One thing I have realized from writing this blog and doing The Self-Confidence Experiment is that (self-)confidence is not a monolithic concept. It’s not an identity that defines your whole being. Even as I currently use “Self-Confidence” as my screen name, I realize that this is not my identity. To say, “I am self-confidence / self-confident,” can obscure the fact that no one is completely self-confident – that confidence comes in many forms; there are many ways to be self-confident, many aspects of ourselves and the world to be confident in or not.
Upon consideration, this is probably obvious, and yet, it is not how we talk about self-confidence in particular in our society, in our language. We like to say, “I’m very confident,” to describe our whole being. One reason for this is power dynamics (politics): to admit we are not 100% confident is to admit vulnerability, and many of us have fears of losing social power in doing so, especially men. One of the results is that many people pretend to be perfectly confident when they are not, but often without much if any of the self-reflection with which I conducted The Self-Confidence Experiment – they mask fears with a relentless façade of confidence. Confidence becomes linked to other forms of identity policing, based on purity of identity: Real men eat meat. Real Christians go to Church. Real women have XX chromosomes. True Scotsman don’t run. Identity policing is a tautology that can’t be proven wrong, like the existence of God. Noting that confidence derives from Latin for “with faith,” the parallel with Christianity is unsurprising. The result of this closed ideology is that self-doubt, self-reflection, and questioning are discouraged. For one must not violate the purity of the identity, lest one lose the perceived privileges with which it comes. One must not admit that one lacks confidence, lest one lose the privileges of being perceived as confidence.
As I detailed on this blog during The Self-Confidence Experiment, there were privileges that I found in pretending to be self-confident. I found that people were much more positive toward me. But while there were short-term and long-term benefits to this experiment, I actually took the whole act a bit too seriously. For a while, I wasn’t sure how to reconcile confidence as role play with confidence as authenticity. Now that I had some people viewing me as more confident than before, I was afraid to admit when I had doubts, when I regressed in some ways, especially since I wasn’t yet sure how to weave them into uplifting and cohesive thoughts.
What I have come to realize is that role play is but one of the many forms of confidence, but one of the many ways in which we may grow our self-confidence. Thus, by pretending to be self-confident – or self-confidence itself – I can let go of some fears and experience that natural, positive feedback that results in social settings and the universe. I can imagine new ways of being – role play is but an act of the imagination, and a very human one at that. We all role play, we all identity play, so to speak. Learning to loosen up the grip of certain identities by stepping into new roles is a healthy form of social and intellectual exploration. Even lion cubs do it when they play fight. It is a form of play.
As knowledge increases, beyond a certain point, confidence in one’s own viewpoints goes down.