Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Born this way?

My son's school had a concert today. Each class in the junior school did a piece. Some were songs, others were dances, and several were plays. It was long, messy and hilarious.

What struck me was how, in every class, there were one or two kids who stood out. Confidence just oozed from them and you could tell they were having the time of their lives. Others looked like they wished they were anywhere but there, trying hard to lurk at the back of the group, barely moving. Their discomfort with the situation was palpable, the same way the joy was in those who were loving it.

Does this confidence in performing come naturally to these kids, or is it something they grow into? And is the reticence to get up in front of a crowd inbuilt? I'm curious. My own son is among those who clearly love being in front of an audience. What he lacks in co-ordination, he makes up for in confidence. Neither his father or I are great at being in front of crowds. I get tongue-tied if I have to introduce a film maker before a Q & A session, these days. But when I was younger, I was an actor.

I hope, if this kind of confidence is inborn, it lasts. Yet the world we live in seems full of people and situations that are designed to crush any confidence we might have. I remember dreaming of being a ballet dancer as a kid. I worked so hard at it, practicing daily and focusing everything I had on my weekly lessons. Then those four little words came and crushed my dreams : "You have no talent."

It was harsh, but looking back on it, it was the best thing. I was talentless. And without Mrs. Z telling me that, I may have wasted years chasing that dream, only to fail in the end. But at the same time, by crushing that particular dream, she also frayed my confidence. That little seed of doubt crept into my mind: maybe I'm no good.

I don't want my son to have that doubt. I want him to believe he's good at anything he tries until he decides for himself he's not. I want him to stay confident in front of an audience, even if he does look like a spastic monkey when he dances. It doesn't matter. The joy in what he's doing shines through and that's what makes it compelling.

It's the same with writing. You can feel when it's labored, when putting pen to paper was a chore. The words don't flow right, the imagery is off and characters don't live and breathe. Who knows what caused the lack of confidence? As writers, we're hanging our souls out on a daily basis, asking for critiques that might hurt us, sending off queries that more often than not end up rejecting us. Maintaining confidence in our work, and continuing to find joy in it is the most important thing.

Where do you find confidence? Were you born with it, or did it come with time?


  1. I'm not sure I have ever had confidence for public speaking, but I have had the ability to get through it. I was always one of the children standing in the back but wishing I was in the front. I think as I have got old I have pushed myself to do the things I want to do, regardless of hurtful comments by teachers or anyone else that decides to tell me I really can't do something.

    I don't have confidence with my writing, but I love doing it so I keep pushing forward. It's all I can do.

  2. I think it can be either. I definitely think there are people who are just born with it. They're going to be that kind of strong, confident person who likes to be in the limelight not matter what. I also think there are those who can grow to be that way, but I think the first happens more often.

    Interesting post.