Thursday, August 21, 2014

Don't Have Confidence in Confidence Alone

"What are you looking for?" 

Dare I open Pandora's Box?

The answer to that question is a difficult one. Even though I respond with the same initial hesitation every single time, even though I tentatively list yet two or three items lest I be considered the means to my own spinsterhood, there is also this: Am I truly being honest? 

Am I really self-aware? Do I actually know with such conviction about what I am seeking in a spouse? 

I was recently told a guy's information over the phone. He has it down pat. The criteria for his ideal wife went on and on and on. The shadchan had to pause for breath, to lick her finger to turn the page. He seemed so sure.

Women aren't as confident as men, studies have shown. But, David Brooks counters in "The Problem With Confidence," why is it assumed that the male standard of confidence is the norm? What if men are overconfident, to their own detriment? 
Dan Ariely’s work shows how consistently we overpraise our virtues and rationalize our faults so we can think too highly of ourselves. Most of us call ourselves honest. But, in fact, most people regularly cheat in small ways, when the situation is right.
. . . how can we inject more of this self-doubt and self-policing into the wider culture. How can each of us get a better mixture of “female” self-doubt and “male” self-assertion?
But my second reaction is to notice that people are phenomenally terrible at estimating their own self-worth. Some Americans seem to value themselves ridiculously too little while others value themselves ridiculously too highly.
"Self-confidence" can be quite dangerous, really. As Brooks says, if it is merely a forced inflation of a limp ego, it isn't real. 

Rather, instead of fussing over in the intangible, focus on what is quantifiable.
If you want to talk about something real, it’s probably a mistake to use a suspect concept like self-confidence, which is self-oriented. It’s probably a better idea to think about competence, which is task-oriented. If you ask, “Am I competent?” at least you are measuring yourself according to the standards of a specific domain. 
When do I feel my most confident? When I have climbed every mountain, forded every stream. When I have risen to the occasion, and conquered it with aplomb. That's when I require no pep-talks, no weak attempts at internal boosting. 



Daniel Saunders said...

Thank you for posting this. I have recently been trying to overcome low self-confidence by focusing on my abilities and so taking on new (inevitably scary) challenges. It's good to have some theoretical support for this!

Princess Lea said...

Just start following David Brooks and Frank Bruni. Between the two, one feels awesome.