In my second year of university I selected a module called "The History of European Political Ideas" Its focus was on classic philosophical texts that have come to underpin European political ideas, institutions and conventions. The hope was to give us insight into some of the great thinkers that came before us. If we understood their work, we would better understand our world and just maybe, better understand ourselves.
The syllabus was broad but its breadth wasn't at the expense of depth. Due to the brilliance of the writers chosen if read scrupulously each text had the power to remould you. If you conquered Hegel, you conquered yourself, for you learnt patience and how to push through the absurdly abstract. If you were able to embrace Mill, you'd understand the value of tolerance, no matter how irksome a person's idiosyncrasies or ideologies. By connecting with Hobbes you acknowledged the fear and diffidence alive within all of us, though we rarely speak of it.
There was one philosopher whose work I connected with. I understood him and even though he wrote before my time I believed he understood me. His name was Machiavelli. When he wrote "it is better to be feared than loved" I believed (in) him and I agreed. Though I suspected he (like me), desired to be loved more than he was feared, no matter how unlovable he had convinced himself he was.
In Machiavelli's "The Prince" the concept of fortune is personified as an intangible and spiritual being named "Fortuna" Fortuna is a woman and rather volatile. She may work in our favour or against us. Fortuna's existence means we can only control so much. Machiavelli advocates that in order to restrain the power of Fortuna we must seek to become virtuous. Only inner virtue can act as a guard against her caprice. In hindsight I connected with the work of Machiavelli because I had my own personal Fortuna. My Fortuna was (and is) insecurity.
My position on the confidence spectrum vacillates. On some days I’m convinced I can do anything and on other days I'm unsure of what I can do or worse still, what I’m supposed to be doing. When I was approached by a reader to write a post about how to be confident, it made me smile. Who am I to be an authority? Especially as I’ve recently emerged from a paralysing crisis of confidence.
I learnt many things during my crisis of confidence. I learnt it won’t certainly be my last. Insecurity is like Fortuna. It cannot be destroyed. It will rear its ugly head when it's most inconvenient. I discovered investing energy into fighting my insecurities is exhausting. I’m battling a force with far more strength and experience than myself. After all insecurity has been screwing with humanity since humans began roaming the earth.
I learnt that we are hardwired to be insecure. To resist insecurity is to resist part of ourselves. It's what makes us greater than animals but less than the Gods. However the acceptance that our insecurities will always be with us doesn’t mean we should resign ourselves to being held captive by them.
As I grappled with my insecurity I learnt something beautiful about confidence. Confidence isn't the absence of insecurity; confidence is choosing to act in spite of its presence. These acts of confidence don’t have to be grand. They’re normally relatively small. Like choosing to smile at an abrasive stranger. Uploading a blog post that makes you cringe. Wearing an item that accentuates a body part you once tried to conceal. Leaning in for the kiss first.
The only forces that have power in our lives are the things we focus on. Focus on fear and fear will be your master. Focus on love and love will be your friend. Insecurity exerts a disproportionate amount of influence over us only when we give it disproportionate amount of our focus. However if we treat our insecurity as a banal fact and not care as much, its power diminishes.
We can never completely silence the oppressing voice of insecurity. What we can do is amplify our positive beliefs and thoughts. We must hold on to the belief that in spite of all the things that make us awful, there is much more in us that makes us good. They say faith is the antidote to fear, love is the antidote to hate, I’m not sure if there’s an antidote for insecurity, but I do think belief comes pretty close.
In closing I’ll say there is nothing instant about confidence, whether you’re trying to maintain it, restore it or find it. Whatever stage you’re at it’s a gradual process. I wasn’t sure how to end this blog post. Every single sentence I construct seems riddled with clichés and painful to read. However there’s a Donny Hathaway song called 'Someday We'll All Be Free' that articulates what I’d like to write. It’s more powerful when sung, but it reads well too.
“Hang onto the world as it spins around Just don't let the spin get you down. Things are moving fast. Hold on tight and you will last. Keep your self-respect your very bright. Get yourself in gear, Keep your stride. Never mind your fears. Brighter days will soon be here. Take it from me someday we'll all be free”Love and Light