What Bernie Sanders Teaches Us About Confidence

by Kylie Cheung

In his Friday night appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Bernie Sanders briefly opened up about why he doesn’t consider being called a "liberal" or "socialist" insulting. When asked by Colbert why he wouldn't take the labels as the "insults they're meant to be," Sanders had a brief laugh and elaborated on his belief that society should represent "working people and the middle class, rather than large campaign donors." Essentially, to Sanders, if belief in equal representation for all means being pinned with names that are meant to be insults, then so be it: He wants us all to know he has enough confidence in his values and ideas to accept any label. In his response to Colbert, Sanders taught us an important lesson about confidence, one of many he's taught us over and over through his approach to campaigning.

Sanders started his bid for the presidency as the severe underdog behind Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Months later, the spread of his message has given him solid leads over Clinton in the early primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa. What he and Clinton are saying don't differ too dramatically, but perceived differences in character have made him increasingly popular with voters. Sanders arguably gives off an unpolished authenticity that he doesn't feel the need to hide. To many voters, his lack of refinement demonstrates confidence in his message and track record and establishes a connection between him and the "common man." More than anything, Sanders has taught us that there's plenty of ways to approach confidence, and good things come your way, when you do.

1. You Don't Have To Water Down Your Passion

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Sanders arguably rose to prominence by loudly focusing on economic injustice and unfailingly addressing it in his speeches. Whatever your passion is, take a page from the "Bern-book" and have the confidence to talk about it — clearly, American voters are becoming increasingly receptive to other people's passions.

2. You Don't Have To Sell Out...


Right off the bat, Sanders refused to accept money from Super PACs. One of his campaign's golden tenets is restoring electoral power to everyday Americans. His campaign clearly isn't catering to the billionaires, and we can trust that his message, whatever our opinions of it, is totally his own. Sanders' approach to fundraising teaches us to stay true to and have enough confidence in our values to not accept bribes or advance someone else's best interests. Given his fundraising results, integrity seems to have its own benefits.

3. ...Or Pit People Against Each Other

When asked about Donald Trump, as Sanders so frequently is, Sanders has one incredibly important criticism. He points out that Trump is using racism to attract voters, uniting a racial majority against a minority, and casting Mexican immigrants as scapegoats to be blamed for America's biggest problems. Sure, Trump has been met with a disturbing amount of success, but frankly, Sanders has, too, and without descending to spread xenophobia. The lesson here? You can be yourself and succeed without foul play.

4. But You DO Need To Listen To Others

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Last Wednesday, Sanders met with Black Lives Matter activists after some fairly turbulent run-ins this summer. Activists have certainly pushed Sanders to discuss racial injustice more vocally, and after Wednesday's meeting, they described him as "open to being pushed." We can decipher an arrogant person from a confident one based on their receptiveness and ability to work with and listen to different types of people.

5. Don't Descend To Talking Smack

Sanders has repeatedly made it clear that he has zero interest in running negative ads against Hillary Clinton. He's also famously refused to fall into some interviewers' traps to make him speak ill of her, opting instead to focus on discussing the issues. The lesson here should be pretty clear: When you have enough confidence in who you are, you don't feel the need to compensate by insulting others.

6. Labels Might Hurt, But They Don't Change Who You Are


Colbert was right — the term "socialist" in America is meant as an insult so much so that when news outlets describe Sanders as one, they're careful to include he's a "self-described" socialist so it doesn't read like they're insulting him. But there's no single correct economic system, and the insult doesn't hurt Sanders because he doesn't view socialism as inherently a bad thing. We should have confidence in our values and the lifestyles we lead, no matter what names are pinned to us because of them. Being labeled a "slut" is always going to hurt — but you should have the confidence to know having consensual sex and wearing revealing clothing are nothing to be ashamed of.

7) You Don't Have To Be The Norm To Succeed

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If elected, Bernie Sanders would be America's first non-Christian Democratic socialist and oldest POTUS in history. He certainly isn't the norm, and yet everyday he's closing Clinton's lead a little more. Being different might not necessarily help you succeed, but it certainly won't make it impossible. When it comes to being different, Sanders proves a little confidence can go a long way.