What if we didn’t create such a fuss over how “confident” we are?
When I was 29, I looked back on a wonderful New York City magazine publishing experience with this rather jaded quip:
“S/he who feigns confidence best wins.”
I shared this newfound wisdom with my friend Anne over cocktails one night. “It’s not always about being good or even the best,” I continued. “But there were a lot of writers in New York who were so persistent, and who so thoroughly thought the world of themselves, that eventually others did too.”
Anne nodded and looked at me with that recognition of hearing words put toward a previously unidentified feeling. We mentioned some people we knew who might fit the feigning confidence category, then ordered another round and started laughing at the whole idea that life is a charade.
Could it be we knew this thing we called “confidence” was there for us, too? Did we really know what we were talking about, or was I just making up a story around why some people we might call imbecilic were crushing it professionally? (Maybe it was sour grapes? Perhaps.)
What did we even mean by “confidence?” What did I mean by confidence?
Today, decades later, I hear it in my clients, the word “confidence.” I hear:
“I want to work on my confidence.” “I just don’t have enough confidence.”
“I have a complicated relationship with confidence.”
What I don’t say initially but attempt to point people toward — these days, decades after my bar-stool conversation with Anne — is that this thing we call “confidence” is all made up. It’s a concept. What I mean by confidence, might not be the same as yours. But who can ever tell?
The trickiest and most delusional idea we feed ourselves (innocently) is this: that confidence is either necessary for achieving something, or the reason we’ve fallen short of an achievement.
Seeking “confidence” kicks us out of engaging with the world right now, and getting into whatever it is that’s tickling our fancy, and into a state of mind that is insatiable.
Seeking is insatiable. It’s like looking over the fence at your neighbor’s house and wishing you could have a beautiful yard like theirs, when, the whole time, you have a beautiful garden right there, just waiting to be tended to.
You know this. I know this. And we forget this. “Confidence” isn’t necessary to create whatever it is you want to create.
For example: all the times you’ve felt fear, self-doubt, or a lack of certainty but have gone ahead and done that thing anyway (from getting out of bed in the morning and starting a new job; to going to the grocery store during a pandemic, or starting a writing practice) — you never needed “confidence”. You didn’t need anything, really. You just . . . did.
It probably took more curiosity, or a gorgeous wave of energy, a sensing of the living spirit of you moving out in the world doing something it was created to do. Who knows.
I moved to New York City on a whim, while visiting a friend and having margaritas at Banditos, staring out the window at the rain and claiming: “I’m going to move here.”
Was I confident? Well, to be honest, I was a bit drunk.
But even sober, I moved.
Consider this: consider that you are an unimaginable amount of creativity; that you possess pure creator energy, and while you don’t have to Do It All, you can move toward whatever calls to you — even if your knees quake, even if you find yourself saying “I don’t feel confident I can make this work,” or “the uncertainty is killing me [which it isn't, see how we make things up?]”, give up the idea of confidence either: a) existing or b) being necessary.
Then, put on your most colorful swimsuit and ride your bike through the neighborhood singing your favorite song.