Obstacles in pursuing self confidence
Two fourth grade boys face each other, one tallish and lanky, the other short, but with self confidence in his eyes. The short boy has two girls by his side.
He tortures the taller, who is weakened after weeks of recess teasing. Tears in his eyes, he longs for this to just be over. The short boy senses weakness in his prey.
Before the trio leave laughing, the short boy throws the tall flat on his back, knocking the air out of him.
The tears begin to flow.
He has been bullied for almost a full year now and holds no hope of escape.
I was the taller boy, and the pain comes back now over 30 years after the event. Victims of mean people are left with traumatic scars.
Worst of all, bullies destroy self confidence. Looking back now, I see that I was capable of defending myself. I practiced wrestling, and I was pretty strong.
But, I lacked self confidence and the desire to inflict pain on another. I felt empathy for the other boy, and he exploited it.
Famously, in my family, I was the wrestler who refused to perform winning moves because the arm bending "would hurt" my opponent.
So, is empathy a flaw in sports, business, and life? No. In fact, empathy is the best friend of good business if bullies are controlled, as people gain self confidence and trust in one another. You have to establish an atmosphere of safety to nurture empathy in a community.
Self confidence is a social enterprise, and we rely on the empathy of others to establish a safe place to build it.
In every human organization, we benefit from empathic people, who feel for us and nurture our self confidence. A community of empathic people heals the wounds inflicted by bullies and rebuilds self confidence through the help of others.
Andrew Solomon's self confidence
Self confidence and an empathic community are still ideals I hold to strongly. Empathy is the highest evolved human trait, and when a community is founded on it, people help one another to build or rebuild self confidence.
I still think of this vision often, and I am not the only one. You are a part of my vision as are all humans.
The author Andrew Solomon shares this empathic vision, and his Ted Talks focus on problems with self confidence and how to overcome them. He has written books such as 2012's Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, which tells stories of empathic people who find joy and meaning in providing an safe environment for children.
He bases his stories in personal experience, and he stands with courageous self confidence to confront his past and relate a dream of the future:
Solomon pushes you to redefine your hardest moments, creating meaning and confidence of what would otherwise be debilitating events:
As a student of adversity, I've been struck over the years by how some people with major challenges seem to draw strength from them, and I've heard the popular wisdom that that has to do with finding meaning. And for a long time, I thought the meaning was out there, some great truth waiting to be found.
Empower your self confidence and nurture empathy
While I would do many things differently if I were to go back in time, I would never change that uniquely human empathy that prevented me from fighting back on the playground.
Aggression, even (or especially) in revenge, lessens human beings by surrendering power to another individual. Violence destroys the person, who must hold onto the results of hasty actions.
I would remind myself that empathy and compassion surpass tyranny and violence and that you can never raise yourself by stepping on other people.
Self confidence tempered with empathy creates a superhuman, maximizing the greatest gifts that evolution has produced.
photo credit: He's Number One: Trump Leads GOP Field in New Poll via photopin (license)
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