Caitlin on Confidence

I watched something interesting, last night.  It was an interview with author Caitlin Moran, recorded at the recent Hay Literary Festival, on a wide range of subjects and topics.  Never afraid to be outspoken, as evidenced in her twitter tweets, she had a lot of interesting things to say, during this hour long interview.  I warmed to her in a way that I have to confess I never quite have, through the medium of twitter.  She has a lot of well thought out views and has lucid moments of unarguable truth that she is quite happy and courageous enough to share.

One thing that struck me in particular was her view about self confidence.  I’m paraphrasing from memory here, but the essence of her view was that being in sheer, desperate terror to show that you know what you’re doing, when in a situation that you have to, because you have no other viable options available, while a little voice in the back of your head tells you to pretend you know what you’re doing, as if your life depended on it – well, this is indistinguishable from actual self confidence.

I thought there was an important truth here.  When you are out of alternatives and options, when there is a lot riding on you demonstrating your competence in the field, you have to be self confident.  There are no other choices.  Magically, though, if you have made what you do into your comfort zone, where you are happiest working, then demonstrating your knowledge, even when you feel way out of your depth, or amongst experts that can smell an imposter at fifty yards remove, really draws upon your subconscious mastery of your subject matter or skill.  Somehow, it always shines through.

Think about that.  Your conscious self is worried that you aren’t good enough, that you don’t know what to do in this situation, that you might blow it completely and bring disaster upon yourself, that you could reveal yourself as an incompetent fool or that people won’t like you or what you do, but your unconscious mind just knows what you can do and how to do it.  Your unconscious mind, if permitted, can take control of the situation and provide your conscious self with all the briefings, evidence, backup material and sound judgements or instant reactions that you are going to need.

That said, competence (and hence the ability to be self-confident) comes from a place where we love what we do so much, we are prepared to put up with the drudgery it sometimes involves, or perhaps even become oblivious to it.  If we love to paint, love to make music, love to write, then the act of painting, playing or writing becomes our sanctuary.  It’s the one piece of our self made universe where we can be free, happy, unabashed and unconcerned about criticism.  In that moment of flow, we are realising ourselves in our most noble form.  So, do the work.  Love the work.  If you can achieve that, then when you are in some situation where you have to prove your competence, despite all your imagined fears and desperate dread, the essence of your being will come to the fore.  You are what you say you are, so proving it is going to be easy, even if it appears, at the time, to be the most daunting task ever given to a person.

The corollary, of course, is that if you have a job and a steady income, it becomes quite hard to approach your art as if your life depended on it, because it actually doesn’t.  I’m not advocating recklessly throwing in your day job so that you engineer a situation where you have no options, because that isn’t going to work for many people, but I am saying that the security of a full time job makes it much harder to approach your artistic work with quite as much desperation for its success as you would if all your eggs were in this one basket.

As an amateur, getting your own work up to a standard means finding more working hours than you are already putting in at your day job, drawing even more energy out of yourself and finding the necessary hours to work at your art, your sanctuary, until such time that your subconscious is content that you have it all in place.  The moment to “go pro” can become quite obvious to your sub conscious.  If you have found the time and energy, beyond what you rent for money, to pursue your amateur artistic pursuits to the standard of the professional, as hard as that actually is to achieve, then going that one extra step to become a professional, at some point, is beyond doubt.  But, it’s a long, hard, gruelling road that will leave you exhausted.

Maybe we need to trust in what we already know a little more.  Maybe that is the well spring of self confidence.

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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8 Responses to Caitlin on Confidence

  1. pauseobservereturn says:

    I find I have to tell myself that it’s OK risking the audacity to show that I know what I’m taking about, because I actually DO know what I’m talking about, and possibly more-so than other folks who I’ve believed in the past. At my last job, I regularly had to stand up and be questioned by some very intelligent folks, which always provoked this fear of being seen to be a failure. I learned quickly to be honest about what I know, admit what I don’t (and offer it up as a question that we’ll answer as a group), but to be bold when I know something and state that I know it. Those experiences really helped me not to be knocked over when the first person responds to my work.

  2. Debs says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more. Inspiring post.

  3. susangeckle says:

    It’s funny that some people would love to turn pro and some are happy to be lifelong amateurs. Calling yourself an amateur and staying there can be a comfort zone for some. I’ve seen people work at their craft for years and years to the point where their work could be classified as professional. When you point that out to them, they get a deer-in-the-headlights look. They don’t want to be critiqued on a whole new level. It’s as though that would take away their happiness.

    You’re right about the difficulties of having a day job and finding the energy and strength to create art on the side.

    • That deer in the headlights moment is familiar to many of us. Criticism can hurt and you need to have a good grip on your own talents before you’re ready to fend off the meaningless critiques and embrace the ones that can help you improve.

  4. That’s a very interesting insight. I imagine that the sanctuary is worth more than the commercial gain, to many. Thanks for commenting and for sharing your thoughts.

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