Be Confident, They say

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“Be confident,” they say. “Be happy.”

“It’s not attractive to have low self-esteem.”

“It’s not attractive to be sad.”

“People don’t want to be around you when you’re sad”.

How many of these phrases have you heard? How many books have you read where the author talks about being happy so people will like you better? And yet, when someone plasters on a happy face and chooses to fake it so that people will like them better, when someone bottles up the emotion and chooses not to ask for help or to be open with their feelings, and something happens, something bad, we say, “why didn’t they get help? Why didn’t I know?”

I’m going to say this over and over. I’m never going to stop saying this. Nobody is happy or confident or content 100% of the time. And, as friends and family, we cannot expect them to be. We cannot surround ourselves with those who are always joyful because what we do is essentially box those people into an identity, and when they do truly need help, they have nobody they feel they can turn to. I know the feeling of apologizing for being upset, for bottling something up until I can’t anymore and feeling guilty for having the big emotions in front of someone who I usually fake it for.

We usually tell people to brush it off, get over it, look at the bright side. Because that’s what feels comfortable to us. But what if, instead, we sat in the discomfort with our people. We let them cry and scream and get upset with the world and know that through that we are there. We don’t show that we are tired of their feelings, but rather, we try to understand them. We listen, we learn, we don’t give unsolicited advice. We give them a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, a pillow to punch. What if we also showed our emotions? Showed that we aren’t the perfect, joyful, confident, content people we try to be. What if we showed vulnterability next to our strength rather than pretending to always be strong. What if we empathized? Could we give them hope that they are truly not alone in their struggles?

Would we lose less people to depression? Would we have more open and honest conversations? Could we be liked for just merely being ourselves? Would the definition of attraction change?

The truth is that someone who is struggling might be confident and joyful and love themselves for certain things. They might know they are amazing at their craft, that they are people who can be relied on, that they look amazing without mascara. But they might struggle with feeling invisible or abandoned. They might be getting bullied. They might love their own work but have imposter syndrome. They might have lost someone dear to them or have anxieties over driving on busy streets.

Confidence will come and go, but the person will remain. Are you willing to love them through the downs? Are you willing to find them attractive in their low points? Are you willing to be the friend that stays through all of that? If not, then the attraction to the high points means nothing. Does it?

PS: This is not an open invitation to use your friends and family as a punching bag or to harm others in the name of mental health. No matter what you are going through, no matter how you choose to express yourself, it is important that you still take other people’s feelings into consideration.

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