Self confidence is inner peace. It is a deep-seated belief in yourself; it is contentment with who and what you are. It is not the misguided belief that you are perfect, or somehow better than others. It is not a delusional belief that there is no room for growth or improvement. It is not “attitude.”
Self-confident people are able to take criticism with an open mind and a grain of salt. Years ago, a coworker told me that I would “make more friends on the job” if I turned down a promotion I had already been given. I considered her advice with an open mind. She was correct; several coworkers resented my being promoted so quickly, and I had essentially bumped someone else from the position. He was demoted, and I was asked to do his job. My responsibility was to my employer, and I wasn’t being paid to make friends at the office. So, I did my job. I did end up making some friends there, in the end. Self-confident friends who didn’t feel threatened by or jealous of my success.
I get criticism of my writing daily, and thank God for it! The way I look at it is this: Before I send a book out to be translated into umpteen languages and printed worldwide, I want to know if I’ve missed something that’s going to come back and haunt me. If I disagree with the comments or corrections, I can choose to fix them or not. But if I’d seen them for myself, would I have shown them to others? Would you be kind enough to tell the Emperor he had no clothes–back in his dressing room when he still had time to fix the problem? Or would you cringe and pretend that you didn’t know the Emperor was naked?
Self-confident people don’t have to belittle others to feel better about themselves. I think the appeal of shows like Jerry Springer is that they make us feel so vastly superior to those poor fools on the stage. But underlying that sense of “There but by the Grace of God” is a mean-spirited delight or titillation in the misfortunes and stupidity of others. And I contend that it is more satisfying to watch such spectacles when we are suffering our own little “crises of confidence” than when we are content with ourselves. I had surgery a few years ago, and started watching these shows in the afternoon. I’d been told my recovery could take six weeks, but at the end of the first week I was starting to look forward to my daily dose of stupid people. I rolled my eyes, I sneered, I jeered – I cringed. I begged my doctor to let me go back to work at the end of a week. “My brain is starting to rot,” I said. “You have to let me go.” He did. Self-confidence recovered, sanity restored, my body healed faster.
Self-confident people don’t have to take the offense or the defense. Self-confident people don’t have to be pushy or rude to get their way. Most of these people I know are not consumed with introspective self-doubt and worry, and are therefore more able to focus on others and make others feel better about themselves. They are often mentors, who are glad when their students outshine them. They are not threatened by this; they take credit where it’s due and are happy to share it freely. These people don’t get defensive or come out fighting when things don’t go their way, or when someone criticizes or insults them. They know that there are better things to come, and that one rotten apple doesn’t spoil the barrel.
Self-confident people can feel hurt like anyone else, but because they are their own best friends, these people cannot be crushed or have their spirits broken by an unkind word.
Self-confidence is attractive; love is self-confident. Ever notice how people in a steady, dating relationship often have to beat back prospective suitors with a stick? And how people who are anxiously seeking someone with whom to have a meaningful relationship are stuck at home on Friday and Saturday nights, doing their laundry or washing their hair? Neediness and lack of self-confidence scare people away. Correction: Neediness and lack of self-confidence attract some people, but generally not the sort of people you’d want to attract. When you don’t need anyone’s company but your own, yet are open to accepting the company of others, you will have it before long.
When I was first married, I actually told my husband that if he were hit by a car, I’d throw myself in front of a bus to die with him. What pathos! He said he wouldn’t do the same for me; after all, someone would have to make the funeral arrangements. Omigod, I thought. He doesn’t love me at all! I was crushed by his “cavalier” attitude. I’ve since assured him that I’d arrange a lovely funeral for him, too, if he got run over by a bus. I recently asked him, “Why do you love me? Why have you put up with me, stayed married to me, all these years?” His answer was the most romantic, touching, meaningful thing I could imagine. 18 years ago, a less self-confident me would probably have filed for divorce. “It’s not because you’re beautiful, or because you’re sexy, or even because I love you,” though he hastened to assure me that I was, I was, and he did, “It’s because you’re not stupid.”
That kind of love lasts.
This post was originally published in 2005. I don’t think much has changed!
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