One thing I have been thinking a lot about lately is the idea of self-confidence. In order to become good at something, one must start by being bad at it and then gradually, through repeated attempts at it, become better and better. However, people are frequently stumped right at the beginning, by the realization, or even assumption, that they are bad at it. This is perhaps due to flawed thinking which believes all talented people to be gifted. There is a very strong assumption among people that skills are innate and that the current state is fixed, whether by genes or by God, and so, in being unskilled at a particular thing, one believes oneself to be INCAPABLE of becoming skilled. In my experience, I have never had this belief and I have always approached new challenges with the hope of surmounting them which stems from so many previous instances of something starting out being very difficult and progressing to being so easy as to be called “second nature” or “intuitive”. That is why I have always felt like I am capable of learning anything, becoming anyone, and mastering any skill I choose to devote time to, as long as it is humanly possible. This is not because I believe myself to be gifted by some external agency; on the contrary, if I am gifted, it is only a gift that I gave to myself, and that everyone can likewise do.
Another issue that has been bothering me a lot lately is the aversion towards being wrong, and especially in professional contexts. This is as if to say that people ordinarily expect that they should always be right in the matter they are arguing for, or if they don’t expect it, they simply assume it. But this is a strange and even damaging psychological force if one considers it in the light of truth-seeking. Unfortunately, however, there are very few who consider issues in such a light given the predominance of ego-worship in this twisted society of ours. Knowledge and truth have become slaves to the will of the individual, disproportionately inflated in a vain effort to negate its fundamental insignificance. A very nice paradigm for understanding the human psyche is the societal model since humans are very much hard-wired for social interaction. Using this model, we can postulate that humans derive most, if not all, of their sense of self-worth from the opinions that others have of them. So, as one’s position in society develops, prompting increased respect from others, one begins to truly believe oneself to be increasing in value and worth. And thus, those at the top of the pyramids of this hierarchical structure will be very convinced that they are much more valuable and competent than anyone positioned below them. Another very useful model for understanding the human psyche is that based on fear. It seems to me that most human behaviour is explainable in terms of fear. And, perhaps the societal model is in fact reducible to the fear model since the social urge also stems from fear; the original motive for banding together and communicating and living alongside one another was the reduced danger from wilderness and nature that such a grouping brought. So, perhaps we can say that those who argue as if they are right by default, and not as if they are seeking to expand their knowledge, do so simply out of fear being undermined. This arises quite naturally from the very structure of society itself, which is arranged, as described earlier, in a hierarchical vertical manner, where every step up the ladder brings with it more and more pressure to maintain the elevated position, perhaps out of the subconscious apprehension of the fact of its being utterly fabricated by us, and thus capable of being likewise dismantled by us. In a hypothetical horizontally-structured society, where all were taken as equals in terms of value and worth and none had any reason to see themselves as higher or lower than others, the pursuit of truth would be facilitated and the ego-worshipping psyche could not exist. But in fact, it is the other way around: it is really because our psyche is structured such as it is that out society arranges itself vertically. So, until we ultimately abdicate our thrones of false self-importance and self-absorption, or in other words until our consciousness is expanded and our knowledge spurred, we are bound to continue on in this way, cursed and sickening though it unfortunately is.
And now, this ties back to the earlier discussion of self-confidence, where we concluded that people are wrong to assume themselves incapable of becoming skilful at something which they are currently unskilful at. And even this view can be shown to arise from the very same structure of our society. It is because these are people who inhabit lower levels of the vertical continuum of the world, and hence believe themselves to be worthless or valueless in comparison with their peers who reside above them. So, there are hazards in being at either end of the spectrum and this is due to the fact that the whole structure is founded on a delusion, namely that there is a separation between self and other such that the whole world then splits into this duality and all mental paradigms become bound up in such dualities. And these then manifest themselves in all the interactions of society, exemplified best by conversation, where those conversing are forced to polarise vertically based in part upon social status, which even influences the gravity of the participant’s words; if one is higher in society, one’s words will carry more weight with them, independently of the truth-value of those words and vice versa. This conversational paradigm can be seen to be the unitary interaction out of which all of society emerges, as a supervenient phenomenon, stemming fundamentally from delusion and false views. And, if one is to observe the progress of any conversation, one will note quite clearly the initial battle for dominance which determines who is the superior, whether thanks to social position or natural intelligence or charisma, and which determines how the conversation proceeds as from that point onwards the dominant person is allowed to lead the conversation and the acquiescing person follows along, having suffered a defeat which automatically lowers his/her image of self-worth. The victor in this verbal showdown experiences a complementary and proportional inflation of his/her image of self-worth depending on the scale of victory.
Sad as this state of affairs might seem, all hope is still not lost. And we who can see through this will-affirming principle of individuation need not scream in despair just yet, for there is always the potential for change. The human spirit is not fixed in the way that it happens to be here and now, and the very uncertainty we feel about the future is what gives me joy and allows me to imagine the future as a potentially better world. May all beings find true happiness in this life.