The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts


“What is self-confidence?” was a wonderful starter for a fun and deep conversation with a friend. We roamed through all kinds of philosophical, pragmatic and technical approaches to find an answer.

As interesting questions do, it stuck with me.

Comparing the definitions found in the Merriam-Webster (“confidence in oneself and in one’s powers and abilities”) and in Wikipedia, I reconnected with an important element of our conversation.

During our conversation, I had concluded, that my idea of self-confidence was linked with the idea of autonomy described in Transactional Analysis. Eric Berne never completely defined it but his description is helpful. He described autonomy as ‘being manifested by the recovery of three capacities: awareness, spontaneity, and intimacy”. From that perspective, autonomy becomes visible through behavior, thinking and feeling that are a reaction to the here-and-now reality rather than a response to (script) beliefs.

Comparing these definitions, two of the many reasons for lacking self-confidence became apparent: the link with competence and the identification with the outcome.

Competence and outcome seem easier to establish as they can be described in tangible terms. Maybe the best-known variant to make them tangible is the idea to set oneself SMART goals. The only but is, that working on such goals requires self-confidence to start with. On the other hand, achieving these goals may contribute to transforming self-confidence.

By adding a competence to our skill set, we learn to be confident in using that competence. By achieving outcomes we grow our perception to be able to achieve what we set out to do. For some people, this establishes more self-confidence. For others, it adds a skill. For others failing to achieve an expected outcome destroys self-confidence. And yet others will be interested to look at their failure and learn from it.

Self-confidence seems to be an experience. We either have it or don’t have it. If we have it, we internalized self-confidence.

The moment we link it with competence, we split it into many. We then strive to develop self-confidence within these many areas. By identifying with an outcome, we transform self-confidence into something existential. It will only be available if we succeed. In these situations, we probably externalized self-confidence making us dependent on the perception within our environment.

Can you pick yourself or do you want to be chosen?


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