“Heal the world, Make it a better place
For you and for me and the entire human race “
– “Heal The World” by Michael Jackson
I was speaking with a friend the other day and we got to talking about confidence, which is clearly a major passion of mine (being The Confidence Alchemist, after all). She was asking is confidence actually that big a deal? Sure, it’s nice if someone can find the confidence to maybe speak to someone new or to ask someone out for a date or to ask their boss for a pay-rise, but (my friend wondered) is any of that really important in the grand scheme of things? Would it matter if people didn’t become more confident? Would there actually be much benefit to society as a whole if people became more confident? she wondered.
It is an interesting question. What does happen when people become more confident, when they have a greater level of self-confidence, of belief in themselves and their abilities and who they are?
When a person has more confidence, it’s easy enough to see how that helps them professionally, personally, socially and romantically. And for that individual, their increased confidence can be a massive positive change. or a small number of people close to them, that increased confidence can also have some positive effects, but not much effect beyond that circle, surely.
When confidence is nurtured right the way through the academic system, such that every school child learns how valuable they are, develops their own confidence, learns the skills for great social interaction, then each of those individuals will have more positive lives as they are better able to interact, to ask people out, to make friends, to develop business contacts, all the usual things we associate with increased confidence.
But is even that really that big a deal for society as a whole?
To consider this, let’s take a step back a couple of million years to when we used to live in caves, in a very tribal society. In those days, we had a lot of predators – pretty much everything that wasn’t a member of our tribe was looking to find ways to kill us and/or eat us! That was true be they wild animals, nature in general, or even members of other tribes. It must have been quite a scary place in a way – anything which was not of your tribe was a massive potentially fatal threat.Which meant that any time you spotted something that wasn’t of your tribe, something that was different from you, you got scared; and when you got scared, you either ran and hid, or else you fought and attacked it before it could attack you. Anything that was different from you, was to be feared and attacked and fought. It was a matter of life and death, quite literally.
Fast forward to now and we are pretty much at the top of the food chain, we have no natural predators. Realistically speaking there is very little in the world that can cause us serious harm, we are perhaps safer now than we have ever been. However, that transition has happened so swiftly in evolutionary terms, that some parts of our deepest mind haven’t necessarily yet caught up with this and for some people, some level in their deep unconscious, anything which is different is to be feared. And the ancestral self-preservation mechanism of attack it before tax you kicks in.
Why is it that some people still have this reaction to anything that is different from them, and yet other people don’t? Fundamentally, when you get right down to the root of all of this, the underlying difference is confidence; those who have strong self-confidence, strong confidence in themselves and their abilities, realise that a deep level that things which are different from them are not a threat. They understand that things which are different from them are not going to kill them, not going to tackle hurt them, not going to change them in any way; and because those present no risk or threat, confident person is much more comfortable with these differences.
In perhaps the vast majority of cases, both individually and culturally, racism, homophobia, sexism, xenophobia and more are ultimately caused by a deep seated fear born out of a lack of strong self-confidence in one’s identity. This lack of confidence leads to fear and triggers are ancient ancestral survival mechanisms. When we have strong self-confidence, we know that people of different faiths or colours or genders or sexualities or beliefs or heights or a colour is, supporters of different football teams, fans of different styles of music, none of these represent a threat to us. They don’t threaten our own faith foreskin nor gender or sexuality or belief for height or musical tastes. And as they don’t pose a threat to us, we feel much more comfortable interacting with them; we can even become friends!
This is the biggest positive difference that bringing confidence to people can make in the world. By helping more and more people to have confidence in themselves and their abilities so we help people to meet more confident when they interact with other people, regardless of differences; in fact, confident people are able to look past the differences and recognise that it is very differences which can enable us as a group to become even stronger. By recognising that we all have different strengths and different contributions to make, we can work together to ultimately make the world a better place for you and for me and, indeed, for the entire human race.
And that, when you put it that way, is a pretty significant benefit to society as a whole. Perhaps there is something in this confidence suff after all!