Self belief is merely a confidence trick

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LIKE many creative people I would not describe myself as being overly confident.

Objectively I know that I paint and draw well and that I can write (how well depends largely on the sobriety of the reader), however I have been, for as long as I can remember full of self doubt.

When I worked in the theatre and was contracted to work on a particular production I was adept at appearing supremely confident when discussing designs with the director, unfortunately my inner voice would be screaming “I can’t do it” while running round and round in ever decreasing circles of blind panic.

This would persist until the first stroke of brush or pencil and then I would relax while muttering in relief, “Oh yes, I remember now… I know how to do this” Confidence is hard won through years of practise and a careful process of self deception.

We need to be confident in our abilities in order to move forward. Samuel Johnson wrote, “Self confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings”.

The first day standing in front of a class of strange children (and I have taught some very strange children), embarking on a blind date, entering a party/bar/ lecture/police station (delete as appropriate) alone are all activities that require a large measure of self confidence (sometimes preceded by a large measure).

I’ve always admired and envied people to whom confidence appears God-given. Those who march forward with barely a backward glance, those who climb mountains naked on one leg, straddle jet skis, dance and sing out loud, jump from aeroplanes and who always get to the buffet first.

People who leave the ‘lacking in confidence’ skirting walls or hanging on to their parents coat tails whining about how hard it all is and can they have a little more time to think about it please.

I will concede that it is difficult to be a confident person. For a start you have to believe in yourself and that little voice that whispers “You can do it” (but please ignore the voice telling you that yellow satin flares are a great look and that Birkenstocks really are very stylish actually!).

Unlike Pinocchio the Jiminy Cricket who lives in my head is evil.

He constantly taps me on the shoulder hissing “You’re rubbish you are” (Interestingly his voice is remarkably similar to that of my first boyfriend).

As a teacher one tries to instil confidence in a child while maintaining a level of realistic expectation, there’s no point in being confident that you can fly a plane if you have never actually flown one before.

True self confidence is the willingness to attempt something new and to fail but to fail with dignity (not have a tantrum in the middle of the suzanne-mannersclassroom blaming your mother for the 5 out of 15 maths score) and thus learn and move forward.

For the most part self belief is merely a confidence trick (it’s all smoke and mirrors) that enables the brave to be brave the foolhardy to be foolhardy and the traffic to flow.

Oh and the ability to ignore the voices in your head (especially the evil ones).

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