Musings on Confidence


Here is my working definition of confidence: comfort and ease doing what one does. Stories abound of comedians getting their start through the enormous pleasure derived from laughter they evoke from their family at living room performances. Confidence in one’s self grows from situations like these.

False confidence

Why do some people, of limited skills, ideas and abilities have all the confidence in the world, while this quality is lacking in others who are quite skilled, with long lists of accomplishments to their credit? I have observed what might be the origins of the former example in families where parents praise their offspring with no tempering. The child can do no wrong. Who knows when, of if these children will ever get a reality check. Hopefully it will happen at a point when it is not too late to change their worldviews.

Worth and confidence

What if a child is good at something that is not valued much by society? My older brother is autistic, and I spent a lot of my childhood in a support role, as do many other siblings in similar situations. I was pretty good at other things as well, but really good in a support role. Is value to society a component of self-confidence? I would say, yes. But I suppose that if one defines one’s environment appropriately, one could have confidence in one’s self no matter how society at large views one’s contributions.

Cognitive dissonance

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about cognitive dissonance. My personal definition of this phenomenon is: being told one thing and observing something else. Or, as Woody Allen might say, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”

Confidence in one realm/No confidence in another

The cognitive dissonance that comes to mind with respect to my own self-confidence is the stark difference between ideas and physicality. Stephen Hawking, world-famous physicist, embodies an extreme example of this dichotomy. His brain ponders the same questions, as have many brilliant scientists in history, advancing theories of cosmology that the vast majority of humanity could not follow, while being unable to speak or lift a glass of water to drink.

Mind and meat

What good is it to be able to think lofty thoughts if one is bound by the demands, desires and other constraints of the meat bodies we inhabit? The following quote by Samuel Johnson perhaps sums it up: “Sex: the expense is damnable, the position is ridiculous, and the pleasure fleeting.” Maybe that’s why they told us to think about baseball during sex, in sex education class.


I must have been exposed to Charles Darwin’s thoughts as a child. I remember ‘the law of the jungle’: survival of the fittest. If ‘survival of the fittest’ was natural law, why did I survive? I started wearing glasses in 5th grade. If I wasn’t lucky enough to get them, how could I survive? So right off the bat, I’m living on borrowed… not time, but borrowed… technology? Ideas? The lesson I learned from this was, “Ok, I wouldn’t have survived as a physical specimen, perhaps I could compete in the realm of ideas.” In the end, I survived.

Final answer

My best definition of self-confidence is: Self-satisfaction knowing that one is successfully striving to fulfill one’s own potential. To actually have self-confidence by this definition, one would have to be a good judge of one’s potential and must be kind to one’s self and patient with one’s failings.

2 thoughts on “Musings on Confidence

  1. Is there really such a thing as false confidence? If a person has confidence in their abilities, be they justified in our views or not, isn’t that just plain old (wish I had more of it) confidence?

    • Good point, THawk. I should have said unwarranted confidence. You may have guessed that this variety of confidence irks me. For people who try so hard to justify feeling confident about their true abilities, the ‘unwarrantedly confident’ skip the “hard part”. A lot of times there is bulkshit (damn autocorrect) involved on the part of the U.C. Also, more times than not, the U. C. are do not like to share their processes or insights, perhaps because their processes are rote and their insights are nil.
      Sorry for the rambly rant. I hold out the false hope (ha, ha, ha) that the unwarrantedly confident eventually mend their ways…. But I don’t think the majority will.

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