Mark Manson suggests that “the only way to be truly confident is to simply become comfortable with what you lack.” Instead of valuing external achievements, we should learn to take all our failures in stride.
But here’s the rub: reaching a point where we are totally comfortable with our failures is an external achievement in and of itself.
Manson just shifts the focus of what we think we lack. Before it was, “my jawline isn’t strong enough, and that’s why I’m not confident.” Now it’s, “crap, shit, shit, shit, I’m not comfortable with failure, I can’t even learn from failure, I hate failure, I wish I loved failure. How will I ever be confident if I can’t get comfortable with failure??”
Let me offer an alternative take on confidence: forget yourself.
Picture this: I’m a 16-year-old, husky, friendless, awkward high school student at a Model United Nations competition. My dress pants are too long, my pit stains are very wet, and my fly is all the way undone. But I stand up and deliver a kick-ass speech about why my delegation of North Korea should become a permanent member of the security council. And I win Best Delegate the next day.
On the podium, I wasn’t thinking about everything I lacked or how I might get comfortable with everything I lacked. That’s because I wasn’t thinking about myself at all. I was in my flow, my zone, my jam — whatever you want to call it.
But other times, when I’m out of my jam, I can’t even look the cute girl who works at the front desk of my gym in the eye. Under the thick weight of the deciding moment — when you need confidence the most — your cathedral of affirmations and mindset exercises may just collapse.
Manson’s advice can’t be over intellectualized. Because focusing on getting comfortable with what you lack is still channeling attention, in one form or another, on what you lack. Instead, experiment with focusing your attention on what you want and where you are, rather than who you are and how you feel about yourself.
In those fateful moments, maybe it’s best to just pack up your feels and forget yourself.