Monday, June 25, 2007

The confidence mirror

Confidence is such an important quality for an individual in all areas of life. The businessman needs it to negotiate successfully, the interview candidate needs it to get the job, and the straight guy usually needs it when he wants to ask his girlfriend to marry him. Lesbians and gay guys need it too, of course, especially in relation to being open about their sexuality.

Most people I've met don't seem to realise that often, confidence is reflected. When a person is confident about something, that biases anyone they're dealing with in favour of it. Similarly if someone shows a lack of confidence in relation to something, whoever they're dealing with will pick up on that up, and can often exploit the situation against the person showing the lack of confidence if they want to.

It's 'Heres a loverly tray of busy lizzies, bargin for £2, brighten up any garden :-)' and not 'Buzy lizzies for £2 but beware, the frost will kill them in the winter :-('Takes sales as an example. Whoever bought something from a sales guy who didn't believe in the product they're trying to sell? It doesn't matter whether it's an expensive Ferrari or a tray of bedding plants in Columbia Road flower market, if the person selling the product doesn't believe in it then they won't have any customers. But when they do believe in their product, other people consider buying it, and a sale is the ultimate proof that the salesman's confidence in the product is mirrored by the customer.

Exactly the same rules apply when one is talking about one's sexuality, and especially when one is coming out to someone. If a person talks about being gay with complete confidence, the people they're talking to will be biased in their favour. Even if they want to, homophobes find it hard to criticise a gay person when they're full of confidence. But if a person comes out as gay and they're feeling bad about it, they're effectively putting themselves at the mercy of whoever they're talking to. When it's clear that the person who's coming out as gay thinks there's a problem about being gay, the person they're talking to can develop doubts too.

The problem is that confidence is very hard to fake, and the only way to build confidence in terms of being gay is through positive experiences. So when a person starts coming out, doing it to people who'll be sympathetic is very important, because the positive result helps build confidence.

I can remember coming out to my mother. She wasn't the first person I came out to by any means, but after I'd uttered the words my confidence evaporated and I started crying. Deep down I knew that she'd be sympathetic, even though she would certainly have preferred me to be straight. Immediately I got big hugs, reassuring words, and I was a bit further along the road to achieving my gay lifestyle black belt. But had I been dealing with someone who was unsympathetic, left with no confidence about the situation they would have been able to destroy me and perhaps put back my personal development by many years.

Perhaps this is all a bit obvious. Don't come out to people who'll be unsympathetic until one feels comfortable being gay! But there's more than that here, because when two people are discussing something and one person hasn't made up their mind about it, the confidence or lack of confidence shown by the other person will often determine the outcome:
  • "I came out as gay recently and it's the best thing that's ever happened to me, I feel so much better about life now". If the person on the receiving end of such a statement has known the person for a while but never met an openly gay person before, they're likely to see the truth of that statement if it's delivered with confidence, and walk away with a more positive attitude towards gay people :-).

  • "I think I'm gay but I really wish I wasn't, do you know anyone who can help me?" Anyone who hears that and hasn't met any gay people before is likely to think that being gay is like having a nasty incurable disease, to be avoided at all cost in case it's contagious :-(!
As I said at the start of this post, confidence is important in all areas of life. But it is especially important for gay people when they're considering coming out to someone!


Avenue Road said...

I also look forward to your next entry. I may add you to my blog list on my blog

GB said...

At last, I've found someone who believes in the confidenence mirror!

Pete said...

Are people really doubting this? I think it is pretty obvious but the key to getting what you want.

I think I need to chill out a little.

GB said...

Maybe that was the problem with this posting pete, perhaps it's just too obvious LOL!

Take care, GB xxx

TNC said...

I have been dealing with my own self-confidence as I continue my coming out process, and you simply nailed the whole concept with your eloquent words.

Thanks for sharing your wise words and taking the time to inspire so many people who look to your blog for advice and encouragement.

Have you considered helping out at local gay organizations or counseling? You would be a great asset to any such organization or cause.