When Confidence Takes a Holiday

I woke up this morning. And my confidence didn’t wake up with me.

That hibernation actually began the night before. Yesterday, a fellow I hold in large esteem looked at a little bit of my work. His would be the first eyes on it. I was proud of it. And I wanted him to be, too.

He gave me good feedback, strong feedback. That ended with a period, not an exclamation point. None of the applause and fireworks I craved.

In response, my confidence went packing. Leaving me holding a big question mark. About my work. My judgment. My decisions. My footwear.

And it got me questioning something else: Is confidence enough here?

On May 29, 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first people to reach the top of Mount Everest.

The climb took seven weeks from base camp to summit. Seven weeks during which Sir Hillary wasn’t sure they’d make it to the 29,028′ peak of the world’s highest mountain.

“Never, at any stage, until we actually got up the rock step,” Sir Hillary told the Academy of Achievement, “was I confident that we were going to be successful. My feeling was that we would give it everything we had, but we had no surety that we were going to reach the top.”

I don’t think it’s confidence that gets us up Everest or makes us do the work we believe in.

I think it’s self-respect.

Respect for ourselves and the unruly tangle of aims and ideas and possibilities we contain.

It’s self-respect that puts that tangle out into the world and works for it. Climbs for it. Fights for it.

Confidence is nice. But self-respect is made of tougher stuff. Stuff that is essential to living out the full weight and might of our lives.

As Joan Didion closed her 1961 Vogue essay, “On Self-Respect”:

“…To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves—there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect.”

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