The Editor's Soapbox

Now, I know that I’ve written a soapbox already this quarter and some of you may be tired of my rants. Well, that’s just too bad. I’m the features editor, and since I have something on my mind, I’m going to abuse my power and lecture y’all for a while.

Normally, I’d take this opportunity to try to persuade your vote in the upcoming election. However, since both George “”Excuse me officer, I know I’m drunk, but do I have any coke on my nose?”” Bush and Al “”Let me take a public opinion poll before answering the question”” Gore are pathetically lacking in political appeal, I’m not going to waste my time.

Instead, I’m going to voice my opinion on something that has really been bothering me lately. As I sat in the movie theater with my friend last week and watched the gorgeous Elizabeth Hurley flaunt herself around the screen in skimpy outfits in the new movie “”Bedazzled,”” I was struck with a moment of clarity. (Yes, I know that is a phrase reserved for alcoholics. I’m comfortable with myself, are you?)

The movie revolves around the basic notion that we can all be the popular, cool person we want to be if we just have confidence in ourselves and forget about what other people think. Your initial reaction may be that things like that don’t really work in the real world. Some people just aren’t popular and never will be. That is the attitude some people took as they left the theater. I just chuckled to myself at their utter stupidity, for I knew the truth. The truth is that it is that simple.

Too often, people want to think that the world is just too complicated to figure out. Occum’s Razor is a scientific notion that, all things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Now, which would be simpler: There is some supernatural force that judiciously pre-selects who will be popular and who won’t — or we are all created equal and simple self-confidence is the only thing separating the popular people from the unpopular.

For those of you who refute sound scientific evidence, how about a real-life tale of how confidence changed the life of an unpopular geek? Yes, I am talking about myself, unfortunately.

I was completely unpopular when I entered the eighth grade. Prior to that, I was a geek. I had never gotten any grade below an A in my academic career. I had never been suspended from school, nor even had a detention, for that matter. I don’t even think I was tardy until I was 12.

The bottom line was that I had no self-confidence. I completely doubted myself. I was always crushing on some girl, but I never had the cajones to talk to her. I had a few friends, but I mainly kept to myself. I was completely horrified at the notion of rejection. I just kept to my school work, something I knew that I was good at and something that could not possibly reject me.

I stayed like that until I entered eighth grade and met my best friend, Matt. Matt was a popular guy who lived in the nice part of town and hung out with all the popular rich kids. He was athletic and had girls all over him. I was envious.

To this day I don’t know how it happened, but for some reason we connected. We started hanging out. I always felt weird because we would hang out with the other popular kids, whom I didn’t really know. They would all talk to me, but I still felt like an outsider. I felt like I didn’t belong. I still had no confidence in myself.

Matt and I continued to be great friends in high school, becoming closer with each passing year, yet I still could not help but feel like an outsider.

I continued to have that feeling until my family went on a vacation to Palm Springs the summer before my junior year. We were staying there for a week. On the third night there, I decided to go to the pool alone and relax in the hot Palm Springs night air.

As I entered the pool, I feasted my eyes on the most beautiful creature known to man. She was completely gorgeous. Well, that’s what I thought back then. Of course, I have seen several hundred “”most beautiful creatures known to man”” since then.

Looking back now, I see that moment as a turning point in my life. As I made the decision to give myself some credit and go talk to her, I knew that it was going to be something big. I just didn’t know how big until now, because I’ve had time to reflect on the ensuing path that my life took.

I still can’t believe that I actually talked to her. Even more amazing than that, though, was the fact that she was smiling at me and talking back. I was stunned as she leaned over and kissed me as I walked her back to her room (as sad as it is for me to admit, even though I was 16, it was my first kiss). We spent the next few days together. Just walking around with her by my side and seeing the other guys look at me with jealousy did wonders for my confidence.

When I returned to school that fall, my first order of business was to get me a woman. I succeeded after only a few weeks and found a very attractive tall blond.

In addition to having a girlfriend, I also started going to parties with Matt. I remember the look on people’s faces when they saw me drinking at the first few parties that I went to. A few people came up to me and asked, “”You drink?”” I just smiled and pounded my beer with newfound confidence.

After a while, the looks on people’s faces at the parties went from disbelief to welcome. They were actually getting excited to see me at the parties. My friends and I would show up a few hours late and bask in the stares of all in attendance as they watched our grand arrival. People would rush up to greet us and hand us alcohol. I was in heaven.

My transformation was not limited to late-night partying. I was also getting more popular at school. I noticed that more girls were smiling at me as I walked by. More guys were coming up to me to see how I was doing or what party I would be going to that weekend.

By the time I was a senior, I was one of the kings of the school. I could walk up to any social group and be immediately accepted. I was friends with everyone. I couldn’t walk 50 feet around my high school campus without having to talk to somebody that I knew.

At the time of my graduation, my house had become one of the premiere party stops. In fact, my New Year’s Eve celebration for the millenium was deemed by many as one of the best-ever parties.

Now, the point of this long-winded recap of my life is that change can occur. It doesn’t matter how lonely or awkward you may feel now. Just a little bit of confidence is all you need.

For me, that little spark came from a life-changing decision: I decided to believe in myself. That was all that it took. Everything else grew from there.

I look back now and wonder why I was so afraid to take that step sooner in my life. I really wish that I had. It taught me a lot. I learned that “”popular”” people are not all that much different from you and I. They have the same wants, same needs and same desires that other people have. They are not some strange breed of human beings who are totally different from the rest of us. They are just the ones who decided to believe in themselves at an earlier age.

For those of you out there who are wondering if this really works, try it. You can even start small and build up your confidence from there. Go up to someone in one of your classes and talk to them about the last midterm. Ask them about their other classes. Just talk to them.

After that, build up from there. Go talk to a stranger who’s waiting in line with you to get food. I guarantee you will start to feel more confident. Then, when you feel up to it, go up to those people who you’ve been wanting to hang out with. Start a conversation with them. They will not laugh at you. Trust me.

Once that confidence is there, it won’t go away. It’s kind of like riding a bicycle or having sex — just climb on and start going. It will all come back to you.

Well, there you have it: A guide to gaining confidence in yourself and using it to break out of your self-imposed isolation and get social. Even if you really have no desire to hang out with the “”popular”” people, the confidence you can gain just from talking to them can be used in an infinite number of ways that will make you a happier person in the long run.

In the words of George Zimmerman, president of the Men’s Wearhouse, “”I guarantee it.””