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Cyberspace Etiquette and the Anonymous Self September 27, 2007

Posted by olywood in society.
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4 comments

The worst part of being a writer (alright, self-aggrandising blogger) is dealing with artists and musicians.
And I don’t mean to imply that artists and musicians make difficult human beings, well a great deal of them do but that’s moving slightly past the point.
I’m talking about those moments where some digital-media- terrorist or audio visual insurgent manages to condense all your toiled theorising and doubled over hypotheses into one moment-defining strum of a guitar. Or worse yet; a perfectly executed illustration which manages to encapsulate as much as it evokes – “That says it all, that.”
And when it does, the writer has to shut up because everything has literally already been said.

So in place of what would have been today’s over wrought article on the break down of communication in cyberspace (which you wouldn’t have enjoyed anyway) here’s a picture i came across by a bloke called John Gabriel who’s going to do all the talking for me…

Confidence Explained: Bravado in Binary September 27, 2007

Posted by olywood in psychology.
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4 comments

It’s the stuff that girls like in buckets, it’s the surreptitious appeal in that new jacket you just bought, it’s what talent show contestants never seem to leave home without (save for any actual talent of course).

Confidence’s never really gone out of fashion, maintaining a steady position somewhere between intelligence and beauty in nature’s global marketplace.
No one seems to know much about it either – how it works, or even why it eludes some of us yet can’t keep it’s hands off those lucky few.
Beyond the one-way determinist arguments of genetics and environment, I’ll try and address the former (and conveniently far easier) question of ‘how’.

For the purpose of this article I’m going to take confidence as a quality of behaviour and divvy it up into two separate camps.
One I’m going to call ‘faith-based confidence’ and the other I’m going to call ‘experience-based confidence’.
For brevity’s sake, I’m going to refer to people who have faith-based confidence as ‘fbs’ and those that have experience-based confidence ‘ebs’.

Of Bluff and Bluster

Confidence is the full-beam projection of self, not necessarily the ‘truest’ reflection of self or even the most deceitful. But the self in full-engagement with, and in command of its audience.
When self-doubt is extracted from the mind, confidence can be romantically thought of as the hide-tide scum left around the edges of the human psyche.

Where the confident tend to diverge (hence my binary categorisation) is in the way in which they acquire and distribute their sense of self.
The fbs (as their name suggests) are those beings that walk among us who seem to radiate natural confidence, confidence itself is an article of faith for the fbs.
Their ever-present conviction projects an unshifting belief in their ability to preform, remain calm, and cope regardless of the situation or circumstance – they have ‘faith based confidence’.

The ebs on the other hand base their self-assurity on experience.
Their confidence isn’t so much a natural ‘state of mind’ as with the fbs. Rather it’s an intellectual position held about their own abilities and successes which their personality then submits in to others as a carefully regulated mixture of doubt & conviction – they have ‘experience based confidence’.

To those with eb confidence of course, the fbs are one of nature’s most strange and puzzling enigmas.
If you have eb confidence, you’ll know by the way because you will at some point or another have experienced that rising sense of confusion and disbelief upon encountering a child or teenager with more apparent confidence than yourself.

For an eb this just doesn’t make sense – the child hasn’t had to endure, hasn’t had to pass those essential rites of passages necessary to claim true personhood, probably haven’t even been in a fight or seen any serious action (not that you have either but that’s besides the point).
If experience dictates confidence then by rights it shouldn’t be physically possible for a child to have more confidence than that of an (eb) adult.

However fbs don’t work like that, confidence for them isnt something attained by continually subjecting themselves to an endless stream of situations which promise to either validate or invalidate their sense of worth and human capabilities.
Whether you or I like it or not, the fb simply doesn’t need social permission to feel good about themselves.

And as long as the fb never questions the proportionality of their own confidence, they can remain firmly confident even in situations in which they realistically, have no real reason to assume a sense of self-assurity at all.
This of course is both a good and bad thing – never addressing your own capabilities can output a startling level of self-belief which can propel you to some seriously lofty positions of power and authority that most only get to dream of.
Fbs are able to pull off these feats of superhuman inner-conviction simply because they never base their actions upon empirical evidence.
And in the lack of any evidence either way they seem to have a pretty consistent habit of defaulting to the assumption that they will be ‘absolutely fine’ what ever the situation.
(You can read that as either profound optimism or total lunacy at your own discretion.)

As with any sort of faith-based lifestyle, delusion has to at the very least be ear-marked as a potential suspect in belief ‘s fearless escapades.
Delusion in fact is hinted at quite strongly in the behaviour of the fb. In practice this can equate to the fb vastly over-estimating their own abilities in either physically dangerous or socially critical situations.
In the very worst case scenario; where the fb partakes in sports or athletic pursuits far beyond their actual abilities, this can lead to lifelong physical injury or even death.

Even when not directly threatening their physical livelihood the fb can seriously threaten their mental livelihood – risking exclusion and derision by thrusting themselves into highly skilled social situations where braggadocio and a abit of can-do-swagger just won’t cut it alone.

The faith-based confidence of the ‘fbs’ isn’t always completely without foundation however.
A lot of fbs are of course highly dynamic, capable and intelligent people.
Although the central point to remember is that the fb doest derive their confidence from these qualities themselves, they aren’t the direct source of their huff and bluff.

Unlike the eb the fb is confident in spite of their talents, not because of them – evidenced by the fact that fbs make just as confident (and incapable) small children as they do fully grown (and largely capable) adults.

In comparison confidence for the ebs is a far less guttural affair, for the eb confidence presents an eternal measurement problem that never seems to resolve itself.
The eb methodically measures confidence against experience after experience in every social situation imaginable, with the appropriate degree of confidence then tailored to the situation accordingly.

The eb just can never be completely sure what degree of situational experience is required for them to finally permit themselves to feel (and behave) confident within the situation they find themselves in.
Even when talking about a subject which he or she is practically an expert on – lets say late 80s Detroit house.
An eb will still feel wary speaking freely on the subject with another individual who also has a similar degree of knowledge about their pet topic.
This rule still holds even when it’s obviously apparent that the other person doesn’t have anywhere close to his or her own expertise in the given subject, the eb will still be prone to feelings of being a ‘fraud’ or of being ‘found out’.
To cover themselves the eb will usually only discuss a topic with unguarded self-confidence once they’ve sufficiently measured the breadth of their knowledge against that of those in their company; and subsequently assessed the likelihood of them being publicly contradicted as quite minimal.

This year’s confidence projections are…

If the fb’s danger is in getting themselves into situations they’re not really prepared for. The eb is in danger of over-preparation by constantly re-repeating the same well worn experiences over and over again to the point of psychic over-saturation.

The eb has to attain complete and total familiarity with a subject or situation for them to even begin to feel they have the ‘right’ to assume a confident disposition.
This could mean that as a public speaker, an eb would have to take part in dozens of public speeches in order to judge crowd response and their own perceived abilities against fellow public speakers.
Only upon satisfying their own standards would the eb then allow the full extent of their confidence to take the stage.

This could of course be seen as simple insecurity on the eb’s part, but on the other hand ebs could just have a peculiar sense of honesty when it comes to their self-presentation.

By direct contrast this can make the fb appear seemingly dishonest in their own form of self-presentation.
Although we shouldn’t be overly hard on the fbs; they don’t in practice have any sort of methodology to regulate their own confidence anyway.
Their confidence isn’t so much a conscious statement of their abilities as with the ebs, it’s a spontaneous transmission of their inner faith in who they are and what they can do.
It’s not measured or cross-referenced to anything, the only thing it communicates is their own self-belief, and it does this with 100% accuracy.
Both the eb and the fb are in fact as true to their methods and non-methods as each other.

As i said when I started out, the ‘how’ isn’t really that difficult, the ‘why’ however certainly is far more tricky a prospect-throwing up the old nature/nurture debate and bringing us back into the close-quarters arena of determinism and free-will again.

Although the ‘how’ still leaves room alot more room for discussion in its own right i think.
Are people who are shy simply located at the extreme end of the eb spectrum?
Are people who are arrogant just as likely to be extreme-end fbs?
Do my definitions count for anything outside my own head?

Well if you made it this far (and well done btw if you did, no really there’s a special badge for you on it’s way) then leave me a comment and let me know. = )