Talking to a friend recently I mentioned that I was extremely shy and had very low confidence in my younger years. She looked surprised and said with a look of disbelief “you are one of the most confident people I ever met”.
In my childhood, I faced a lot of criticism and non-acceptance, which was very painful to my forming Ego. I learnt not to expect anything else and tried to avoid social interactions as much as I could. Public speaking or starting a conversation with a stranger was very painful, almost impossible. Needless to say, I was very lonely and isolated.
Now it is all very different. How did it happen?
As an adult, I learnt to “fake it” by reading self-help books and observing a behaviour of “confident” people. It became clear that the mastery of confidence is really quite simple and shallow. You walk straight, speak loud and clear, and most importantly, speak as if you know what you are talking about. It does help, however, if you actually do have some knowledge on the subject, makes it easier and you feel less “fake” to yourself.
But no matter how confident you look on the outside, it always feels fake deep inside. There is always this buzzing anxiety, an expectation of some nastiness and criticism, there is always a fear of someone being better than you, proving and revealing what a real looser your are. Ego always in the state of alarm, always afraid that its true “nothingness” will be exposed, its value diminished or whatever horrible and awful things could happen to it.
Confidence in nothingness
The real turn comes when you start to look at what is hurt in you when you face criticism or even a potential of some negative estimate of the precious and very vulnerable self-image.
We can try to justify things, to prize yourself, to boost our confidence, to find some favourable comparisons – but this is so-called “horizontal” thinking – something that we do all the time. It gives only a small and temporary relief. To see the root of the problem you need to go into “vertical” – look at the whole issue, at its source.
Words can hurt, but what is it that hurts? What is that “me” made of? And how some sounds uttered by the other cause it to react so dramatically?
“I am this person, I am that person” – words and more words, thoughts, fleeting and impermanent. But is there anything at the core, beyond words, anything more real, anything defining what kind of person you are once and for all?
The true confidence comes when you face your nothingness straight and clear. When there is nothing to hide from yourself, you have nothing to hide from people. Whatever is said – critical, nasty, humiliating – has nothing to do with real you, and even more surprisingly – nothing to do with real them. Just the same old human fear and its components. Just someone trying to boost their own self-image using some made-up comparative scale.
When you know that there is nothing at the core of you, it becomes obvious that the real you can’t be defined. Can you make emptiness more or less “empty”? What then can be hurt by people’s words, their acceptance or not, the made up image of you in their minds? You have nothing already. Can they take the nothingness away?
What self-image can be hurt when you have no self-image?
By abandoning the drama of “me”, the need to maintain a nice, positive story of you in every situation, you get surprising freedom, spontaneity, fearlessness – freedom to dance your dance, make a happy fool of yourself, be different, be whatever comes through you at this moment – the true confidence to be yourself.