Confidence is a feeling—an inner fire and an outer radiance1, a basic satisfaction with what one is plus a reading out to become more. Confidence is not something a few people are born with and others are not, for it is an acquired characteristic.
Confidence is the personal possession of no one; the person who has it learns it – and goes on learning. The most gifted individual on earth has to construct confidence in his gifts from the basis of faith and experience, like anybody else. The tools will differ from one person to the next, but the essential task is the same. Confidence and pose are available2 to us all according to our abilities and needs – not somebody else’s – provided we utilize our gifts and expand them.
One of the most rewarding3 aspects of confidence is that it sits gracefully on every age and level of life – on children, men, women, the famous, the obscure4, rich, poor, artist, executive, teen-ager, the very old. And you can take it with you into old age. There is nothing more inspiring than an old person who maintains his good will, humor, and faith in himself, in others, in the future. Conversely, the root cause of old people’s despair is feeling of not being wanted, of nothing to contribute, no more to conquer and become.
Most people have more to work with than they realize. One noted physicist calls this unused excellencies and finding and releasing this potential in ourselves is one of the major challenges of modern life. The great danger is not that we shall overreach our capacities but that we shall undervalue and under-employ them, thus blighting5 our great possibilities.
The goal of life is not a problemless existence, which would be unbearably6 dull, but a way to handle problems creatively. That word “problem” may sound a little prickly, but it only means a question put forth for solution, and actually life consists of a series of problems-and-solutions, each different from the last.
Confidence is delight — delight6 in living, in being who you are, in what you do, in growing, in the endless and sometimes exasperating7 adventure of what it means to be human. The teacher who delights in teaching has no time for bogging down8 in a swamp of doubt that he or she is doing it “right,” and they are well aware that they can become a better teacher tomorrow, but only by doing their best today and enjoying today. So, too, the mother who delights in being a mother does not worry overmuch about whether she fits the rules. She is not the mother, after all, of something material but of a living child.
Rules can often be a guide to successful living, but they are not a substitute for living. Rules never quite keep up with reality, because rules come from experience, not the other way around. Life happens, and it is infinitely inventive. It will always outrun and outmaneuver9 any attempt to bottle it up10 in a cut-and-dried system, for life is perpetual becoming. When life turns your wisest plans or best rules upside down, throw out the plans and bend with the circumstance. You will find powers you did not suspect, and possibilities undreamed of.
Confidence is not always winning, not always victory. Indeed, it is that very quality in humanity which refuses to stay defeated. A kind of stubborn11 cheerfulness. Remember there are two things you can do with mistakes: you can run away and you can grow.