No. 122: An almost delusional confidence
I’m washing dishes, talking to my fiancé (who’s on drying duty), and thinking about the way I was raised.
Mostly, I’m thinking about my upbringing relative to who I am today, especially the levels of confidence I bring to the table.
Because I think I’m a pretty confident dude.
At least, most of the time I am.
Sure, I sometimes doubt. Like anyone. But I hate when I do. I know it serves no real purpose in the realm of art-making. I know I’m best served getting back to that place of confidence ASAP, even if that confidence borders on delusional.
Because confidence, I think, always beats its opposite.
Even when confidence comes with arrogance, cockiness, and possible assholeness, it still think its better. My reason is simple.
What’s the primary requisite for confidence? Loving yourself.
And how can loving yourself be a bad thing?
Enter Grace, my fiancé, with: “Do you know what a narcissist is?”
A good jab. But one I’m willing to spar with it. (← Confidence)
Is narcissism great? No. But 1) that’s extreme and 2) the opposite of confidence is a void so severe that to fill it is to be faced with an arguably Sisyphean task. Whereas the too confident person can learn to chill a bit (we hope), someone who never had foundations like self-love and confidence will have a hard time ever feeling confident.
At least, that’s my theory, the theory of a writer with zero education in anything other than flipping through books and pounding keyboards — the theory of someone who’s probably delusionally confident, and happily so.
All writers, in fact, probably have some delusional confidence built-in. Otherwise, why write? Why assume anyone wants to read what they have to say? Why promote their work to an audience that, more often than not, cares less?
This mid-dishwashing conversation came up not only in the context of my life, but in regard to how I’d like us to raise our future kids. That is, with endless validation and love — even to a fault. Since it’s probably impossible to strike a perfect balance between confidence and humility, I’d rather raise a kid that’s too confident than too afraid.
This is pretty much the story of my upbringing. I was a kid who could do no wrong according to my mother. In school or sports, I was the best, the handsomest, the smartest. If I asked my mother, she’d tell me I could do anything I wanted, that I was loved to the extreme, that I was special, perfect, the single greatest human to walk the earth.
Which, yeah, from an adult POV, that’s a little cringe. (Unless, of course, you didn’t have that, at which point that probably sounds very nice. It was. I’m very lucky).
But that’s besides the point.
If we’re talking about kids, isn’t that how kids should feel? Shouldn’t they be the best, the most perfect, the most special? Shouldn’t they feel the world is theirs for the taking? Have no fear, they’ll find out later, when they’re older, that shit can be tough. Why raise them to believe the world is tough only for them to confirm it themselves later on?
To be critical of a kid, to point out their faults, or to be anything less than endlessly validating and loving seems a huge mistake.
Confidence is a gift, and one that only a parent (or parents) can give.
Grace agreed on that, but she still struggled to fully come around on the confidence thing, citing arrogance and cockiness as the often less savory but very present attachments.
“Didn’t I turn out okay?” I said. “I’m happy with my confidence. I’m able stare big moments in the face when I need to. It makes me unafraid to fail, to be myself, unafraid of a lot of things really,” I said.
“Yeah,” she said. “But you were way cockier when I met you.”
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The schools of thought on this subject can probably be divided along cultural lines — maybe even biological ones, too.
My machinations on the topic began in the first place while listening to (surprise) a podcast while walking my dog around the lake near our house. The talking heads were two Jewish comedians laughing about their ever-loving and ever-validating mothers — something they attributed to a well-known dynamic of their culture: the Jewish mother loving her son dearly.
Although I’m not Jewish (as far as I know), I can relate.
Both comedians admitted to being so validated throughout their childhoods that today, when someone doesn’t react positively to whatever they’ve done, they feel a bit confused. It takes them a moment to parse, Wait, why doesn’t this person think I’m as great as I obviously am?
And, to me, that’s funny. And harmless. And a net positive overall.
Also, without having any source beyond my lived experience, I wonder if that tendency for exorbitant validation is less prevalent in the other cultures i.e. the Irish/German/Catholic familial dynamic, where shame seems to be a virtue almost.
I’ve seen, I’ve felt, I’ve noticed the family dynamic in which you’re scolded for trying to be the center of attention, or for believing everything is about you, or for daring to step out of the agreed-upon comfort zone because why in the world would you want to go and make a fool of yourself doing something like that?
There’s a fine line to be walked here, one that I can’t even imagine navigating being parent to none but a two-year-old Aussiedoodle.
But that there is a line is, I guess, what I reacted to. And from what I can tell, it’s better to inch further on the side of confidence than shame and humility.
All in all, life will throw curveballs at you. You will be defeated. There will be hard times. And failures. And rejections. And mistakes. You’ll be insulted, humiliated, deflated. There’s going to be struggle — no question.
Then what else is there to do than make your child as confident as can be?
Actually, why shouldn’t we all, especially artists, for whom being confident to an almost delusional extent seems a requisite for any kind of success?
I’m confident to that extent. I had a period when I wasn’t. But I’m back. And I’m happy, for better or worse.
All attempts to kill my vibe are met with another piece of writing coming your way.
It’s just . . . what I like to do.
That’s where delusional comes into play.
It works. ♦
It would really help me continue writing my ass off if you became a subscriber. No pressure, though. And that’s not sarcastic. Just earnestly consider it. I know you will. Catch ya later.
HEAR: “Changes” by Charles Bradley a.k.a the theme song for Big Mouth.
READ: I’ve started reading my first manga, Attack on Titan, and it’s incredibly entertaining. I’m hoping, as a byproduct, it will have interesting influences on my writing — especially when it comes to my goal of writing a screenplay.
VIEW: I made a video showing you how to make a zine.
This reminded me of the short video by Jason Silva about the unconflicted person:
I had a similar reaction to Jason's video and your piece of writing here. Yes, it's good to be fully alive, engaged, and confident. But it's even more important to be wise and good -- and that requires self-examination about ways we're falling short.
I accept most of your premises, and will bypass any discussion of child-rearing practices because that is a very large topic.
What does come to mind while reading and reflecting on your essay here is that it is very common to hold in our twenties and thirties to a heroic view of life, in which we feel our willpower can almost always yield the results we desire. While with age we arrive at acceptance that many things, including a range of human suffering, may be beyond our control.
If our twenties and thirties are more about being energized and creative, our forties and fifties (and our beyond) are more about being wise and good. If our rising-adult years are more about excitement, our midlife and elder years are more about cultivation.
Hey Matt! If you like Attack on Titan, you should check out My Hero Academia on Hulu or Crunchyroll. I think you would really like it.:).