Tuesday, October 31, 2023
Monday, October 30, 2023
Understanding the Partisan Divide: How Demographics and Policy Views Shape Political Party Coalitions
GUEST BLOG / By Oscar Pocasangre and Lee Drutman with New America, a think tank dedicated to a vision of a more equitable America that lives up to its values.
To win congressional majorities, Democratic and Republican parties must stitch together coalitions that are broad enough to accommodate their stronghold districts and swing districts, but distinct enough to differentiate themselves from each other.
How each party builds these coalitions depends, in part, on the demographic characteristics and policy views of voters in districts where they garner most support and how these overlap with voters in competitive districts.
In this report, we show how Democratic and Republican districts differ from each other and where they overlap with competitive districts.
Democratic districts tend to be more affluent and more diverse than Republican districts, which are mostly poorer and predominantly white.
Competitive districts comprise roughly equal shares of districts that are more and less affluent than the district average, but they tend to be whiter than the average district. The winner-take-all electoral system accentuates these differences and reduces the diverse constellation of districts to a binary.
This results in an inadequate representation of voters in districts that are far from the median Democratic or Republican district.
• Democratic and Republican districts differ in important ways on demographic variables and policy views. Our winner-take-all system reduces these differences to a binary, hiding the diversity of districts and possible areas of overlap.
• Republican districts are some of the least ethnically diverse districts. But voters within these districts have diverse policy views, particularly on economic issues.
• Democratic districts are some of the most ethnically diverse districts. But voters within these districts are mostly in agreement over their views of both social and economic issues.
• Competitive districts include roughly equal numbers of ethnically diverse and ethnically homogeneous districts. While they lean towards the conservative side on many social and economic issues, voters in competitive districts have a wide mix of policy views.
• Parties need to distinguish themselves from each other as much as possible in a winner-take-all system to make inroads in competitive districts. This encourages them to stitch together coalitions that emphasize their demographic and policy differences.
Republicans do so by appealing to rich and poor white voters with cultural and identity issues with questions of identity: “Who are we and where are we headed?”
Democrats do so by appealing to an ethnically diverse electorate with clearer policy offerings, asking: “Who gets what and how much?”
Decades of polarization and partisan sorting, along with a growing urban-rural divide, have created different partisan strongholds for Democrat and Republican parties across the United States.
The distinctions between the congressional districts represented by Republicans and those represented by Democrats lead to different strategies in how each party maintains support among their core constituencies while simultaneously trying to make inroads in those few competitive districts that ultimately decide which party controls the House.
In this report, we use a combination of Census and survey data to show how congressional districts represented by Republicans differ from those represented by Democrats in terms of demographic characteristics, levels of ethnic diversity, and the policy views of voters in those districts.
We also show how these partisan districts differ from competitive districts, which although few in number, play an outsized role in the country’s winner-take-all elections.
Exploring the differences in demographics and policy preferences across Democratic, Republican, and competitive districts provides insights that help explain current dynamics within parties. It also sheds light on the policies that parties emphasize in their efforts to build broader coalitions that capture voters in competitive districts.
While our analysis reveals important differences between Democratic and Republican districts, it also shows that these differences are not clear-cut and that districts fall along a continuum of demographic characteristics and policy views.
The two-party system hides this diversity while exaggerating differences, precluding the emergence of new coalitions where different types of districts overlap. As expected, we find that Republican districts are predominantly white and, for the most part, less affluent than the national average.
In contrast, Democratic districts are less white than the average but tend to be more affluent than average.
Republican districts are also some of the least diverse in terms of their ethnic composition while Democratic districts tend to be more diverse than the national average.
Competitive districts are in the middle. They are more affluent than Republican districts but less so than Democratic districts. Competitive districts tend to be whiter than the average and whiter than Democratic districts, but not as white as Republican districts.
When it comes to ethnic diversity, competitive districts are roughly split, with about half of competitive districts below the national average of the diversity index we estimate and the other half above.
Having a relatively homogenous group of constituents in its stronghold districts and facing competitive districts with a higher share of its population that is white, the Republican party might have an easier time appealing to voters across these districts with identity-based or cultural issues.
The Democratic party is forced to pitch a bigger tent to accommodate the diversity of ethnic groups within its districts, which may create challenges in making inroads in competitive districts. On policy views, however, residents in Democratic districts exhibit greater agreement than their counterparts in competitive or Republican districts.
Democratic districts are internally quite homogeneous in their policy views of both social and economic issues, but across districts they exhibit a diverse set of viewpoints.
On the other hand, Republican districts have higher levels of ideological heterogeneity internally, particularly when it comes to views of economic issues, but exhibit little diversity across districts.
In competitive districts, we observe some of the highest levels of heterogeneity in the policy views of citizens, which reflects the mix of partisans that coexist within competitive districts. This mix likely stems from the predominantly suburban location of competitive districts, which given the political geography of the country makes it more likely that they have a more balanced share of partisans than the Republican countryside or the Democratic metropolis.
As pointed out by scholars of political geography and polarization, the diversity of policy preferences in competitive districts makes it tricky for parties to identify the policy views of voters who could be persuaded—as we show in a previous report on undecided voters—leading parties to mobilize their core voters in competitive districts instead.
For the Republican party, the combination of ideologically diverse competitive districts and the assortment of views on economic issues in its stronghold districts can make it challenging to present a platform on economic issues that appeals to all its voters. This makes identity and cultural issues more appealing in campaigns, especially given the ethnic homogeneity of Republican districts and encourages Republicans to mobilize core constituents instead of focusing too much on policy issues.
In fact, in 2020, the party didn't even offer a formal policy platform. While the Republican coalition is kept together by exploiting questions of identity (“Who are we?” and “Where are we headed?”), the Democratic coalition is held together by questions of distribution (“Who gets what, and how much?”).
Politicians in Democratic districts are better able to identify the policies their constituents want, but there is a wider range of policy views across Democratic districts.
In a more permissive electoral system, the diverse collection of views would result in different parties—one for the likes of President Joe Biden and another for the likes of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—but the two-party system and the intense opposition to Republican positions keeps the Democratic coalition together.
The Democratic and Republican parties find their strongholds in districts that, on average, are very different. Democrats get most of their votes from ethnically diverse districts but with constituents that, for the most part, are in agreement over policy issues.
Republicans get their votes from predominantly white districts but with constituents that disagree more on policy matters, particularly on economic issues. But, increasingly, neither party can win a majority in Congress without winning competitive districts and have to find ways to win over voters in these districts, with the comfort that the combination of winner-take-all and intense negative partisanship and polarization will prevent mass defections from their stronghold districts.
The gravitational pull of a small number of competitive districts in the American electoral system—much like that of undecided voters—reflects the calcification of national politics. But beneath this calcification, our report shows that there is fertile ground for new coalitions to emerge given the diversity in demographics and policy views exhibited by districts.
More permissive electoral rules, like proportional representation, would allow these coalitions to crack through our calcified system and provide better representation to voters in districts that do not fit comfortably in the existing party tents or whose views are completely unrepresented because they live in partisan strongholds.
About the Data
The classification of districts into Democratic, Republican, or competitive comes from the ratings of the Cook Political Report for the 2020 and 2022 midterm elections. Competitive districts are those classified as toss ups for each cycle while the partisan districts are those rated as solid, likely, or lean Democratic or
Republican. Demographic data comes from the 2020 census and from the 5-year estimates of the American Community Survey (ACS) for 2020. Between 2020 and 2022, congressional districts were redistricted, so we approximate the new congressional maps for the 2022 midterms using the block equivalency files provided by each state to the Census Bureau.
These files allow us to match each census block to its new congressional district. The data on policy views comes from the Democracy Fund and UCLA Nationscape survey, aggregated to the district level. The survey carried out 77 waves from July 2019 through January 2021 and reached almost 500,000 respondents. We use the same dataset for our report on undecided voters, for which we created indices for various social and economic issues.
On the social dimension, the issues are abortion, gun control, immigration, views on structural discrimination, and traditional and Christian values and positions. On the economic side, the issues are environmental protections and investments, debt free college, government role in healthcare, government role in the economy, and taxation.
What distinguishes Democratic, Republican, and competitive districts from each other? In this section, we provide a description of demographic characteristics of these districts, for both 2020 and for 2022, after the redistricting process. Polarization and partisan sorting has created a mega-identity composed of reinforcing racial, ethnic, and other social identities.
Because of this, the basic demographic breakdown of congressional districts can be informative for understanding the different effects these districts have on Democrats and Republicans. Figure 1 shows the distribution of districts based on the shares of their white population and their average household income.
Districts in the upper quadrants are, on average, richer than average and those in the right-side quadrants have shares of white residents higher than the district average. As seen in the figure, most Republican districts clustered in the lower right quadrant in 2020: 71 percent of Republican districts were whiter than the national average and had lower than average household incomes.
For the most part, the Republican districts that had shares of white residents below the average were districts with high shares of Hispanic residents, like those in states like California, Florida, and Texas.
Democratic districts were scattered all over the other quadrants, with 57 percent of Democratic districts in high income groups. Of these higher income districts, 58 percent were below the national average of white residents and 42 percent above.
Meanwhile, 31 percent of the all Democratic districts were both poorer and less white than the national average and only 12 percent were poorer but whiter than the national average.
Competitive districts were whiter than the average congressional district. In this characteristic, they overlap with reliably Republican districts. But unlike Republican districts, there were roughly equal numbers of competitive districts above the average household income level as there were below. Such conditions create opportunities for Republicans to exploit identity and cultural issues instead of economic issues.
Politicians always seek issues that cut across multiple groups in society to create a broad coalition that can be mobilized to the polls.
For Republicans, then, it is better to build a coalition around issues of identity and race because they appeal to lower- and higher-income white voters in both competitive and Republican districts instead of campaigning on economic issues which would pit lower-income Republicans who support progressive economic policies against higher-income Republicans who do not.
Following the redistricting process, which was done with new census data from 2020, little changed in terms of the income and ethnic composition of districts. For the 2022 midterms, we observe a similar distribution of Republican and Democratic districts across household income levels and shares of white residents.
Again, most competitive districts had shares of white voters higher than the national district average. And like in 2020, there were equal numbers of competitive districts below and above the average income across the districts.
Another important demographic characteristic is how diverse congressional districts are internally in terms of their ethnic composition. To explore diversity within districts, we calculate the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index for each congressional district using the shares of the population that identify as white, Black, Hispanic, Asian, or other. This index is a widely used measure of diversity where zero (“0”) indicates that there is only one ethnic group present while 10 indicates that each ethnic group has equal shares of the population within each district.
The Herfindahl-Hirschman Index shows that most Republican districts are among the least ethnically diverse while Democratic districts are the most ethnically diverse. In 2022, of all the Republican districts, 61 percent of them were below the national average of the diversity index, with high shares of white residents resulting in low levels of diversity.
In contrast, 83 percent of Democratic districts were above the national average of the diversity index in 2022, which underscores the diverse coalition across ethnic groups that the Democratic party has to keep together.
Competitive districts were in the middle: Of the 36 competitive districts in 2022, 19 were below the national average of the diversity index while 17 were above the average. Most of the diversity in the Republican party comes from larger Hispanic populations in Texas and Florida.
Of the 83 Republican districts that had scored a diversity index higher than the national average, 29 percent of these districts were in Texas, followed by 12 percent in Florida. Florida also has the most Republican districts with the least diversity: 8 percent of Republican districts with diversity indices below the national average were located in that state, another 8 percent is located in Ohio.
For Democrats, a quarter of the districts that were above the national average in the diversity index were located in California, followed by nine percent in New York. Of the Democratic districts with below average diversity indices, 15 percent were in Massachusetts followed by 12 percent in Michigan.
American politics today is often described as “calcified,” a reference to two sides being pitted rigidly against one another. It's a useful description— coined by John Sides, Chris Tausanovitch, and Lynn Vavreck—to characterize how voters have been shuffled into two distinctly, and firmly, different parties.
Calcification has created different types of congressional districts for Democrats and Republicans to represent. As we show in the report, Democrats garner most of their support from urban districts that are more affluent and more ethnically diverse, while Republicans mostly do so from districts that are rural, less affluent, and predominantly white.
Democratic districts are mostly progressive on both social and economic policy issues, while Republicans are mostly conservative.
The winner-take-all electoral system magnifies this distinction, creating binary choices for voters and forcing parties to differentiate themselves from each other as much as possible.
But our analysis indicates that the differences between Democratic and Republican districts are not as clear-cut. There are affluent Republican districts and there are poor Democratic districts, there are Republican districts that have progressive views on social and economic policy issues and Democratic districts that lean conservative on these issues. Congressional districts—and the voters within them—exist in a continuum of demographic characteristics and hold a variety of policy views.
This suggests that there could be many and more diverse political coalitions if the electoral system were more permissive and proportional. Democratic and Republican districts do differ on average on various demographic variables and they tend to gravitate towards opposite ends of the policy spectrum.
But it is the winner-take-all, two-party system that exaggerates these differences and turns them into a binary, preventing the discovery of common ground and the emergence of new parties that could better represent voters in districts that are far from the median ideological points of each party.
Each party will be able to maximize its seats by choosing policies closest to where the majority of districts fall, but that leaves many districts inadequately represented. The lack of political options reduces all of the country’s ethnic and ideological diversity to a choice of us versus them.
Recent elections have shown that voters in partisan strongholds continue voting for their parties—indeed very few incumbents lost elections in the 2022 midterms—and that any shifts in the balance of power comes from swaying swing districts towards one side or the other. To do so, the Republican party has taken the strategy of emphasizing identity issues—crime, immigration, gender—that stoke fear among their predominantly white stronghold districts and that have a better chance of appealing to the majorities of white voters in competitive districts and to their core voters in those districts.
The focus on identity and cultural issues leaves less room for compromising and fewer opportunities to develop cohesive programmatic policy platforms. Democrats, for their part, have to build broad coalitions that include various ethnic groups and an assortment of better defined policy positions, which makes it difficult for them to exploit identity and cultural issues—other than by highlighting threats from Republicans—but easier for them to negotiate over policy concessions. Under these conditions, the hyper-polarization that characterizes American politics becomes increasingly difficult to resolve.
The different ways in which Democrats and Republicans carve out and sustain their respective coalitions leaves little room for agreement, particularly when identity and cultural issues replace economic issues as the focal conflict of politics. Multi-party democracy would help mitigate polarization by relegating extreme views to fringe parties as it empowers new coalitions to emerge around other issues.
The authors thank Mark Schmitt and Maresa Strano for helpful comments and editing support. Thank you also to Jodi Narde, Joe Wilkes, and Naomi Morduch Toubman for their graphics and communications support. Funding for this work was provided by the Hewlett Foundation and Democracy Fund. All positions are those solely of the authors.
Sunday, October 29, 2023
GIN MARTINI IS AMERICA’S GREATEST INVENTION
For a damn fine martini essay in Literary Hub by Dwight Garner from his new book “The Upstairs Delicatessen:” CLICK HERE. No vodka martini drinkers need to read this.
Saturday, October 28, 2023
With everything turned upside down as we battled through the Covid years...one thing that went away was coffee mugs. They broke a lot and were expensive to replace and at the end of the day, someone had to clean them all.
So café owners like Kate and Bob Carpenter at Sunny Side Kitchen in Escondido, California went with paper cups. “Paper cups work fine and are bottom line cool, but a lot of folks miss the feel and romance of a coffee mug,” says co-owner Kate.
If that's you, Sunny Side Kitchen has a solution...bring your coffee mug and they will fill it. Don't worry if it's not clean, Bob and Kate will be happy to clean it!
Sunny Side Kitchen
155 South Orange Street
Escondido CA 92025
Friday, October 27, 2023
Thursday, October 26, 2023
GUEST BLOG / By Colby Teeman writing for theconversation.com. He is an assistant professor of Dietetics and Nutrition, University of Dayton.--Preparing a bowl of chicken soup for a loved one when they’re sick has been a common practice throughout the world for centuries.
Today, generations from virtually every culture swear to the benefits of chicken soup. In the U.S., the dish is typically made with noodles, but different cultures prepare the soothing remedy their own way. Chicken soup as a therapy can be traced back to 60 A.D. and Pedanius Dioscorides, an army surgeon who served under the Roman emperor Nero, and whose five-volume medical encyclopedia was consulted by early healers for more than a millennium.
But the origins of chicken soup go back thousands of years earlier, to ancient China. So, with cold and flu season in full swing, it’s worth asking: Is there any science to back the belief that it helps?
Or does chicken soup serve as just a comforting placebo, that is, providing psychological benefit while we’re sick, without an actual therapeutic benefit?
As a registered dietitian and professor of dietetics and nutrition, I’m well aware of the appeal of chicken soup: the warmth of the broth and the rich, savory flavors of the chicken, vegetables and noodles.
What gives the soup that distinctive taste is “umami” – the fifth category of taste sensations, along with sweet, salty, sour and bitter. It is often described as having a “meaty” taste.
The notion that chicken soup is an elixir goes back centuries. Improved appetite, better digestion. All that makes sense, because amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and the amino acid glutamate is found in foods with the umami taste.
Not all umami foods are meat or poultry, however; cheese, mushrooms, miso and soy sauce have it too.
Studies show that taste, it turns out, is critical to the healing properties of chicken soup. When I see patients with upper respiratory illnesses, I notice many of them are suddenly eating less or not eating at all. This is because acute illnesses ignite an inflammatory response that can decrease your appetite.
Not feeling like eating means you’re unlikely to get the nutrition you need, which is hardly an optimal recipe for immune health and recovery from illness.
But evidence suggests that the umami taste in chicken soup may help spur a bigger appetite. Participants in one study said they felt hungrier after their first taste of a soup with umami flavor added in by researchers.
Other studies say umami may also improve nutrient digestion. Once our brains sense umami through the taste receptors on our tongues, our bodies prime our digestive tracts to absorb protein more easily. This can reduce gastrointestinal symptoms, which many people experience when they’re under the weather.
Although most people don’t associate upper respiratory infections with gastrointestinal symptoms, research in children has found that the flu virus increased abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea symptoms.
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural response to injury or illness; inflammation occurs when white blood cells migrate to inflamed tissue to assist with healing. When this inflammatory process occurs in the upper airway, it results in common cold and flu symptoms, such as a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, coughing and thickened mucus.
Conversely, lower white blood cell activity in the nasal passages can reduce inflammation. And interestingly, research shows that chicken soup can in fact lower the number of white blood cells traveling to inflamed tissues. It does this by directly inhibiting the ability of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, to travel to the inflamed tissue.
To truly understand the soothing and healing effects of chicken soup, it’s important to consider the soup’s ingredients. Not all chicken soups are packed with nutritious healing properties. For instance, the ultraprocessed canned versions of chicken soup, both with and without noodles, lack many of the antioxidants found in homemade versions.
Most canned versions of chicken soup are nearly devoid of hearty vegetables. The core nutrients in homemade versions of the soup are what set these varieties apart from canned versions.
Chicken provides the body with a complete source of protein to combat infection.
Vegetables supply a wide array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If prepared the American way, noodles provide an easily digestible source of carbohydrate that your body uses for energy and recovery.
Even the warmth of chicken soup can help.
Drinking the liquid and inhaling the vapors increase the temperature of nasal and respiratory passages, which loosens the thick mucus that often accompanies respiratory illnesses.
Compared with hot water alone, studies show chicken soup is more effective at loosening mucus. The herbs and spices sometimes used in chicken soup, such as pepper and garlic, also loosen mucus.
The broth, which contains water and electrolytes, helps with rehydration.
So, to maximize the health benefits of chicken soup, I recommend a homemade variety, which can be prepared with carrots, celery, fresh garlic, herbs and spices, to name a few ingredients.
But if you need a more convenient option, look at the ingredients and nutrition facts label, and choose soups with a variety of vegetables over an ultraprocessed, nutrient-depleted kind.
In short, the latest science suggests that chicken soup – though not an out-and-out cure for colds and flu – really helps with healing.
Looks like Grandma was right again.
Wednesday, October 25, 2023
|Named College Road, the building is made up of two adjoining 50 and 35-storey towers wrapped in a pleated ceramic facade.|
New 1,725 mid-century apartments in East Croydon address housing shortages
GUEST BLOG / Repost by Amy Peacock from Dezeen architecture and design online magazine--British architecture studio HTA Design has completed a 535-foot apartment building in Croydon, UK, that it claims is "Europe's tallest residential tower to be completed using volumetric construction methods".
Named College Road, the building is made up of two adjoining 50 and 35-storey towers wrapped in a pleated ceramic facade.
|Modular construction yielded 1,725 apartments to help ease the region’s housing crunch.|
HTA Design worked with developer Tide to complete the project and it was built from 1,725 volumetric modular units that were placed around a concrete core and above a concrete foundation. HTA Design aimed to create a building that utilised modular construction, but has an appearance that was built on Croydon's architectural heritage.
"The main concept for College Road is to take Croydon’s iconic mid-century modern heritage and reinvent it for 21st-century city living, using world leading volumetric technology and new housing typologies to address London area's housing shortage," HTA Design partner Simon Toplis told Dezeen.
CLICK HERE for the complete Dezeen article.
|Construction crane in distance sits atop new College Road Apartments in E. Croydon, UK.|
East Croydon is nine miles south of London via tube from Waterloo Station.
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
|Chuck Hires, American Soda Czar|
Root beer has been a beloved American beverage for more than a century, but have you ever wondered about its origins?
In a clickable video, below, we'll take a deep dive into the history of root beer, from its modest beginning to its rise as a popular soft drink.
You'll learn about the key figures and events that shaped the root beer industry and discover surprising facts about this classic drink. From the early days of small-batch brewing to the mass production of today, we'll explore the evolution of root beer and its impact on American culture.
Whether you're a root beer enthusiast or just curious about its history, this video is sure to quench your thirst for knowledge. Don't forget to like and share this video, and subscribe to our channel for more videos on the history of your favorite beverages.
|Check out the video for location of first Hires HQ|
Monday, October 23, 2023
Sunday, October 22, 2023
| “There are a lot of good words in use in the United States today, and some of them have gone over into English…”|
As commissioned and published by the Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica in 1926.
|H.L. Mencken in 1946 doing his best to look like a member of the Three Stooges.|
There was very little fresh emigration to the colonies, and their own people seldom visited England. Thus by the end of the century “I guess” was already an Americanism, though it had been in almost universal use in England in Shakespeare’s day. So, too, with many other verbs: to wilt, to whittle, to fellowship and to approbate. And with not a few adjectives: burly, catty-cornered, likely and clever (in the sense of amiable). And with multitudes of nouns: cesspool, greenhorn, cordwood, jeans, flap-jack, bay-window, swingle-tree, muss (in the sense of a row), stock (for cattle) and fall (for autumn).
Saturday, October 21, 2023
Friday, October 20, 2023
Thursday, October 19, 2023
ESPECIALLY OUT ON THE TOWN OR AT THE BEACH
GUEST BLOG / By Kristen Rogers, CNN---Feeling comfortable out on the town sans booze without isn’t impossible, experts say. Sobriety from alcohol can be good for your health and your wallet — and that phase of life when you realize those memes about hangovers at 21 versus hangovers in your late 20s or 30s actually are true.
For some people, including me, going alcohol-free is also the solution when drinking starts to harm your mental health.
But doing so can create a predicament if you still want to hang out in bars, restaurants or parties where drinking alcohol is both the norm — and the main thing helping you feel at ease in those environments.
As social animals with the need to belong in a tribe or community, “we get anxious in social situations because, with social anxiety, there is a sense that people will judge or reject us,” said Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist and author of “How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety.”
“So we work very hard to try to conceal the things we think might make us vulnerable, the things that people might think are wrong with us,” added Hendriksen, a clinical assistant professor at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. “We worry that those perceived fatal flaws will be seen and pointed out, and we will bear negative social consequences because of that.”
Alcohol may help quiet such insecurities — that would otherwise prevent us from having unbridled fun — by disinhibiting us and desensitizing our senses, said Dr. Jodi Gilman, associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
A 2008 study Gilman coauthored even found that when participants were intoxicated, MRIs of their brains showed they weren’t differentiating in their responses to the neutral or fearful faces of other people as they would when they were sober, she said. In other words, situations that would normally feel threatening weren’t during intoxication.
But experts, and people with personal experience, have advice for how you can achieve the same mindset without alcohol.
Worries that people will judge or reject you can be based on fears that you’ll run out of things to say or someone will notice that zit on your forehead or your clammy hands, experts said.
These thoughts can lead to feelings of incompetence and inadequacy, Hendriksen said. Turning to alcohol for artificial confidence “is so ingrained in our culture, and it’s a socially acceptable, and even expected, form of reducing inhibitions,” she added.
But developing true self-confidence starts with recognizing the lies feeding the habit, Hendriksen said: One, that whatever we’re trying to avoid is dangerous or going to hurt us, and two, that we can’t cope with whatever curveballs social life may throw at us.
Feeling confident in these environments, therefore, is based on the knowledge that you can handle whatever comes up — that unlike what your brain has been conditioned to think, you can trust yourself.
However, this is a lesson learned over time, and it can start with approaching your fears instead of avoiding them, according to experts. “Just put yourself out there” may sound like a cliché, but there is a lot of truth in that saying.
If you avoid situations you’re scared of due to fears that something bad will happen, your brain never gets the chance to have experiences that could turn out positively.
Millie Gooch, who’s based in the United Kingdom, used alcohol as a confidence booster for years until she stopped drinking at age 26 when she noticed how hangovers from social binge drinking were affecting her mental health and memory.
Gooch is the founder of the online and in-person community Sober Girl Society and author of “The Sober Girl Society Handbook: Why Drinking Less Means Living More.” The abrupt change in the way she socialized made her “completely uncomfortable,” she said, “because when you’ve used (alcohol) as a comfort blanket for so long, then all of a sudden your comfort blanket has been ripped away from you, you feel really exposed and vulnerable.”
Amanda Kuda of Austin, Texas, began drinking in her late teens to feel more outgoing, she said. She stopped in Dry January of 2017 when she was 31 and hasn’t looked back. “I had to practice real courage,” said Kuda, a sober living coach and author of “Unbottled Potential: Break Up With Alcohol and Break Through to Your Best Life.”
“That meant flexing a muscle that had atrophied in my personality,” she added. “As I started to flex that muscle, I realized that ‘Hey, I’m going to stumble, and there’s going to be moments when I feel uncomfortable.’
But at the end of the event, I always felt so much more powerful for conquering it without alcohol.” As she increasingly accumulated evidence of her own capability, she felt social life was less intimidating.
Working through insecurities with a therapist can be helpful as well, experts said — especially through cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps reframe thoughts, or acceptance and commitment therapy, an approach that focuses on accepting thoughts and feelings without judgment, Hendriksen said.
“If you’re trying to recreate skills that you have as a drinking person, that you feel confident you’ll have as a sober person, absolutely find ways to practice and get that confidence up,” Kuda said.
“But also, the biggest thing to remember is if everyone else around you is drinking … their perception of what you’re doing is so diluted that you could be as wild and crazy as you want and you’re not going to stir any sort of concern.”
And some newly sober people, for example, attend dance classes to feel more outgoing at clubs or parties, Gooch said. Making an event easier on yourself In addition to doing inner work, you can use more immediate strategies to feel confident at events.
In Gooch’s early days of sobriety, she would socialize at more familiar places or put on a “confidence playlist” before going out.
Here are a few tips and tricks for getting through a gathering more smoothly, too:
--Keep a nonalcoholic drink in your hand. One thing that’s nice about drinking at social events is that constantly holding a drink gives you a physical anchor, something to do with your hands.
-- Focus on the positives. No matter what your “why” is for not drinking, reminding yourself of your resolve can boost your confidence about your decision to challenge yourself.
-- Tell people you’re uncomfortable. It may sound counterintuitive, but Gooch found that telling her friends, “I’m feeling uncomfortable, so if I’m acting a bit weird, that’s why” automatically took away the power of it, she said.
-- Bring a friend who doesn’t drink, either. This can help you feel less alone in your decision.
-- Don’t overprepare. Thinking of a few topics to discuss with people is fine, experts said, but overpreparing can make you seem stiff and prevent your brain from learning how to adapt to a dynamic situation.
Navigating social settings sober can feel scary and impossible, but Kuda and Gooch can attest to the results of giving it a try and keeping at it. “In the long term, there’s just been so many benefits, like my mental health has been transformed,” said Gooch, who has been sober for nearly six years. “My physical health is better. I’m just a much more reliable human and a full productive member of society.”
And Kuda has discovered her personal power. “That confidence I gained from choosing to buck the social norm is so much more than the fake confidence I ever got from alcohol,” she said, “and every aspect of my life has transformed since then — from my emotional well-being to my professional success to my personal health.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use disorder, call the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s helpline 800-662-HELP (4357) for treatment referrals and information services. The international service Crisis Text Line provides a live, trained crisis counselor via a simple text for help.