Friday, December 18, 2015

Confidence: An Underrated Virtue

We often regard confidence with the same aversion and slight intimidation that we do arrogance. In fact as a child, I saw the two as ultimately the same, save for how one has a positive connotation while the other has a negative one. But in my adult life, I find confidence to be a necessary trait that I often yearn for and find myself lacking in.

I find that in my culture, confidence is often discouraged. One would often hear a qualifier or an apology next to any statement that has any semblance of self-assuredness or assertiveness and one would risk isolation if they came off too strong or believed in themselves too much. 

However, there are more things separating confidence from arrogance apart from how positively or negatively their connotations are viewed. While arrogance is about an inflated sense and projection of oneself that may stem from insecurity, confidence can be alternatively interpreted as something that rests on a certain tranquility in who a person is, a steadiness of being, and accuracy of intent behind one's actions.

In fact, in this School of Life video, (which by the way do watch it after you read this if you have time. changed my life.) it is listed as a modern age virtue, along with compassion, resilience, empathy, hope, and other things that we'd expect from such a list. 

"Confidence is not arrogance. It is based on constant awareness of how short life is and how little we ultimately lose from risking everything." - Alain de Botton

Confidence, viewed as a virtue, becomes a very crucial part of self-actualisation. We need confidence to go after our ideas, even some of the untested and seemingly impractical ones, in order to make anything new or useful in the world. We are beings of action. No matter what beliefs we have, no matter what our insides look like, it is through action that we interact with the world and cause change. And without confidence in ourselves, we are missing many opportunities to be a source of goodness, comfort, or help in the world.

Many things, I find, are only as easy as we preemptively estimate them to be. There is only a certain number of times in which you need to do an action before the learning curve is done and you could do it without much conscious thought, but when we start doubting ourselves, that automation falters. Sometimes, we shoot ourselves in our own foot when we start off with zero confidence.

Even the best messages fail to inspire when shared with a shaky voice. We might do our good ideas a disservice if we are not confident in ourselves while trying to implement them. In fact, we might end up not doing them at all if we had no confidence.

Here are three tips I try to implement in my own life in order to be more confident (I haven't mastered them of course, we are all learning these things together!):

1. Stop micromanaging information - I tend to be someone who wants to know every single detail before progressing with tasks, or even my life. Some things that catch my attention are so tedious and ultimately non-important but take so much of my energy away from what matters. And once it's taken the reins of my thought process, it leaves me with so much uneasiness in myself, insecurity, and anxiety. I try now to block unimportant, nagging thoughts that drain my energy (like embarrassing conversations from years ago that nobody else remembers, or all the possible ways I could write a sentence better) and try to re-orient my attention to the present moment, and the next important step. This can be very hard when I'm really lost in a thought process, but I've started doing this thing where, when I catch myself starting a thought spiral, I shout and call Beardy and just ask him what's up. He knows what it means now. Haha.

2. Be present, or in non-mystical terms, focus on the task/event/conversation at hand. - Once I've put all of the noise aside, what's left to think about? This is where some perspective training is needed. I try to take on the perspective of a normal functioning adult, as I interpret it, and just focus on the task at hand, or the topic being discussed, instead of, for example, how I sound or look to the person I'm talking to, which might kill my confidence. As a very distracted person, it can be quite hard to figure out what the meat of the matter is at any given moment; I often get lost in my own head, but I'm training myself to see what everyone else must be seeing, by trying to stay present and truly pay attention to what people communicate, and to what's happening around me.

3. Practice. - A very important step. Many things we learn don't help us not because they weren't insightful enough nor blatantly false but simply because we didn't implement them well enough. To learn anything, we need to practice it until it becomes second nature to us, until it stops being something we have to think about and push ourselves to do. It just becomes who we are. Take Mindy Kaling's example:

I love the implications of this statement. Confidence is a thing that happens by default when we are not subdued by events or people in our lives that make us think we should be anything less than we are. As unnatural as confidence may feel to some of us, it is only right that we try to regain it in ourselves because it's not something that we can wait for in a society as skewed as ours. We must accept ourselves as however we come into the world and then proceed to take advantage of the limited time we have by taking a chance on our own dreams, ideas, and whatever brings us joy.

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