I’m doing final preparations today for my kick-off session tomorrow morning at The Creative Freelancer Business Conference and came across the column in the NY Times today by David Brooks: The Problem with Confidence, which I’ll be referring to in my talk because it is so relevant to creative professionals.
Here’s an excerpt:
The self-help books try to boost the “confidence” part of self-confidence, but the real problem is the “self” part. The self, as writers have noticed for centuries, is an unstable, fickle, vain and variable thing. Hundreds of years ago, David Hume noticed that when he tried to enter into what he called his most intimate self, he always stumbled on some particular perception or another. He never could catch himself without a perception of something else, and he never could see himself, only the perception.
When you try to come up with a feeling for self-confidence, you are trying to peer into a myriad of ever-changing mental systems, most of them below the level of awareness. Instead of coming up with a real thing, which can reliably be called self-confidence, you’re just conjuring an abstraction. In the very act of trying to think about self-confidence, your vanity is creating this ego that is unstable and ethereal, and is thus painfully fragile, defensive, boasting and sensitive to sleights.
If you want to talk about something real, it’s probably a mistake to use a suspect concept like self-confidence, which is self-oriented. It’s probably a better idea to think about competence, which is task-oriented. If you ask, “Am I competent?” at least you are measuring yourself according to the standards of a specific domain.
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