We are an aspirational species. Our eyes are fixed on the horizon. In some cases, the more ambitious of our species are up on their tiptoes with a laser-like focus staring over the horizon. They want more.
Most of us want to evolve and optimize our skills and capabilities. The difference between living on the edge of our capabilities and hiding our talents under a shroud of insecurity is buried deep in the elusive intangible referred to as confidence.
Etymologically speaking, confidence comes from Latin, specifically the noun “confīdentia” from the verb confīdere “to confide.” The Latin prefix con-, a variant of com-, usually means “with; together; in combination,” but here it is an intensive prefix meaning “completely”; the verb fīdere means “to trust.”
According to Oxford Languages, confidence is defined as a) is the state of feeling certain about the truth of something, b) a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.
Confidence is a feeling of certainty; a firm trust or belief in something or oneself.
People have always strived to control the events in their lives. By exerting influence in the spheres over which they have control they can reach further for dominion. An ongoing effort to realize desired futures and to forestall undesirable ones. Uncertainty in important matters, pushes each of us to acquire skills and capabilities necessary to cope with change. The more capabilities, the more trust an individual has in themselves.
Confidence can be seen on the faces of those who possess it.
In the picture below is one of the greatest football quarterbacks of all time directing traffic. Actually, Brady is directing his protection scheme to keep the ever-hungry, fast, and fierce defensive players from ripping his head off. A feat, these defensive specialists get paid millions to repeat as often as possible.
Having been under center for 21 years, Brady’s playing experience trumps any fear or anxiety generated by the gravity of a big stage. He is supremely confident in his ability. But he has survived 21 years with relentless preparation. For Brady, Sundays are a pleasure worth the potential pain.
Pleasure, for humans, is not a luxury, but a profound psychological need. Pleasure (in the widest sense of the term) is the reward, and consequence of successful action. Just as pain is the insignia of failure, destruction, and death.
The possession of confidence does not provide a person with automatic immunity to errors. Errors about life, about other people, about the appropriate course of action to pursue fraught with painful emotional consequences. Rationality does not guarantee infallibility. Nor the pain of failure. As humans, we are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Acting confidently in the face of the prospect of pain can be a very daunting challenge.
Even Tom Brady is not exempt from the fears, frustrations, and fallibility of the human experience. It is rumored Brady still carries around “the chip on his shoulder” of being chosen as a low-round afterthought on draft day. And he hates to lose. I am reminded of another athlete who craved the biggest stage in baseball and hated to lose. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, the proud owner of the best Slugging Percentage in World Series history at .755. He excelled in playing in and winning five fall classics from 1972-78.
I don’t want to fixate on pro athletes for my model or case study in confidence. Instead, I have chosen a lady making her way through the turbulent sea of social media fashion. She will be more relatable. More real to us mere mortals.
The photo on our masthead is of Nicola, a 23-year-old fashionista from the Czech Republic. Notice her confidence shining through the photograph. An old-world elegance seems to radiant from her smile. I follow her on Instagram @nicoli_mac. Her first photo on her IG account is dated August 9, 2020. For over eighteen months the young lady has navigated the nuances of Instagram pitching timeless fashion, a couple bites of food, and a very pretty smile. Her creative juices poured into 138 well-manicured posts. For her efforts, she has garnered 25,900 followers, including yours truly.
In the glittering realm of Instagram fashion, Nikki’s competition for attention is exceedingly fierce. Having spent the last six months studying the Instagram influencer ecosystem, I have witnessed the relentless battle for followers and their clicks. Learning how the sausage gets made can be a bit disheartening for the uninitiated. As an old media hand, I expected the social media platform to be a little twisted in the pursuit of a dollar. It was. But I also found dozens of Instagrammers excelling with unquestioned integrity. Nicola and many others, like her, have used IG to display their savvy form of confidence without betraying themselves.
The beautiful Czech stayed the course on the high road of elegance. Her bathing suit choice? A conservative one-piece model displaying her unequivocal confidence in her fashion sense. She consistently epitomizes her masthead tagline, 𝐸𝓁𝑒𝑔𝒶𝓃𝒸𝑒 𝒾𝓈 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝑜𝓃𝓁𝓎 𝒷𝑒𝒶𝓊𝓉𝓎 𝓉𝒽𝒶𝓉 𝓃𝑒𝓋𝑒𝓇 𝒻𝒶𝒹𝑒𝓈. A very strategic notion for a 23-year-old. I believe the lady knows who she is and what she wants. What is not obvious in her picture or her IG page is her kindness. Over these months, I have commented several times on her posts. In each and every case, she replied with a “like” even when I was buried in 100 or more comments. As an older male writer, I am far from her target demographic.
I could fall back on broad sweeping generalizations regarding East European women being pretty, family-oriented, and down to earth. But generalizations rarely serve to educate us. Needless to say, Nikki’s kindness and work ethic should make her parents very proud.
There are at least four main forces that could motivate @nicoli_mac to abrogate her responsibility of staying independent and cognitively self-reliant. These forces wear down your confidence like water smoothing a river stone over time.
- Thinking requires effort. Thinking is mental work. Thinking and being original requires a consistent commitment of time and energy. Going with the flow is easier.
- The practice of thinking in a consistent way forbids one from indulging in desires or emotions that clash with one’s understanding and convictions. Cognitive dissonance theory challenges us to be consistent.
- We are fallible; we can and do make errors in any step of the thinking process. And, if we act on our error, we may suffer pain, defeat, or destruction. Fear of failure is daunting.
- Independent thinking often brings a person into conflict with the opinions and judgments of others, including close friends provoking disapproval and or animosity. Peer pressure is a beast.
By far the most common factor attacking confidence is the fear associated with fallibility. The fear of being wrong, fear of failure, fear of the risks of acting on one’s own fallible judgment. This fear tends to make one susceptible to the other three factors. It is through successive retreats from the challenges of life, a person relinquishes the intellectual self-assertiveness which is the terra firma of psychological sovereignty. 1
As a creator on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and a blog, my craft requires a serious time commitment. For IG fashion creators, like @nicoli_mac production of a short IG reel can take hours of preparation, shooting, and editing before a mere 15-second clip is ready for the world’s unending scrutiny. Unless removed, the clip and other photographs will remain curated for months, if not years.
For every reel or photograph, Nikki lays bare her decision-making about style, production, editing, and personal appearance before the fickle masses. Having a post rejected with low engagement scores is commonplace. Looking through Nikki’s 138 posts, I find it near impossible to discern the winning formula. Why did one post garner 10,000 likes and a similar one only 2,000? My guess is with an everchanging sampling of her following at post time caused each photograph or reel to encounter a slightly different audience.
It is worth noting, creators also face unending pressure to be new, different, and original. Content is king. And, consistency is the Red Queen lurking in the background waiting for creators to stumble. Each creator, like an artist, has their heart on the line with every post and reel believing in themselves and hoping their belief translates into you and I being suitably impressed and willing to push our “like” buttons. Or maybe even take the time to make a favorable comment.
The vicissitudes of the capricious masses remain a mystery to even the most ardent observers. Many social scientists like myself are busy trying to unlock the magic formula capable of legitimately predicting human behavior. After years of toil, questions, and sampling, we have only small successes to our credit. Certainly no unifying theory of human behavior with a string of successful predictions.
Back to @nicoli_mac, I am left with only one issue outstanding. Please observe the photograph below. This is no way she ate the burger. Not a chance. Nikki, if you ate the whole burger, I will gladly print a retraction. Though I must admit, she doesn’t look the least bit intimated by the colossal offering before her. I probably should not underestimate the lady.
Is it me, or do those fries look amazing? I bet she ate the fries.
@nicoli_mac thank you for being a generous soul and real sweetheart. And, since I didn’t ask for permission to use the photo above, I must ask for your forgiveness. I intended to surprise you and hopefully get a smile with the burger photo. You have been a wonderful case study in elegance, beauty, style, and confidence.
“Elegance is not being noticed, it’s about being remembered.” – GIORGIO ARMANI
Readers, please remember to follow @nicoli_mac. She won’t disappoint. Her elegance, style, and fashion sense are worth trading a few minutes of your time while you press the “like” button for her creations.
For the record, my only contact with @nicoli_mac was through her IG comment section on several posts and one direct message asking for permission to use the photograph in our masthead. The young lady does not even follow me on Instagram. Though, I do think she should consider adding a soon-to-be-famous writer to her IG follows. 😎
Allow me to pose two questions to close.
Does each of us have the power to shape our own destiny? Definitely.
Can we renew our skillset to adjust to a rapidly changing world? Of course, we can.
Fully committed to a process of experimenting with reality, accepting the feedback, and making adjustments without letting failure and rejection wear you down, you too can excel at your passion. Confidence is not a mystical force. It’s persistence in the face of failure.
By the way, I am in the midst of finishing my book entitled, “Beyond the Hype: The Art of Thinking4Tomorrow and Thriving” due at the end of March 2022. In the book, I have written a few suggestions to bolster your grip on wielding your confidence.
Until next time. Travel safe.
- Branden, Nathaniel. The Psychology of Self-Esteem: A Revolutionary Approach to Self-Understanding that Launched a New Era in Modern Psychology (Wiley; Jossey-Bass) 2001.