I have been told from time to time that I have an excess of confidence in myself. That I am a little bit too sure of myself in certain areas or situations. I'll admit that yes, this can be seen as obnoxious to some people but why is that? Why is being sure of yourself, your skills, and your capabilities seen as a bad thing?
Aren't we told as children and young adults that we need to believe in ourselves? That we can do anything if we really put our minds to the task and work hard? Don't we try desperately to convince friends and loved ones that their worth and value in our lives (and on a larger scale, in society) is valuable? Priceless and invaluable even? When awkward young men start getting warm tinglies when they see a girl they'd like to meet, don't we tell them to have confidence and take the shot?
When people give advice about being successful, whether it be in business, relationships, or in socializing the most common response is "Have confidence in yourself!" is it not? This may not be the mantra in all cultures around the world but it was true in my upbringing and so I'm inclined to believe it was true in many of yours as well.
So... what happened between youth and adulthood that being confident in your abilities became a thing to be frowned upon? Why is it that when I display any pride in my work or in myself, I'm told that it's better to be humble all of a sudden? That I should "dial it back a bit" or stop "being so cocky"?
On social media I see video clips, posters, gifs, and entire posts on believing in who I am, because no one else can be the special flower that is me. However, when I put myself out there and say, "Look at what I've done. Isn't it AWESOME!?" it's frowned upon by some, laughed at by others, and occasionally agreed with by a few select friends.
I suppose I could fake humility like they tell you to fake confidence. I should probably showcase something, like say... one of my writings and then post a blurb about how it's really not very good. How I think it actually sucks and I didn't even want to post it but someone urged me to do so anyway because they kinda liked it, maybe. I could even apologize for the piece's level of suckitude, because I am horrible at things, so don't even bother to read it.
When that does happen, (as I have seen happen online many times) people go back into encouragement mode and start slathering on the "THIS is AMAZING! You have talent! You shouldn't be so hard on yourself! Believe in yourself little buddy!" style of comments.
So which should I be? I'm supposed to have confidence, but not too much. I should have humility, but not to the point that I host pity parties for myself. Am I supposed to be humble in my confident-ness?
They seem like such polar opposites, but are they?
I believe you need confidence. Just like they told you in school. Just not misplaced confidence. You need to believe you can do anything you put your mind to, the catch being you have to put your mind to it. Thinking everything you do is art and everything you say is Shakespeare is unrealistic and false. It's bravado for bravado's sake, not faith in your own ability.
I am very skilled in clothing design, website design, Japanese language, and cooking among other things. I know these things very well. I know that I am damn good at them. How do I know this? I have done the required research. I have spent hours practicing. I have studied for years and learned how to do those things. No matter your opinion of me, I know I am good at them and it's measurable. You're damn right I'm confident in those things. Am I "the BeSt EVAR"? No. (You don't have to be number one in your field to be confident in your skill set.)
As I venture into the field of fiction writing, I admit that I am not an expert. By most measures I am a novice in the field. However, I have learned much and as I gain more and more knowledge and abilities, my confidence will increase. I have learned the art of showing and not telling, I have learned that actions scenes are written in a different cadence than dialogue scenes. I have learned there are times to be economical with prose and times verbosity can be as pleasant as taking a summer stroll on a beach while the waves lap playfully at my feet. I am not confident in all areas, and I doubt I will ever be confident in all of them. But I'm getting there.
Maybe those inspirational posters were right. Maybe my high school guidance counsellor was right too. I know my mom was right, because she always is. I can do whatever I put my mind to. Given that I put my heart and soul into it.
Here is where I give my pep-talk to you, the writer who may be feeling like their work will never be good enough.
If you have hit a wall in your writing, where you've tried to write something and it just wasn't as good as you had hoped it would be, do something about it. Don't lament about the unfairness of the critics, prove them wrong by doing it better the next time. If your action scenes are boring and unexciting, pick up a book by Robert Ludlum or James Patterson and study how they do it. If you need suspense and want to scare the living daylights out of people, dive into Stephen King, Poe, or Lovecraft and learn how they get under people's skin. If your romance has no verve, study the cadence, dialogue, and situations that will spice it up with a Jane Austen or Nora Roberts quickie! Take a class! Join a writer's group! Do SOMETHING! In my experience, that's how you get real confidence. That's what I am doing. As a writer to gain confidence, read, research, practice, and write. Do it again. And again. And again. No one ever rose to the top by being lazy.
See you at the top of Mt. Awesome with the rest of the Awesome people like me.
Because I'm awesome.