.

I had a psychology teacher who taught our first lesson with an utter lack of self-belief and confidence. This did not go unnoticed by our class. She never gained enough respect from us, despite being a perfectly nice and knowledgeable teacher (emphasis on nice: one of the more bland ways to compliment). She began the lesson with her hands tugging at her sleeves, trying and failing to shout over a group of excited sixth-formers chatting about how good we (wrongly) thought Kings of Leon’s ‘Only By the Night’ was (we later came to terms with the fact that it was not very clever, and turned out to be a rubbish album). There’s a joke about her not specialising in social psychology here somewhere.

ConfidenceimageThis example of confidence is something that I can relate to – it’s hard to prevent myself from tugging at my sleeves, chewing my lip or biting my nails when talking in front of groups of people, and I am very aware of how it comes across. I believe that if you are choosing to put yourself in a position of authority, you must learn to at least forge confidence in order to be respected. With personal anxieties and fears, however, this isn’t always so easy. Successful attempts at appearing confident come with practice. If you keep telling yourself you have this desired attribute, you will become a confident person around people; the same way that telling yourself you’re in a rubbish mood will cause you to be in one (fake it ’til you make it). Feigning confidence is a stepping-stone to bigger and greater things.

If we consider my psychology teacher to be firmly placed at one end of the confidence spectrum, then last month on a Metro in Paris, I encountered her polar opposite. I was sat in a block of four chairs – the two men sat across from me had suitcases blocking the window seat next to me, which is why I opted for the aisle. When we approached the next stop, an elderly lady leapt over my legs and the suitcases – maybe my memory has exaggerated this but I’m fairly sure it was all in one swift, elegant movement – and settled in amongst the baggage. She wasn’t having any of this polite rubbish, or entertaining the idea of letting a seat go spare. Sassily and not so quietly muttering ‘je n’aime pas…’ about something, presumably aimed at the suitcase men, that lady earned my respect. That lady knew what she wanted (in this case, a seat, but I expect she had got far in life with this attitude). Knowing what you want is so impressive.

In bars I often observe confident girls and admire their self-assurance, how comfortable they are with being the current centre of attention, with everyone offering their full attention. I wonder what these people are like outside of a bar – what are the factors that give them this appearance of confidence? What are they talking about – and is it more interesting than what I have to say, or are they just better at saying it than me? Are they just full of shit? It doesn’t matter if they’re full of shit – right now, they believe in themselves, and have persuaded others to believe in them too.

I find it more difficult to comprehend these examples of confidence, and don’t always experience the respect that comes with being comfortable in new situations. I would unjustly feel embarrassed climbing over people for a seat, and chatting to a group of people in a loud bar isn’t as easy as it could be with my quiet voice and rubbish hearing. Lack of embarrassment is also extremely impressive, and plays a huge part in appearing confident. Being in new places can be scary. I feel judged by shop assistants when I go into more high-end clothes shops, because I don’t look ‘the part’ with my scruffy Reeboks and frizzy hair (here’s to you EVERY shop assistant in Reiss, APC and All Saints; I GET IT, you’re better than me – now stop watching me realise your clothes are out of my budget and let me slowly pretend to browse whilst making a quick escape). But if I were scruffy and confident in these types of shops, surely they would then respect me, rather than judge? Surely I would not feel the need to be embarrassed or out of place if I simply told myself I fitted in?

With confidence, respect follows. It is something we must work towards giving ourselves the privilege of having. Choose to allow yourself this privilege.

Molly Alessandra Cooper | @Mollyalessandra

Photography graduate and Junior Product Developer; appreciates Reebok Classics, yoga and glitter.

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