The Role Of Being In A Favorable Context In Feeling Outgoing And Confident
When we think of being confident and outgoing we often view them as stable traits that come from within. If someone's at a party and they're happily chatting to everyone, we assume they have an inner source of belief in themselves and comfort in social situations. Obviously those things play a role in confidence and outgoingness, but a more overlooked factor is whether someone's in a favorable social context.
Has this ever happened to you? You're at a bar. You're a bit nervous and hesitant to talk to anyone. You look around and see a group of friends who all seem so self-assured and sociable. They're effortlessly joking around with each other and bringing strangers into their conversation. They look like they own the place. You think, "Why can't I have what they have? Why am I so shy and insecure?"
The people in that confident, outgoing group may naturally be that way. It's also possible they're feeling bold because they're in their element. Maybe...
- They're in a group where everyone's known each other since the first grade. They know their friends like and support them. They know which topics will get a lively conversation going. They know each other's humor and have years of inside jokes to fall back on. They know how to bring out the best in each other.
- They come to that bar all the time and are comfortable in that spot.
- They know a lot of the staff and other regulars.
- Two of them are in a popular local cover band that plays there every few weeks.
Of course the members of that close friend group are going to feel and act confident and chatty. The situation is slanted in their favor. Alone in another setting each of them might be quiet and inhibited. Around toxic, unfriendly people they may show a prickly, guarded side their buddies barely ever see.
There are other examples I could have used, like a professor who's confidentially working the room at an academic conference, because she's the respected keynote speaker. Maybe she's shy at parties where she doesn't know anyone, and no one's familiar with her work in her field.
If you see someone who seems really outgoing or secure with themselves, try not to immediately jump to believing they're always that way and just have strengths you don't. Think about whether they're in a context that shores up their confidence, or makes it easy for them to chat to everyone.
Also, think about how you could get yourself into more situations where it's only natural to feel self-assured, or be comfortable starting conversations.
- Is there a venue you could hang around that attracts your type of people, so you'd naturally feel at ease in that setting? E.g., a board game cafe, hobby club, or sports team
- Is there a place where you could become a regular, like a live music venue, weekly meet up, or drop-in class?
- Could you take on some kind of local organizer or leadership role? E.g., arranging an open mic night every month at a nearby coffee shop, hosting in-person tournaments for a video game you play
- Are there skills you can cultivate that would give you a certain amount of respect and sway in your area? E.g., as a graphic designer that creates funny posters for local events
Honestly, you don't have to do any of these things to get a good social life or be more confident. They usually take time to pay off as well. And some of them are plain easier said than done. Not everyone is able to just build up some talent that makes them a town celebrity. But it is a nice bonus when you're in a setting that boosts whatever level of confidence or ability to start conversations you already have. It's great when you stroll into a place where you're a regular, and you just feel at home and know there are several people you can approach and catch up with.
More on the effect of favorable contexts on "naturally" confident people
Some people who seem "naturally" confident and outgoing just lucked into often being in circumstances that amplified those traits from a young age.
- They've always had mainstream interests, personality attributes, and values. It's always been easy for them to meet like-minded people. They were never the kid who didn't fit in.
- They naturally had interests or talents that were validated and rewarded in their area (e.g., they were athletic in a sports obsessed small town).
- They naturally had interests that required them to spend time around people, so building a social circle was never a problem (e.g., being into theater).
- They had long-time connections which gave them a head start in feeling comfortable and in their element in certain places (e.g., their older siblings went to the same high school, so they already knew a bunch of people when they started and had a sense of who the teachers were).
And then when they got older they never moved out of their comfort bubble. They kept their old friends. They never stopped going to their usual haunts. It's not necessarily that they're afraid of change or sadly clinging to their glory days. They just didn't have a reason to leave, and are still in a place where they feel socially relaxed.
People who see themselves as naturally shy and unconfident can have the opposite happen. It's not that they're congenitally nervous and insecure. They may have grown up as the odd one out in their town, and never felt accepted. They might have moved a lot and never had a chance to develop that secure base of friends. No one in their area appreciated what they were good at. Their hobbies were mostly solitary. However, if they change to a better environment, that may help bring out their inner confidence.