Faith and doubt both are needed – not as antagonists, but working side by side to take us around the unknown curve. Lillian Smith
I get so frustrated when I’m struggling with something (personal or professional) and I approach someone for input and they come back with something like: just be confident.
- Have faith in yourself
- Clout the doubt
- Success is can, not can’t.
The variations are endless.
However well-meaning the advice (and it usually is) these platitudes don’t help.
On the contrary, they make thing worse.
Not only do we have doubts but now we feel bad that we do because (apparently) we are unlike everyone else in the world.
It’s a double whammy.
But where are these so-called doubtless people?
Sure, we can have relatively more or less confidence than others and even within ourselves, be more or less confident about different expertise or experience.
But we are human and all humans have doubts.
Some people may project what looks like impenetrable self-confidence. Often it’s just a mask designed to manage how others respond to them.
For example, they might be dismissive. The cold shoulder or cursory glance creates a power relationship in which they (the ‘giver’ of approval) manage you (the ‘receiver’ of their goodwill).
This is a sophisticated gag order.
Or they might flummox you with jargon. Here the game is about confusing you into an agreement.
Irrespective of the tool used the outcomes is usually about preventing difference. Why? Because difference suggests that there is no ‘one or ‘right’ way. And that means a lack of control.
In my experience the more intact the mask the deeper the insecurity.
On the other hand, I think doubt can be healthy.
I am not talking about such excessive doubt that you become paralyzed into inaction.
But doubt is what causes us to redo the experiment, triple check the data, listen harder to what others are trying to communicate. It propels us to try harder, do better, grow.
It also cultivates empathy.
Anxious? Unsure? Worried? (Ah we nod, been there done that.)
Having lived with the discomfort of doubt and the difficult emotions that emerge we understand in a visceral way what others are going through.
This allows us to be truly supportive, rather than peppering the conversation with banality.
So the next time someone tells you to ‘be confident’, remember that confidence is just a concept.
It’s a commitment that counts.
Not sure if you can do the job? Whether the project will succeed? If the book will be good enough? The music will not be well received?
Do it anyway.
Whatever happens, you will learn.
And feedback will help you readjust (or reaffirm) your path. And you may accept it, or not.