Most people think confidence is an innate quality — you either have it or you don’t. Truth is, whatever the current state of your self-esteem, know that you were born with it inherent in your personality. Just think: As infants and toddlers, we explored the world with nary a fear, until we discovered that it’s filled with things that could hurt us — both physically and emotionally. So, given such a promising start to our lives, how does one end up with a misshapen sense of self-worth? You have the many events that shaped your life, not to mention your parents, to thank for it.
Before you go blaming Mum and Dad or that fearsome primary school teacher for crushing your fragile self-esteem in your early years, consider this — it could have been a good thing. Because the one problem that’s worse than a deficit in self-confidence is a surplus of it. Yes, self-assurance can be built up with positivity and encouragement. But just like a sculpture, it takes some chipping and carving to shape it into a proper art piece.
My belief is that everyone could benefit from a little self-doubt, a view that has formed perhaps from having encountered one over-inflated ego too many. No doubt, confidence can be charismatic — someone who acts with surety wins the trust of others easily — but that’s only true when the person’s abilities match up. Should the latter fall short of the former, the excess that’s left is never desirable.
In an age when parents tend to overdo the cheerleading where their children’s pride is concerned, humility has become a neglected lesson. It’s unfortunate that many see humility as a sign of weakness. Or perhaps it’s a perspective coloured by arrogance: Humility doesn’t mean humbling yourself before others — it is, rather, about acknowledging the fact that everyone is a sum of both good and bad parts. And while you’re pondering over that, it’s also good to remember this: No matter how rich, smart, beautiful or successful you are, there’s bound to be someone else who is better than you.
That said, what one perceives as self-confidence could well be over-confidence in another person’s eyes. It also doesn’t help that a narcissist rarely stops gazing in the figurative mirror long enough to process what’s happening in the world outside.
Nevertheless, there are tell-tale signs. For one, the self-confidence that commands admiration is seldom to be found in loud and noisy types. Secondly, if it comes with a lot of self-promotion, subtle or otherwise, you’ll get a sense that something is not quite right. Above all, the truly self-assured do not acquire their confidence at the expense of others, nor feel the compulsion to be right all the time.
A little awareness of the feelings of others goes a long way in ensuring that one doesn’t cross that fine line. If that’s too difficult to accomplish, the simplest thing one can do is to observe others a little more, and focus on yourself a little less. Yes, you are important and it’s enough that you know it yourself. Doesn’t it count unless you hear it from someone else?