Confidence Trick

I’m not much of a one for televisual competitions, but I do watch ‘Masterchef, The Professionals’ – in no small part for the fabulous facial expressions of Michel Roux – and occasionally, ‘Strictly . . ‘.

In these and others like them, there seems to be a lot of talk about Confidence from the competitors, and here as in day to day life, it is always talked about as a positive thing. However, I think something vital is being missed.

It is not always those who start off, “feeling confident”, who progress the furthest, and never unless they have something to back it up. It is those who display a true commitment, and the steely glint behind the eyes which lets you know that they are not afraid of hard work, their focus is complete, and that success is almost a matter of life and death. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking the spurious, “Wanting it SO MUCH!” What I’m talking about is an observable, palpable willingness to push one’s own capabilities to an uncomfortable limit, with a self-doubt that one’s best may not be enough, or that one could have tried harder, even though it didn’t feel like it at the time.

When working with children and young people in this context, it’s not unusual to have them reply, almost parrot fashion, that a felt benefit from any given project is that they, “feel more confident.” I am sometimes left pondering how deeply they understand the meaning of that particular C word – and how much of it is simply the desire to please, by giving what they perceive is the answer the adult asking the question wants.

I was always talked about as a confident child – when perhaps closer to the truth was that I understood how to get the adult reaction I was after, and had learned that in a strange way, showing off meant you were left alone to get on with it – no need to interfere there, she’s fine.

As an adolescent, I remember being asked how a person could attain confidence, and I replied, “Get good at something.”

So – there it is really – whilst of course the ideal is for every young person (or every person) to have an innate sense of self and feel securely confident that their true nature is of worth and will establish a place in the world, we may be doing more harm than good to encourage the thinking that Confidence in and of itself is a supremely desirable goal. It may be that when unsubstantiated, that sense of Confidence may be riding for a fall.

As in many things, it may be of more help to value the process rather than the end goal – if our route to Confidence is acknowledged as supported, realistic inner reflection and truthful endeavour leading to achievement and success; if the inevitable stumbles along the way are noted as part of life’s rich tapestry, and one more step to a perhaps as yet unknown goal; if what we are feeling confident about is something with a tangible foundation – perhaps it will be a real benefit, and not just a trick.

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