I've always thought that the self-confidence schtick was a bit of a nasty tome. Confidence begets confidence, and unconfidence begets unconfidence; it's like a viscous cycle. Me, I go through phases. Some days I feel on top of the world. Other days I feel like a failure. It's hard to get back on top, and when I do, it's because I've done something great, something I am proud of. But the pride inevitably fades out in a puff of smoke and I'm left behind, faced with the tatty remnants of myself, unassured as ever.
Thankfully I just read this Guardian interview with Haruki Murakami (also known as Haruki Mikuki, as my boyfriend Andy refers to him), shared with me by lovely reader Nina. Haruki's confidence strategy for shy, soulful types is much better than mine.
How, then, did he find the confidence to do what he wanted?
"Confidence; as a teenager? Because I knew what I loved. I loved to read; I loved to listen to music; and I love cats. Those three things. So, even though I was an only kid, I could be happy because I knew what I loved. Those three things haven't changed from my childhood. I know what I love, still, now. That's a confidence. If you don't know what you love, you are lost."
Happiness and confidence are inextricably linked. Confidence is happiness within yourself. And so, as a person who tends to over think, to daydream more than do, to be scared, to hesitate, to want things, desperately, that are out of my reach, to beat myself up for both the reaching and the not reaching far enough, it often feels as though confidence is something that just isn't for me. It's a quality, a birthright bestowed upon a chosen few, that I was just not blessed with.
But Haruki is right. Everybody can have a confidence and, ergo, be happy. Confidence is not reliant upon attractiveness or willpower or cool factor or finding a lover or even trying at all. It's not (as I have always believed it to be) a measure of how sure you are that the people in your life like you. It's just knowing what you love. And doing it. Surrounding yourself with it. Bathing in an ocean of it. And appreciating the little happinesses that pepper your days, week after week, year after year.
"I like to read books. I like to listen to music. I collect records. And cats. I don't have any cats right now. But if I'm taking a walk and I see a cat, I'm happy."
“Happiness is to have a little string onto which things will attach themselves. For example, going to my dressmaker in Judd Street, or rather thinking of a dress I could get her to make, and imagining it made—that is the string, which as if it dipped loosely into a wave of treasure brings up pearls sticking to it. And my days are likely to be strung with them.”
— Virginia Woolf, Diary, 20 April 1925