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Waves of confidence

04 Oct 2015

543 words

There seems to be a distinct and relatively predictable pattern to my confidence/comfort levels when I’m meeting new people and I’m wondering whether this is a common experience.

Usually, before I get to know someone (except when they’re known for doing something really interesting), it’s hard to build an interest in them. Like, I can feel completely lonely and desperately want friends and still, when I think about who to talk to, just everyone new will seem like the dullest person in the world. So, if someone happens to talk to me, the stakes are low and I’m not anxious. After one or two conversations, I manage to internalize that I’m talking to an actual sentient being and I start becoming really excited about talking to them.

If it turns out they like me, and we stay in touch for a few days, there comes a point where my brain is like, “oh wow, this is turning into a thing. Are we friends now?” And then I notice I’ve told most of my backstory and I start running out of things to say. So I’m trying frantically to find things to say and it’s just not working and it’s like, “oh gods, do I have nothing interesting to say? How can I keep the other person from losing interest?” And I get anxiety attacks and the only thing that can help is them talking to me, but they don’t because they don’t have time to talk to me like all day which is what I’d need to feel safe, and I don’t know what to do.

Eventually – if contact doesn’t stop, that is – I realize it’s okay that I sometimes don’t have anything profound to say and I get into a groove of just speaking whenever I do have something to say. I feel more or less certain that the other person cares about me as a human being, and that I won’t mess that up by saying one wrong thing, so I manage to relax and I get less anxious.

But then I realize – wait, I’m much more confident now than I was in the beginning! Maybe they only liked the shy me, or they only liked me because they didn’t get the full picture because in the beginning I was all quiet and agreeable. So I get more anxious again, and I get quieter. But then I feel like I’m holding myself back and I’m boring because I never say anything so I still try to be confident and say things and be courageous and settle into kind of a back-and-forth of being more vocal vs being more agreeable.

And after a while I get used to that and I feel better saying things. And eventually, after years and years and more sudden dips in my courage, the connection turns into a stable friendship and I don’t need to be so scared of sending them cute cat pictures anymore.

Does anyone else have a similar experience, or is it more common for confidence levels to rise linearly with time, or something else?