A Short Thought on Healthy Confidence

There’s this mindset that you should be supremely confident in your words, all the time, and command respect everywhere you go because — within this mindset — your social respect is your total value. Now, I think this is a horrible mindset — and I think we’ve all seen this mindset play out in social and professional situations. In the worst situations it can be toxic; even in the less egregious situations, it’s manipulative and produces less-than-optimal project outcomes.

Having a base level of confidence is healthy and good. But beyond this base level, I try to keep my confidence very context-specific. French cuisine? Low confidence, will ask lots of questions in an honest and curious way. Event photography? Mid-high confidence. The ability to memorize a political rap and make it sound conversational and do this a hundred times a day? The type of confidence where I don’t need to prove anything.

Here’s the formula: my confidence is an honest assessment of the average of where I’m at right now and where I’ll realistically be in the short-term, balanced with how others who are respected in the respective field currently see me. Not only does this mindset keep me in check, but it means that those who are better than me in the respective field will give me appropriate assignments that I will struggle with but ultimately excel at — set at the perfect levels of complexity and difficulty to help me grow. Being honest and humble is the best way to actually get better — faking your way to the top doesn’t.

Look, it’s no secret that there are lots of “not fun” politics within the labor movement — a small minority of people who use arrogance and ego to step on others’ projects. As I expand my horizons, honestly, I’m becoming less frustrated with the unions: I’m realizing this is not a union problem — well, in certain ways it is when you get to the specifics — but it’s more broadly a human problem. And I’m beginning to notice that the top filmmakers who everyone wants to work with — these filmmakers do so without ego, they constantly bring others up, they spread the wealth, etc. The people who are arrogant, on the other hand — I certainly don’t want to work with them. And although those who are arrogant *perceive* that they need faux-confidence to climb upwards, eventually people see right through that, and the faux-confidence ends up hurting them long-term.

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