Anger taught me everything about confidence

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Update (February 12, 2018): A blast from the past today. I like to occasionally repost older blog posts not only because sometimes I'm too lazy to write more posts but also because I like re-emphasizing posts that I really liked and deserve further attention. Enjoy!  

Although it’s mostly talked about in the realm of dating, the concept of confidence is really quite confusing in general. So many of us struggle with it and honestly, it often looks painfully impossible to fully comprehend. Stop telling me to ‘just be confident’ or to ‘just believe in myself.’ Indeed, it’s not very useful advice; better yet, it’s like telling a depressed person to ‘just be happy’ or a procrastinator to ‘just do some work already.’

On the other hand, why does confidence matter so much? To me, it matters in a way that is sharply different from the conventional wisdom because of how it came about for me. My confidence, however small or large it may be, was fueled by anger. C’mon, everybody has been there at least once in their lives: feeling sorry for themselves, not good enough, that their friends are better than they are, and so on. Hence, the first decision I made was that I was completely sick of feeling sorry for myself. This, however, was because of my anger. Anger to not be weak. Anger to not let myself feel inferior. Anger to not let my self-worth be determined by the world around me. I was particularly set on this last point; that is, deriving personal value from internal rather than external sources.

The way that you think is a process. It is a process that has evolved over time and right now you may not feel like you have that much control over the way you think. The thing is, you do have power over the way you think, you’re just doing it in a really damaging way. All that stuff is you, it’s all in your head, your soul, that’s making you feel that way.
— Merlin Mann; Back to Work (Episode 153)

So I harnessed this anger and the momentum it gave me and decided to educate myself vigorously to learn from people far brighter and more intelligent than I was. Sure, it was for the sake of knowledge, but it was so much more than that: I was obsessive-possessed by this challenge. How did they become so good at what they do? How did they become so intelligent and respected? I must have that too! From this “training”, I gradually became smarter and started to believe that hey, I’m actually a decently intelligent person! That momentum built my confidence more and more each day as I learned more from people that were smarter than me. Because of that, I swore one simple thing to myself: never will I feel like a lesser human being because of what happens around me. Sure, there are millions of people smarter than I am –at the end of the day I’m just some guy writing a blog, I haven’t cured cancer or anything – but the point is that I no longer let that diminish how much I value myself as a person, and there’s a subtle but crucial difference here.

So look, a) there are things that happen in the world, c) there are ways that you feel, and then b) there’s something that happened in between that caused the things that happened in the world to make you feel that way. Learn to take ownership of b) so that you become a person who starts to be more aware of the actual evidence for why you feel the way you do.
— Merlin Mann; Back to Work (Episode 153)

I’m saying that you shouldn’t look at people that are, in some dimension, better than you are and react by saying ‘well they’re better than I am; see that just shows that I’m worthless.’ Instead, I urge the viewpoint of ‘well they’re better than I am so let’s see how I can learn from that to improve myself.’ This shift in mindset motivated me, nay, fueled me to relentlessly improve myself so that I would never feel like a lesser being (which then eventually translated into confidence). To be frank, it continues to fuel me till this day. It’s not always entirely healthy but hey, I guess that’s my secret Captain: I’m always angry.

I know I sound borderline arrogant here even though, in all fairness, there’s always a dangerously fine line between confidence and arrogance. I generally hate to sound arrogant because it distracts readers from the main point, however I have to take this risk to really get my message across in an authentic manner. I want to give a different perspective for those who don’t connect to the more “flowery” advice of ‘just believe in yourself’ and all that. I know, it’s risky (tremendously risky actually) to basically tell people to be angry in order to be confident, but this is merely my personal experience. My genuine message underneath it all is that there is another way if the normal methods don’t work for you. If you can harness this anger and turn it into something controlled and purposeful, you can unlock an amazing potential inside yourself that you never imagined to even exist.


The Prince

If you’ve read my other posts, you probably know by now that I absolutely love Dragonball Z. I mean it’s so incredible to reflect, as I’m older now, on the massive impact that seemingly insignificant things like fictional, animated characters had on my personality. Anyway, I like to analyze certain characters from the show (and of course others like it) because of the lessons we can learn from them and how we can apply them to our personal lives. No, I don’t just use it as an excuse to talk about one of my favorite childhood shows, no matter how tempting it may be.

Since we’re talking about confidence, I think this conversation harks back once again to good ol’ Vegeta. He thought that Goku’s superiority meant that he was worthless and a disgrace of a person. His anger then drove him to endlessly train himself and never walk away from a challenge because he hated his weakness. But this, then, is where the question and lesson lies: do you let other people’s strengths destroy your perception of the value you have as a human being?

If you haven’t watched Dragonball Z yet shame on you mate, shame on you.

In closing, let’s shift gears and change the focus of the conversation a little. I’m going tell you a story from my own personal experience that I think relates to this discussion.


Finding your voice

Before I started this blog, I did a fair share of research about this whole activity works. As expected, there were the technical aspects – what service to use to set up a website, making your blog SEO friendly, registering the domain with search engines, and so on – but then there were also the more stylistic tips like writing engaging content, how to use your email list effectively to strengthen your blog, and more. But amongst all these tips there was one piece of advice that for some reason gave me sleepless nights: finding your voice.

It haunted me incessantly. Finding my voice? That means basically saying what I really mean and think, right? But I can’t do that! This is the internet, think of all the people that will judge me! This is honestly why I disregarded the idea of blogs for such a long time when I was younger. I thought that they were basically just digital diaries published online until I realized that they were actually very serious and valuable ways to connect to and help people. Nevertheless, for the life of me I just could not overcome that mental block and actually speak my mind on a forum where everyone could/would judge me. So what was my compromise? I decided to stick to quoting and analyzing the podcasts and blogs of very well-respected figures in the blogging and podcasting world so that it sounded like it wasn’t me saying these big things. I added my personal views to it but at least the reader couldn’t really “judge” me per se because I was merely quoting and analyzing what others had to say.

Finding my voice? That means basically saying what I really mean and think, right?
But I can’t do that! This is the internet, think of all the people that will judge me!

What does this have to do with confidence, you ask? Well, it boils down to the decision I had to make to finally muster the courage to publish all those conversations I have with myself in my head (yes, with myself) instead of concealing them and thinking they’re not worthy of being published. I thought they weren’t good enough, so I basically took the messages of others and added a bit of my personal flavor to the mix. But this isn’t speaking your voice (granted, and in my defense, it’s not plagiarism either). I didn’t actually create my own message with my own voice. I needed the authority of the opinions of established, well-respected figures to validate my personal, underlying thoughts because I was too scared to voice them without some kind of validation from smarter people.

Thus, it was eventually out of anger – anger for undermining and belittling myself because I was so scared – that I decided to have confidence in my voice and in my opinions. I will still quote podcasts and blogs of course, because they are wonderful sources of information, but now I will take the gradual steps to actually make my opinion the foundation of the posts, the trunk of the tree, instead of the afterthoughts. It’s still a terrifying journey, finding confidence, but just like Vegeta, I would be too angry at myself if I ran away from this challenge.

At the end of the day, that’s my secret: I’m always angry.

See you, Space Cowboy.

What do you think about confidence? Leave a comment or send me a personal message!