Is Confidence Really Needed?
You and I have grown up through the self-esteem age. The idea that having a stronger sense of how good you are was always meant to be the acid test for predicting success.
Over the last few decades, in the US at least, people have been growing up with ever increasing perceptions of their prowess. With so much self-confidence you would expect recent generations are experiencing more satisfaction and success. But they aren’t.
Psychologists like to divide the notion of self-confidence up into three categories:
- Self-esteem in the sense of placing a value on yourself.
- Self-efficacy as the capacity to pursue goals and get things done, and
- Narcissism as an unhealthy form of self-obsession.
Although there is great merit in placing a value on yourself, it might not necessarily be the crucial success factor it has been made out to be. Without the ability to pursue goals and determination to make things happen, self-esteem is only half the story.
This could explain why so many “apparently” adequate people don’t necessarily apply themselves well. Both are highly complimentary yet separate traits.
Culturally valuing narcissism, meanwhile, seems to have appeared back in the 80s and 90s when fame (or simply notoriety) began eclipsing ability as a value in life. The endless parade of reality TV shows left us peering at big brothers, survivors, and those desperate for a date. Which explains why so much TV focused on being lost (albeit with acquaintances and an audience of voting fans).
It would be hard to put the cause of increased narcissism on television though, as the medium could also be said to reflect the times. If that’s true, then Western people are living in a world where self-absorption is a value and fewer folk are being taught the merit of achievement.
Is confidence, then, enough in itself to make your life work out? Well, a healthy self-image definitely helps, irrespective of whether we are big achievers or not. But skipping the skills of self-discipline certainly won’t help.
In my book, I spilt self-image into two distinct things:
- Your value as a human being, and
- The worth you derive from achieving and being appreciated.
Understanding that your human value is not reliant on your actions creates a foundation for who we are. On top of that platform the power of your actions creates a host of social and identity-related benefits.
Separating self-perception from achievement makes it easier to understand why confidence doesn’t necessarily amount to gold medals or moneymaking success. It also reveals more fundamental factors than swaggering about and merely appearing confident.
If confidence means personally understanding you have inherent value then it most definitely is all you need to feel adequate. Yet, the endlessly satisfying experiences of personally achieving and developing abilities create the crowning delight to cap it off.
Confidence based on hollow expectations and a lack of considered effort won’t cut it. But understanding adequacy is fundamental to wellbeing and that we also need proficiencies to achieve, make self-confidence an essential element to living a satisfying life.
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