The Book of Life’s post On the Origins of Confidence made me think about the subject in the context of my own life. In the last few years, I have increasingly felt the importance of confidence in my professional life. It’s not so much what you know, but what you project that matters. Perception is reality, as the phrase goes. Hence the interest in the subject. But before that, a detour.
As far back as I can remember, I have been under-confident. Some of my earliest memories are of stage fright, and since I was into things like singing, elocution etc that are particularly susceptible to this, I have many memories! Despite multiple rehearsals, and prizes that I got over the years, I could never be sure that I would remember the lyrics/lines.
I preferred spending my time reading, and was very comfortable being alone. Ironically though, my friends from my last years of school as well those from my grad and post grad days remember me for my sense of humour, specifically because it could help people laugh or at least smile even in the worst of times. But if you met me, you wouldn’t figure this. This persona is archived in my mind, but at a reunion last weekend, my schoolmate, who is now the funniest guy in our Whatsapp group, told the gathering how I was his benchmark for humour. Embarrassed me much, but we were all drunk, so that was fine! 😀
I bring this up because it takes a level of self confidence to even attempt to be funny. In that sense, my sense of humour is what I use as a proxy to explore the levels of confidence I display in my social life. It’s on the occasions my sense of humour comes out these days that I get glimpses of the pattern in my seemingly ambivert behaviour. And it’s pretty simple – it goes ballistic when I’m around people I am comfortable with. Friends, cousins, even office acquaintances – how much I (try to) make a person laugh is the evidence of my comfort levels with him/her.
As I mentioned in the beginning, confidence is a big differentiator in the professional environment. I have always believed that this is a function of one’s experience. But that isn’t necessarily so, and I have seen this especially in younger folks. It is more a belief, a faith in one’s own ability to deal with a situation irrespective of whether it has been encountered before.
To borrow from Tolstoy, (arguably) confident persons are all alike, every under-confident person is under-confident in his/her own way. To take it further, the under-confidence manifests itself differently in the person’s personal and professional lives. or so I thought. But it seems there might be a link – the fear of loss.
In the personal space, the fear is of losing others’ good impressions/perceptions of me. In the professional space, it is the fear of losing a job, the source of the material wealth (hence quality of life) and regard that I have achieved. In both cases, the pitfall of staying guarded is not just an opportunity cost, but the actual drying up of opportunities.
The trick comes back to what I wrote in Project Happiness. Learning to trust one’s intuition. And that comes not (only) from specific experience, but from getting out of one’s comfort zone in different arenas, failing, and allowing one’s intuition to hone itself. In effect, understanding the exact voices in one’s head one should listen to. This is the challenge I have set myself. My confidence comes from the fact that my sense of humour comes not from packaged jokes, but from wit. And wit has no preparation time.