I’ve never had a ton of self-confidence.
No, that’s a lie.
I think perhaps I was pretty sure of myself as a young child. Bright, uninhibited, blissfully unaware of how the rest of the world perceived me.
Cue adolescence, and a flood of acute self-consciousness, especially with regards to my appearance.
I vacillated wildly between loving my new curves, which often garnered me much-desired attention, and feeling supremely dorky and unattractive.
Somehow, that feeling stuck around into young adulthood. I became more self-aware and realized that I often missed social cues about when I was being annoying, boring, or even offensive, so I often stayed quiet in unfamiliar social situations. I never felt like I hit fashion quite right. I didn’t care enough to be going with trends, but wasn’t so comfortable with what I liked as to make my own statement. When I did try, I always slightly missed the mark. My hair was always about 5 years behind. I always felt like that awkward teenager.
Then I moved to New York City, and that sentiment only increased. It’s not that I thought I was ugly, just…nothing special, really. And absolutely not at NYC-level. Hey, I figured, everyone gets cat-called.
So it came as quite a surprise to learn that others might see me differently.
A few months after moving to NYC, a friend from college invited me to a holiday party at his mom’s apartment. He and his girlfriend would be there, along with a couple other people I knew and a few I didn’t, including a couple of his buddies from the NYPD, where he had recently started working.
I was nervous, but excited about having something fun to do in the big city! I dressed up in a cute, form-fitting red dress, complete with heels. I did my make-up, straightened my shoulder-length hair, threw on some jewelry, and off I went. At the party, I said hello and then spent a good amount of time just sort of hanging around with my drink in my hand, feeling shy. I had never really been particularly close to the women I knew there, and everyone else seemed to be engaged in groups, dancing and having a great time. Once again, I saw myself as the awkward girl no one wanted to talk to.
Later that night, my friend came over to check in and chat. He was laughing about a conversation he’d had with his partner from the force. Somehow they’d mentioned me, and his partner commented, “Oh, yeah, I know the type: snobby Upper East Side b***h.” My friend told me how he’d started cracking up at how ridiculous that was, and then quickly corrected him, assuring him that I was actually one of the smartest and nicest people he knew. He looked directly at me when he said that, making sure I heard him.
I don’t remember exactly what my reaction was on the outside, but inside I was completely shocked. Here I was, dressed all fancy and thinking I still didn’t measure up, and other people were thinking I was looking down on them!
Although I still get self-conscious, and even now still very often feel like an awkward social outcast, I am now much more cognizant of what I project onto other people, and try not to make assumptions about the reasons behind people’s behavior. I’m also becoming much more adept at embracing myself, dorkiness and attractiveness, both!