One of the most over-rated qualities in our society is confidence. Articles about it are everywhere and there is no shortage of experts espousing one’s need to be (or appear) confident in themselves and their abilities in order to be successful.
All one has to do, however, is look at the whole notion of confidence and success in quiet silence and it will come crumbling down like the house of cards it is.
The delusion of confidence is related to the delusion of causation as well as the illusion of free will. Western society especially goes to great lengths to minimize the appearance of anything random or out-of-the-ordinary that would make people feel that the world is not under control.
This stems from a desperate need to reduce anxiety about a world that seems to be progressing on its own without us having much say in it. Instead of accepting the inherent randomness, beauty and joy of this amazing universe that we have been given the gift of consciousness to appreciate, some of us look at it as if it’s trying to kill us or hurt us and do everything possible to enforce our idea of order and consistency on it.
This attempt will always fail for we ourselves have arisen out of this seeming randomness and chaos. It as akin to a few bubbles in an eddy of water trying to change the course of a river. A foolish and pointless endeavor, to say the least!
A thing is as it is, because the universe is as it is.
– Nisargadatta Maharaj, I am That
Imagine a few bubbles in an eddy attempting to control the fate of the river, or even their own fate.
Some of them, after repeated failure, give in to despair. A few unfortunate ones in this group are then medicated so they can avoid experiencing their suffering fully.
Others, having met with repeated success, feel grateful and share what they have with others.
Still others, having met with tremendous success, come to conclude that all success is due to them and their special powers. The not-so-successful ones are convinced that the successful ones have something they don’t, something they can have too, if only they could be like this or like that. The successful ones are rewarded for their efforts (or so it seems).
What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
Your position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
You will always keep your balance.
Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
The idea then arises: perhaps if I act successful, as if I know what I am doing, the world will reward me too! The trick seems to work. The idea of ‘appearing confident’ takes root. Soon there emerge individuals that have this delusion so deeply embedded in them that they actually feel confident without even trying and have no idea how anyone can not feel confident. The not-so-successful ones watch in wonder, and sometimes with jealousy, as the naturally confident ones seem to have everything, while the ones that struggle never seem to achieve their dreams.
All of this too, is part of the harmonious beauty of the universe, but it is sad to witness nonetheless.
The truth is that the feeling of confidence is little more than a baseless projection of one’s own misguided sense of abilities onto oneself. When one dives deep into one’s own consciousness and separates it from everything else that obscures, one finds that everything just happens with us being simply observers (even this is not the way I see it but this description will have to do for now). A step is then taken to associate all that happens thanks to the immense power of the universe with oneself, as if an individual somehow disconnected from the rest of the universe is experiencing thoughts and feelings, is performing actions and causing results. This entity or whatever it is that decides to assume ownership with what is and separate itself from the rest is the ego.
It starts to think. “I. I am here. I am doing this and that. I am experiencing this and that. I own these things. I am separate from them. They want what I own. I must protect it or I will lose it and there will be less for me. I will change the world so I will always have enough. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? I should take some more and keep it hidden.” And so on and so forth. This is the so-called fruit of knowledge, the fall from grace, the maya.
Those who wish to take the world and control it
I see that they cannot succeed
The world is a sacred instrument
One cannot control it
The one who controls it will fail
The one who grasps it will lose
Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
Go deep into the source of the “I”, go beyond it and realize there is no “I”. Everything just happens as it does and what you think you “do” or “not do” has no bearing on it. That, what you think you “are” is a part of everything and as such whatever success you attribute to yourself really belongs to the whole universe at once.
There is no such thing as confidence, no basis for it, no place for it’s existence in the truth. Even as the “I”, you cannot feel confident because things are being done as they are being done. There is no need to ask, to take, to grab, to deny, to assume credit, to assign blame, to fault. There is no basis for pride or shame, fame or infamy, wealth or poverty. None of these things exist. They are made up and kept alive by the very process of taking them to be real. The value of something exists only when you recognize it.
If you are attuned to absorbing religious or spiritual matters, this will probably make sense to you. If you are scientifically-minded, think about it this way: how did just a bunch of energy vibrating in the universe coalesce into something else and eventually evolve into something like us? Who are you really and how are you able, fundamentally, to take some energy and interpret it as a chair, an apple, a thought, a feeling? And considering that fundamentally we are all just a point of energy too, how did one point of energy interpret another point of energy as matter and then go on to “do” all these things? If that isn’t a beautiful mystery, I don’t know what is. Go down this road and soon you might find yourself speechless, perhaps on a street corner or at the Grand Canyon, looking around in wonder, seeing things anew and asking yourself “Who am I? What is all this?”
At that point all your confidence will vanish, all your certainties will melt away like the fog in the sun. Suddenly you will realize you actually know nothing. Then your journey can begin.
Some part of our being knows this is where we came from.
We long to return.
And we can.
Because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star-stuff.
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
Carl Sagan, Cosmos