Have you ever seen the British sci-fi comedy show Red Dwarf?
In an early episode, the series protagonist Dave Lister contracts a disease causing his hallucinations to be real.
This results in two parts of his personality coming to life – Confidence and Paranoia.
Confidence is portrayed as tall, good postured, tanned.
Representing Dave’s belief in himself, we see Confidence looking in admiration at everything Dave does, right down to his song writing and guitar playing, which in the series was a running joke as something he was terrible at.
Paranoia is a pathetic slouched figure, pasty, with a constant sneer.
He represents Dave’s doubts – embarrassed at everything he does, dwelling on past failures, and belittling everything about him.
Confidence kills Paranoia, motivated to ensure Dave is no longer held back by his self-loathing.
In the end Confidence accidently kills himself trying to prove his belief – the God like Dave Lister doesn’t need a helmet to breath in space.
The show illustrates the interwinding nature of these attributes, almost reliant on each other to survive and thrive.
Confidence is your front that takes you places. It tells you to try new things, take risks and, pushes you.
It’s required to enable growth and add achievements to your name.
Doubt actually protects you, the humans species wouldn’t have lasted long if our confidence ruled and said
“That big feral animal with sharp teeth doesn’t look like a threat to me”
It helps you survive.
Doubt gets its bad reputation from being overprotective, telling you not to take risks, which in many cases, the threats aren’t as real as you think and cost many opportunities.
The partnership does help with social conditioning – if you were all confidence, then you would struggle to connect with others due to being seen as boastful and arrogant.
But you don’t want to be full of self-doubt either, otherwise you would be seen as someone with a bleak view on life, an energy drainer, who people make effort to avoid.
Both are needed, both can be weaponised and used to your advantage.
Positive / Negative
A false understanding when getting into self-improvement is feeling you have to eliminate all anti-negative emotions from your soul.
Always be happy, be grateful, always have self-belief in yourself.
Fake it until you become it.
If you’re human then you know maintaining positive emotions 100% of the time isn’t possible.
But insecurities can be good – fuelling your need for personal development
- I don’t feel attractive, so I’m going to join a gym and take more care of my health.
- I think I’m a dull person, so I’m going to take up more hobbies and go travelling.
- I don’t want to be a penniless loser, so I’m going to work hard on my career and provide for my family.
When seen this way, doubt doesn’t seem such a bad thing, if you can utilise with confidence to recognise you can change and take action.
It’s arguable too much self-belief is a bad thing, you get complacent, lose hunger and makes you think you can do things beyond your abilities.
When you think you are good at something, you probably will lack the understanding and urgency to make efforts to get better.
There is nothing wrong with having doubts. Doubts drive you to perform better.
Following the death of Kobe Bryant, I watched a documentary on his career.
He transitioned from high school basketball star, to professional and in one of his first games he missed shot after shot after shot.
I imagine the doubts in his head
“I’ve let the team down, the fans hate me, the media is questioning why the Lakers drafted me.”
Imagine doing something you love, something you’ve dreamed about all your life… and failing at it? You can only begin to comprehend the fear in Kobe’s head.
“If I don’t improve my game, then this opportunity I’ve got could be lost forever.”
The balance kicked in though, and rather than let his doubt tell him he couldn’t cut it at the NBA level, his confidence said
“If you want this, you’ve got to work your ass off!”
This led him to do some legendary training sessions to perfect his craft, spending night and day shooting hoop after hoop, until his performance improved.
But what if Kobe had no doubts? He was just full of confidence and said
“You’re good enough, you’ve made it to the NBA, things will be alright – you’ve just had a bad game”
He probably would have become another blip in basketball history, living in the past, bragging to anyone about the time he made it big.
His doubts drove him to be one of the best players in the NBA, with a level of (deserved) confidence eulogised in his death.
The people on your shoulder
Self-doubt becomes a bad thing when it controls you – that voice mocking you when you fail at a task, or constantly brings back memories of mistakes, that are petty and insignificant, determined to punish you for a past wrong choice.
The key is driving these emotions to your benefit – confidence being a tool to push you into new situations, and doubt, being a voice to prove wrong everyday.
No one is pure confidence – you know that person you admire with superhuman confidence you aspire to be like?
Even they have insecurities – they are just better at hiding them.
Wishing you the best in your success
James @Perfect Manifesto
Copyright © 2023 James M.Lane perfectmanifesto.com
4 thoughts on “Confidence and Doubt”
Good post James.
I’m working harder lately to supress the doubt, particularly in social situations because I know it’s held me back in the past and I have opportunities coming up that I don’t want to turn away from because of self-induced doubt. Often it only needs a little tweaking, and your post is a good reminder not to go too far in either direction.
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Thanks Paul, doubt is useful if it comes in the form of humility, but like you said it can be damaging if we turn down opportunities. Best to have a confident voice that encourages you to try regardless of outcome.
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Brilliant lesson in leadership + the importance of contrast in developing confidence and the power of humility and self-doubt. Thank you for this post James. It is clear how much time and effort you put into your writing. So grateful! Andrea
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Thanks Andrea, I really enjoyed writing this and glad you liked it!
This really got me thinking about the importance of balance.