On Confidence

You can’t go wrong with cheese. Cheese can make anything sound and look better. Cheese Dosa has a salivating ring to it. So does cheeseburger. How about double cheese Burger? Of course, the greatest of them all: Cheese Popcorn! Why would you eat plain popcorn ever again?

Confidence is like cheese. It makes everything look so…confident. Here’re two sentences:

  1. Become a BETTER Public Speaker.
  2. Become a CONFIDENT Public speaker.

The two sentences are saying the same thing, but the first one sounds plain. The second line sounds confident. It has the cheese. It’s what gets the mice. But why stop at that? Why order cheese pizza when you can order cheese pizza with extra cheese? Why not “Double your confidence?”

It’s alright to be fat. No big deal. It’s alright to be dumb. No big deal either. But to be fat and dumb? That sucks. – Someone

Confidence is the sensuality of self-improvement. It’s this good-looking thing in a tailored suit. It’s suave, stylish, and speaks a tad too loud. Everything it says seems to make sense. Best of all, confidence looks fearless. And that’s why we hanker for it like we do for an offer for ‘buy 1 get 1 free’ Pizza. We think confidence is the cure for our nervous hunger and buy into all the messages on confidence repeatedly sold to us. And it’s coming to us in various forms now. It’s not just about how you speak on a grand stage anymore. It’s about how you see, stand, walk, sit, smile, where you place your hands, and even how much you tilt your head. And of course, it’s also the answer to the greatest problem facing humanity since Genghis Khan: talking to the opposite gender.

Confidence is valuable. It’s like having an umbrella on a rainy day. But, we think it can help us stop the rain. We think it will make us special little Johnny’s impervious to shame, embarrassment and most importantly fear. We think having confidence is like this:

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Confidence is not fearless. If it were the answer to our fears, we would end up doing really stupid things most of which could get us killed. And if we can’t be confident in spite of those fears and embarrassments, we have lost even before we began.

We all know the terrible feeling of being held back by the constant dread of looking stupid; of being unable to speak without stuttering and shuddering; of feeling like an incapable halfwit every time we miss an opportunity. Those are the times we wish there was more confidence. But, confidence was there all along. It was the terrible feeling you met in the beginning; the one you mistook for a lack of confidence. You were searching for the thing in a tailored suit. But, the thing is naked, sweaty, and pathetic. You didn’t give it a hug.

There’s an invisible jagged line between confidence and cocky. A large part of the confidence battle is being able to draw this line yourself after a series of repeated embarrassments and eating your words. The remaining part of the battle is knowing which side is what. And by now you know this is a pretty painful process where you constantly find yourself on the wrong side. Here’s how to make this less painful: Stop trying to be confident.

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To become a ‘confident public speaker’ or a ‘confident man/woman’, you first need to become confident about looking like an incapable halfwit. All these messages about becoming confident take you as far away from that feeling as possible. After sometime when the old feelings come back, sweat and all, you start trying to fight it.  You try hard to look confident. You walk like this:

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Here’s something I have realized rather painfully. When you think you look stupid, you look pretty normal. When you think you look confident, that’s when you really look stupid. Because confident people don’t try to look confident. On the contrary, they just don’t mind looking stupid. That’s why these messages around ‘sky-rocketing’ or ‘doubling’ your confidence are cheesy attempts to get your attention. Do you really need more cheese? And if you want to double your confidence, doesn’t that mean you are not confident about your current level of confidence in the first place leaving you with nothing to double? Go figure

When I was a kid, I would jump about a spot believing I was growing taller. The messages around confidence are validating that kind of belief. That it is not only possible to become tall that way, but that if I contorted my face and tried jumping higher, I would grow twice as tall! Here’s the message I wish someone had hollered at me when I spent all those years jumping:

“Hey, kid! There are better ways to look stupid. Go home and play with a stick. Stop trying.”

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