Confidence or Cockiness: Is It Okay for You Be Proud of Yourself?
In a conversation with one of my favorite transformational writer/speakers, who is a pioneer in the field of psycho-spirituality, we were musing about finding some of our individual writing unexpectedly that we had penned years earlier and marveling over it, as if to say, “Damn, that’s good stuff.” I don’t see it as ego-driven, just acknowledging a willingness to be the channel for valuable information, well written. We got a good laugh out of it.
There was a time when I would never have been so audacious as to acknowledge my talents, especially in alignment with someone who has the reputation that this man does, wondering whether people would ask, “Who does she think she is?” You may ask yourself the same question but reframe it in a positive and not finger wagging, disapproving manner. Who are you?
- A person who has survived challenges and celebrated triumphs
- Someone who has mastered the skills that enable you to get through the day
- A valuable human who has much to offer the world
- A relational being who requires interaction and connection with others
- Someone who has gifts and talents waiting to be acknowledged as well
Spend enough time in therapy and especially 12-step recovery rooms and you’re likely to hear the pejorative term “edging God out” — or “EGO.” The word “ego,” which comes from Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical theories identifying the interactive components of the personality, has taken on a different meaning from its original definition.
Freud saw the ego as the part of the personality responsible for moderating the pleasure-seeking id; it connects a person to reality and delays gratification, as well as identifying that person as a distinct individual. But in everyday usage, “ego” often carries the connotation of being full of yourself, arrogant, self-absorbed, dismissive of other people and selfish.
When speaking with a college student, the topic of confidence arose. He admitted that he is not confident about much, despite being adept at many things. I asked him to list what he is good at and he was reluctantly able to acknowledge a few accomplishments that got him to this point in his life. What stunned me was his statement that he didn’t think he had the right to pursue a vision of doing what he loved because he might not be good enough at it to glean approval or affirmation. I reassured him that not only did he have the right to do it, but the obligation to himself to go after any dream he damn well pleased. No one had the right to take it away from him. He shrugged and said although I might be right, he had become accustomed to this belief system and wondered how his identity would be threatened by the shift it would take. His take on it was that people would view him as ego-driven and would shun him.
The paradigm of Impostor Syndrome is not new to me since I too am hornswoggled by it at times. It is the idea that despite appearances and measures of success, one feels inadequate and will be found to be less than they are presenting themselves.
He also felt it was a sign of arrogance if he acted as if he had skills that he didn’t and if found to be an imposter, it would be even more embarrassing. We then spoke about the ways in which competence and comfort can lead to confidence and vice versa. Anytime we embark on a new adventure with our skills not quite as honed as we want them to be, we face the fear. Each time we practice those skills, we strengthen them. I admitted that there are times when I have felt as he does. When I send my writing out into the world, I wonder who it will touch. I sometimes write for myself and hope that others reap the benefit. When I email query letters, there are times when I am greeted with a thumbs up, thumbs down or radio silence. Neither of the last two is any reflection of my talent, but rather a mismatch between that venue and me. I have learned to shrug it off and move on.
I reminded him that acting as if he was as wanted to be perceived would be a step forward in reaching his ultimate destination. Could he see himself being successful in his field and at ease in his relationships? Not at the moment, perhaps, but he was in seed planting mode. I suggested that he become more comfortable with his discomfort and stretching a bit beyond them. He expressed a willingness to do that.