An acquaintance of mine recently wrote a blog post about how irony is stunting your relationships. I agree with him, however, I think it goes deeper than that.
Fearlessness and confidence are overvalued by our society.
Everybody idolizes those people who appear unshakable. Everyone gets coached on how they need to present themselves with confidence wherever they go. We watch celebrities and superheroes who look like they can handle everything with ease and grace. We are expected from childhood to know exactly what we are doing with our lives and face everything unflinchingly. Never showing your faults and weaknesses means you are “strong” and “fearless”.
With ideals like this, is it any wonder that we instinctively hide our insecurities?
We laugh off our faults and our fears. We go through life refusing to reveal our weaknesses, except to maybe the rare close friend, if then. When we are scared, we walk into it with an air of fake self-confidence, because we are afraid onlookers won’t respect us otherwise. I am completely guilty of this, as you likely have been too at some point.
This year, I have “confidently” carried myself through a lot of new experiences. These included flying to a city I’d never visited and rooming with a small houseful of strangers during a weekend convention; getting accepted into the Praxis apprenticeship program and going through the interview process to find out my soon-to-be workplace (which will possibly involve moving to a new city); and driving solo across Washington and into Canada’s largest city for the first time.
I was terrified of all of those events. In regards to the upcoming apprenticeship, I still am. Yet to everyone who sees me, I am completely confident. Why? Because I don’t want to be seen as fearful. Because fear means I am weak and probably inept. That I don’t always know what I am doing. That maybe I doubt my ability to handle things, and if I doubt myself, who would see me as capable?
Over time, I’ve come to realize that we are all secretly fearful and insecure.
I’ve gotten to know a lot of people over the years. Throughout that time, I’ve noticed a pattern in my friendships. My first impressions are usually “wow, this person is so cool!” “they seem fearless” “they don’t let anything get them down!” Following this initial period of friendship, comes the point when people get comfortable. They begin to open up and I see that they have complaints about life and face frustrating times. As we communicate longer, it becomes more and more apparent: this person isn’t who I initially took them to be. Underneath that charming, fun, and undaunted exterior hides someone who has real problems and fears. Sure, they still sometimes wear those qualities that I saw upon my first impression, but along with those qualities, there are many flaws and insecurities.
The more they are open about their issues and insecurities, the more I am willing to be open about mine, too. It’s a beautiful- and sometimes painful- two-way street. Sometimes what lies beneath the surface can be disappointing, but it is real. I appreciate the realness and they seem to as well.
So, why can’t we celebrate the realness instead?
Let’s face it: we’re all just trying to fake it until we make it. But will we truly “make it” if we’re always faking it?
Fear does not make or break us. Neither does admitting we have fear. The only thing that matters about fear is what we do with it. Do we keep moving onwards despite it? Or do we turn around? Either option can be reasonable, and we shouldn’t dwell on or be ashamed of which one we choose. Just be honest, do what’s best for you, and keep moving forward from there.
Rather than trying to be fearless and confident, why not embrace the fact that we are all scared and trying to figure out what to do next? Let’s be honest with ourselves and each other. Let’s recognize and accept that none of us will ever “have our life together”. If we can get better at this, perhaps we might discover that we truly do have that confidence we’d previously been faking.