I’m speaking particularly of what we call self-confidence.
I remember my mom telling me that one of the things that drew her to my dad when they first met was his confidence. It gave him a presence that was more powerful than that of the man who introduced them. Light and shape were added to that presence as she learned more of his character.
What does it mean to be confident, though?
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines it, in part, as “a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something.”
When it came to getting my driver’s license (which I didn’t do until I was 30), my dad told me he knew I’d get it when I wanted it badly enough. And he was right.
I didn’t really want it until my husband and found this house, and I knew I couldn’t walk from it to any store, and no buses came out that far from the metro area. I knew I had to drive to get around, so I took lessons from someone we knew through a friend, and about a month later, I took my driving test and passed.
It was so different from the driving test I took in Woodburn, Oregon. Visions of early retirement (or of his obituary) probably flashed through the mind of my driving tester. I made some potentially catastrophic mistakes, and he politely told me to head back to the DMV, as safely and directly as possible.
Honestly, at the time, I “knew” I probably “should” have my license, but I didn’t really want to drive. I didn’t want it badly enough, anyway. I was okay with walking everywhere or with taking the commuter bus between Silverton and Salem. I didn’t have to pay parking fees. I didn’t have to maintain a car. The Mercury Capri I’d permanently damaged years before had ended up in the junk yard.
Now, I can’t imagine not having my driver’s license. I use it almost every day. I couldn’t get our oldest to his Jiu Jitsu class twice a week without it. I couldn’t drive to the library or make a grocery run without it, either.
But I miss being able to walk everywhere — from my apartment to Mass, to work, to the grocery store, to the downtown shopping center, or to the Great Harvest bread company for some muffins and fresh hot coffee.
Or to the nearest hot dog stand. Or the nearest bookstore. Or to someplace with shoes.
Shoes are fascinating.
If I do a mental search of all the risks I’ve taken in my life, though, I’m not always sure whether I undertook those risks out of confidence or out of mere recklessness. Or curiosity. Or boredom.
But I do remember that when I wanted to do something badly enough, I did it. It sounds trite, but failure really wasn’t an option. I did what I had to do to make it happen. I didn’t always like the consequences, though. And sometimes I ended up doing something completely different afterward.
Or something different enough.
As a writer, I write every day — some days at least 500 words, but more often well over 1,000.
And I’ve submitted a few stories since the beginning of the year — none of which were accepted. But I wrote them, and I shipped them.
And I’ve made it my goal to write at least one blog post per week. I don’t have a large audience yet, but I’m grateful to those who take the time to read at least some of them. The key for me, right now, is writing them and publishing them. Every week.
Am I confident of my ability to one day be a published writer of multiple books or novels? Probably not with traditional publishing. That depends too much on the opinions of gatekeepers other than myself. So, I’m really warming up to self-publishing as an option.
Am I confident of my ability to write a non-fiction book or a novel, whether or not it ever gets published? Yes.
Am I confident of my ability to write a blog post every week? Yes.
Am I confident of my ability to walk in 3-inch stilettos without breaking something? Still working on that.
I read another definition of self-confidence as a “positive and realistic” appraisal of oneself. Which means I don’t stand on a roof and say, “I’m confident that if I really want to, I can fly,” and proceed to step off the edge.
So, there is, in fact, a profound difference between being self-confident and being delusional.
The opposite of self-confidence is, well, the lack thereof. It isn’t humility. Humility depends on a realistic appraisal of oneself in relation to God and to other people. So, as it happens, does self-confidence.
But while a truly humble person generally understands and exhibits self-confidence, a self-confident person isn’t necessarily humble.
I’m still trying to make sense of the saints who referred to themselves as “worthless worms” in their conversations with God, since I don’t think Christ would have suffered and died on a cross for someone He considered “worthless.”
The best kind of self-confidence depends on what confidence, if any, we have in God — and, specifically, in His love for us. If someone hates how he thinks God sees him, he’s not going to have any confidence in God. He may go through the motions and pray all the prayers with his religious community, but when bad things happen, he’s going to see it through that lens of “God is punishing me! He wants to see me suffer!” Rather than confide in God, he will pull further away from Him.
I’ve read a variety of books on prayer and the spiritual life, and some of them encouraged me to approach God as a loving father and as the best friend I could have, the One who loves me better than anyone else ever has or could.
Others sternly reminded me of how much closer I was to a devil than to an angel, and that if I were to approach God at all, it should be in a spirit of trembling awe, fearful of His gaze, expecting the worst, because I deserve it.
I prefer the approach recommended by those like St. Therese of Lisieux (the “Little Flower”), St. Alphonsus Liguori, and St. Faustina. God deserves awe. He deserves reverence and adoration. But I think He wants our love most of all.
Not because He’s needy or because He cares more about getting along than about justice. It’s because He more than anyone knows what real love entails: respect, reverence, trust, friendship. And love of God, knowing who and what He is, also entails adoration. He who loves God truly will obey Him out of love rather than out of fear. But, depending on one’s temperament, obedience out of fear (awe) can be a start in the right direction.
For me, though, it always kept me at arm’s length, fearing that God was always looking upon me with disappointment, quick to anger, ready to punish. Because what I saw in myself was usually more disappointing than lovable. More devil than angel.
What do you think?
And how confident are you? In what or whom do you place your strongest confidence?