It’s a poorly understood fact that there are two kinds of self-confidence. It’s important to distinguish them.
Like pleasure and pain, praise and blame, and fame and obscurity, gaining and losing are worldly preoccupations. Most people spend most of their waking lives trying to attract or avoid one or more of these eight concerns.
This kind finds its home in the domain of gaining and losing. It is able to enhance the drive to satisfy and reinforce the ego’s desire either to gain what it values or to avoid losing what it values, which is the chief way that ordinary people try to achieve happiness.
We all understand that, for example, an athlete who has self-confidence is maximizing her chances of winning, a pickup artist who has it is maximizing his chances of success, or a businessman who has it is improving his chances of doing better at the negotiating table.
Some people are more beautiful or physically stronger or intellectually brighter or more knowledgeable or more famous than others. Those who have what it takes to succeed in certain kinds of situations are more likely to feel good about themselves and to exude confidence that others notice. They are likely to think of themselves as better prepared than their opponents and, so, to believe that others will be unable to match or defeat them. Furthermore, success can breed more success, which strengthens their feeling of self-worth.
Please notice that having the kinds of qualities that lead to ordinary self-confidence is a temporary condition. Whatever you have, you can also lose. An athlete, for example, can get injured or old. There are myriad reasons why winning streaks end and people lose their touch. Nothing abides.
Ordinary self-confidence is based on identification with the ego. Everyone does that, which is why everyone is dysfunctional!
There is no separate, abiding ego. Since the ego (self, ego/I) is a conceptual phantom, there is no irremediable bifurcation between it and the other (everything else).
The unnecessary fragmentation of reality into self and other means that the ego is constantly threatened by reality and, so, requires incessant maintenance. Because we sense that it is vulnerable, we do everything possible to protect and reinforce it. In fact, it is a recurrent delusion that is as insatiable as it is fictitious.
Unlike its ordinary counterpart that is grounded in unreality, extraordinary (genuine, real) self-confidence is grounded in reality.
It is not based on the presence of ego. It is based on the absence of ego.
It is not artificial. It is natural.
It is not unstable. It is stable.
It does not bring a sense of servitude. It brings a sense of freedom.
It does not depend in any way on what others think. It depends only on reality.
It does not seek to change what-is, which makes the ordinary kind incessantly desirous. It accepts what-is, which makes extraordinary kind essentially peaceful.
It is not closed to changing circumstances it considers threatening. It is open to whatever unfolds.
It is not attached. It is detached.
As Matthieu Ricard writes: this detachment is not icy or aloof or dry or indifferent. “Rather it is a daring and kind-hearted availability that reaches out to all beings.”
Only sages exhibit this kind. Why? It is only sages whose lives are grounded in what-is.
The good news is that we can all become sages by letting go of our attachment to ego. Sages stop identifying with ego. It is not easy, but it is simple.