There are many publications and support groups these days related to self-acceptance and learning how to be comfortable with oneself, one’s image, or the things that make one “different.” Any vehicle that gives a person an opportunity to heal or rebuild is certainly worthy of applause and recognition, but one has to wonder why so many of these outlets are necessary. What is plaguing so many people’s minds and hearts? What is lacking in their childhoods, upbringing, or relationships that manifest so much self-loathing or inner distrust?
As always, I think the matter has become complicated with too much analysis. The common thread here is simply a general lack of confidence.
And that elusive elixir—confidence—is what we must attempt to bottle and distribute to the world today if we stand any chance of fixing this shy “shrinking violet” of a planet.
The Blame Game
It seems people are never shy about pointing the finger at a possible cause. Were parents overbearing? Perhaps a parent who abandoned his family when the kids were young? Or a bullying issue at school that was improperly handled, with long-lasting scars? Or some type of physical imperfection? Or being overweight? Or not being athletic? Or glasses that were too thick? Or having an awful haircut? It doesn’t take much when we’re young to throw us off kilter and we then pull our head back into the turtle’s shell.
So why is there all this hubbub?
Should shyness or the fear of stepping out be that important? Many think the risk is high. Politicians take popularity polls every other day because they want to know if people like them, if they like what they say, if they like it better than what the other guy says. Are they more confident if the poll says they are popular? Does popularity bring about confidence? What if the popularity wanes—do you then lose confidence? See how dangerous it is hooking one to the other.
I have a friend who is very affected by whatever she reads or hears in the news. A while ago she, her husband, and my wife and I were having a picnic in a wooded area in a shelter house with a concrete floor. My wife mentioned that she had heard of an outbreak of ticks due to the rising deer population not far from where we were. The shelter was open on three sides and over a hundred feet away from the wood line on the remaining side. Within 10 minutes of the discussion, our friend decided she needed to go home for some “out of the blue” reason. I asked if this was about the ticks and she said no, but her eyes said yes. She ran to the car. Her husband just shook his head. Please. Her over-reaction was ridiculous. But that one idea, once in her head, was too strong for her to confidently rebut it, and she spooked herself out of a nice afternoon with family and friends.
I know of another family that has been attempting to put their kid in daycare for months, but the kid comes up with a new ailment each time that prevents him from going. He plays his mother like a violin. She says she has to trust him because “What if he would get sick there?” What if he would? The staff would call the parents, and they would pick the kid up. A lack of confidence by the parent has channeled into a lack of confidence in the kid. What the heck are they going to do when the child actually does leave for school one day? Will they choose to home-school him instead since they let him hide so long and lack a sense of confidence? I have nothing against home-schooling, but it shouldn’t ever be used as a shield to protect kids from gaining the confidence they need to navigate social interactions.
On the other hand, some people have too much confidence. I’ve been to demonstrations by salesmen that went on for hours. They were so confident in their presentation skills that they were convinced people just loved listening to them. Meanwhile, half of the people had shut down and were sound asleep in their minds.
If You Have It, Use It
As I see it, confidence can be learned and needs to be adapted as a skill set. In our youth, our parents could “front” for us. Consider the image of the little girl at a wedding who clings to her father’s leg, hiding her face every time someone speaks to her. Mother chimes in, “Oh, she’s so shy.” But by 5 or 6 years old, that has to change.
Confidence is that same type of accomplishment. It might not be what one set out to achieve, but since it was picked up along the way, one should allow it to grow. It can be used in so many ways and needs to be groomed over time.
Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a B.S. in Business from Bowling Green State University and an M.B.A from Baldwin Wallace University. He has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at email@example.com.