Between confidence and hubris

Between confidence and hubris

Confidence is good. Hubris – excessive pride or self-confidence – is bad. That much we can agree. But where exactly is that line? Can we see it? Can we keep it in view as we (hopefully) progress towards greater self-knowledge and truthful integrity? Are there tests we can apply to ourselves to discover how near or how far we are from complete self-enlightenment?

Of all the assessments we should try to make of ourselves, that of confidence is perhaps the most important. Confidence is needed to survive, to lead, to engage, to enjoy, to sell. There is no more confident person than s/he who knows how lacking in self-confidence they really are.The minute we step over the line into hubris our ability to do these things evaporates. Modest confidence may seem a paradox. It is a very real thing, one that politicians used to have but often lack now.

Achieving it requires humility. Not the phony humility of self-declared failure but true humility that shows acceptance. The most confident people I met were the farmhands with whom I spent many long days in the fields. They never lectured me. I cannot remember a single occasion on which they chided me for doing something wrong although there must have been many occasions when they could. They were quietly, beautifully confident.

So a measure of your confidence / hubris line is your ability and / or natural tendency to put others first. It seems so simple and yet it is so difficult. Strangely the place where confidence is most needed is in a relationship or marriage. It is rare to find two people who are equally fond of each other. Usually one is more loving and generous, the other more inclined to take. A good relationship is one where the two accept their parts and the way each demonstrates devotion, where they do not trespass onto the other’s area unless invited and where both are confident in their roles. No trapeze artist ever walked a trickier wire.

Some behaviours demonstrate lack of confidence so blatantly that they become a cult. Trump is a perfect example of this. His confidence is phony. For such a clever man it is sad to see the need to blow his own so often. Narcissus developed the same problem, I believe. More subtly, those who need to prove themselves a lot trigger a sense of lack of confidence. People are astute at picking this up. Even when they don’t realise that it is self-doubt that is causing the problem most message receivers see an uncertainty that makes them wary. We respond well to the humbly powerful.

Change is perhaps the biggest precipitator of falling confidence. So a world of change as dramatic as the one we live in is a cause of much loss of confidence. Does it have to be? Certainly not. We do need to check our own stature from time to time. Here are two thoughts about how.

First, look at how you address others when greeting, phoning, emailing, sms-ing or even writing. Is your ‘hello’ designed to engage them, to put them at their ease, to make them feel welcome? Or do you appear aggressive or frightened, disinterested or dismissive? First impressions don’t only occur when you meet someone for the first time. They recur every time you connect.

First impressions count a great deal but so do second, third and fourth impressions. At each of these stages we have the chance to get nearer or increase the distance. We should take the time to settle the other person into engaging with us. Being efficient doesn’t mean begin officious.

Second, try to listen better. It is a sad fact that much lauded ‘quick uptake’ is increasingly ‘no uptake’ beyond the initial message. Inadequately read or heard messages are doing a lot of damage, making communications more complicated and destroying the very advantage shorthand sms and other message options give us. To correct for this we have to understand the full message before reacting to it. Plain English helps us do that better.

My final suggestion about confidence in this Daily Paradox is that if yours seems lacking or is even in tatters, do try working with a mentor. Your mentor will help you regain lost confidence quicker than any other method.

You will soon become a humbly confident person once again.

With stature.