by Eric Fitt
Confidence is a game, and so it has rules, and can even be won if it is approached in the right way. The motto among jazz musicians has been "fake it until you make it." Strange as it might sound, this motto seems to ring true. Imagine the scene: a young upstart getting up on stage to improvise in front of a sophisticated crowd of jazz-heads, many of them jazz musicians themselves. The pressure couldn't be higher. I imagine that they must search for a feeling, or an essence, and then relax the mind in order to reach out for it. This is high intuitive thinking, and is in keeping with the spirit of going with things.
Confidence is really a quest for one's self, the natural self. Only natural and spontaneous action can be called truly confident. The typical books written on the subject tend to be simple tricks that the ego can play on itself to sustain, for a time, the illusion of confidence, which is why they don't really work, in keeping with the spirit of pop Psychology and Self-Help.
There is no substitute for knowing one's self, and the roles we find ourselves playing throughout our lives needn't take us away from our true nature. We all know Shakespeare's saying that all the world's a stage. A slightly detached perspective can demonstrate to ourselves that we are not the role we have found ourselves in, that we are really more like an actor playing a part. Even if we are a high-powered executive or a celebrity with enormous influence, that is not, of course, who we really are. Realizing this could create a crisis in confidence for an established person. But it could also be the first step towards their "getting over themselves" to become a more balanced individual. Remember: the word persona means 'mask' in Latin.
As we journey through life, we interpret and assimilate many different incoming social and cultural signals which contribute to our sense of who we are. These signals are almost entirely ego-based, and necessary in their own way, but ultimately false. The ego is the mechanism which interprets the incoming signals, to be rejected or incorporated into one's sense of "I am," the individual's sense of self. If we misinterpret the role of our own ego in making sense of our surroundings, as always happens to some extent, we get a false sense of ourselves, and even feel the need to project it. For the ego is also our in-built self-advertising agency, constantly needing to project messages intended to prove to the world that we are worthy. Our own personal ego will usually focus on a few key features that we believe we need to feel good about ourselves- I'm pretty, I'm smart, I'm rich and therefore successful, I'm cool, confident, independent, strong, talented, or whatever. What happens behind this show is the real action- our interpretation of how we well feel we are pulling it all off. Yes, it's just for show, is just a show, and is therefore empty and false if we are to be honest with ourselves: we are playing a game.
So how to win this game? There is no way to win this game. The thing is to realize that it's the wrong game, which cannot be won in any positive sense and only leads to sorrow, and that an altogether different approach is needed.
When we set out in earnest on the path to know ourselves, we soon discover that a small gap forms, a little space in which "we" can play. This play is a kind of freedom which allows action without our own reaction- we can passively and attentively watch the responses of others which our actions bring without getting personally involved. We can also watch our own reactions from a s slightly removed viewpoint, which is the real trick. This is a very different kind of game, that can be "won" in the sense that winning is realizing that ego-identification is all a game being played around us all the time, but that we don't have to participate. Don't self-identify with the role you happen to be in at any given moment and see what you can learn about yourself. This is not easy, since the ego won't readily give up its grip on it's "territory," because it will feel that some essential part of itself is being lost. It has many fears and distractions in its arsenal to throw back at you, and the more personally they wound to you, the better from its standpoint, since its instinct is for self-preservation. In fact, it has the entire subconscious at its disposal, which is where fears (and dreams) originate. But it is actually The Self which is being explored here, which your individual self only corresponds to in an indirect way, such as the way the moon can reflect itself in a puddle on the street: the resulting image is both true and an illusion, which the proper perspective makes obvious.
All human expressions are aspects of the Self, and are in some way part of ourselves. In a certain sense we are all of it and none. This is the way of no way. It is the ancient path of wizards and warriors, since both paths require going boldly beyond fear and self-identification, beyond all comparisons and the subtle interplay of opposites. Getting hooked on this game brings an end to all other games, and therefore it is sometimes called the Royal Road.
Nisargadatta has said:
To know itself the self must be faced with its opposite- the not self. Desire leads to experience. Experience leads to discrimination, detachment, self-knowledge- liberation. And what is liberation after all? To know that you are beyond birth and death. By forgetting who you are and imagining you are a mortal creature, you created so much trouble for yourself that you have to wake up, like from a bad dream.
Enquery also wakes you up. You need not wait for suffering; enquery into happiness is better, for the mind is in harmony and peace.
You can read more of Eric's writings on his blog: NeoNomadZ.blogspot.com