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Does Confidence = Toxic? (Guest Post)

Perhaps it’s the influence of social media or a misunderstanding on my part, but it seems that confidence has become a frequently maligned character trait.  While certain character traits are intended to be non-threatening, assertiveness, for example, a sense of confidence seems to be viewed with disdain by many. At some point, a healthy sense of confidence became synonymous with arrogance. However, I believe that hiding your gifts under a bucket because they make others uncomfortable is neither fair nor healthy. When did confidence become a bad word?

Confidence is frequently viewed as threatening and aggressive, and sometimes it can be. I think we often assume someone may use their confidence against us as if it can be weaponized. It is common to feel threatened by someone who does a given activity better than you, but this does not mean you are being targeted. I think a large number of people feel threatened by a strong sense of confidence due to their personal insecurities.  They dislike in others what they feel is a deficit within themselves. Rather than saying “I wish I had that” or even better “teach me how to do that” we fall back on jealousy because we do not want to face our perceived short-comings.

Person in a gas mask with smoke swirling around and the words “Confidence = Toxic?” to the left.
Why do we treat confidence as if it is toxic?

Has anyone ever felt jealous of someone due to their abilities or accomplishments?  All of us have at one point or another.  As I became a more mature adult, however, I realized if I felt this way towards someone it was because I had a problem, not them.  I came to the conclusion many years ago if I was experiencing something as toxic as jealousy it meant I was feeling insecure about me. The good news is I am the only person I have total control over, so I can address my jealousy so it no longer influences me. I do not have control over anyone else so why should I feel negatively about their abilities? That doesn’t make sense to me anymore.  Have I experienced this from others? Absolutely. It usually left me scratching my head.  

Confidence resulting in overbearing arrogance and bullying is not true confidence, rather it is aggression.  My quick and dirty definition of aggression is getting your needs met by taking from the needs of someone else.  Our culture of winners and losers created this.  A key concept here is that other people do not have to lose in order for us to win.

I am not speaking about athletic contests which are deliberately set up with a winner and “not winner” due to an agreed-upon set of rules. I am speaking of day to day life where we all have to navigate a series of challenges, some expected, some not. As a coach, when I help someone with their level of confidence, I have helped them develop a life skill that can help them across all domains. I am not helping my clients with this so they can step on others. I am helping my clients so they can develop themselves and thrive.

 (General photo of person in business suit with boxing gloves on with blue bar caption that reads "Aggression: Taking from others to fulfill your own needs & desires")
Aggression: Taking from others to fulfill your own needs & desires.

Confidence does not have to be arrogant or self-aggrandizing.  A given individual may wield it in that manner, but I do not think that is its purpose.  True confidence and assertiveness should work together like a hand in a glove.  It is almost as if our culture views confidence as something in short supply, often resulting in judgment and criticism, such as “who does he/she think he/she is?”, or “You must think you’re so great.”  Taken to its most extreme, this may look like “nothing makes me angrier than someone who feels good about themselves.” Absurd, no? Confidence does not have to equal toxicity unless you apply it through that filter.  There is nothing inherently wrong with genuinely knowing you are good at something, particularly if it is something that required time and dedication to accomplish. A famous entertainer from the 1980s once said “If you try to stick your head above the crowd, someone will throw a rock at it.” Are we so connected to our perceived limitations that self-betterment is viewed as threatening?

Many people mistakenly view confidence as something that makes them better than others.  Again, this is not what confidence is about.  If my sense of self is sufficient and I feel I can learn what I need to learn to be competent or even excel at a chosen task… What is wrong with that? We are attached to our insecurities to such a degree that the accomplishments of others are frequently viewed as threatening. Is success a limited commodity only a precious few can attain? Is it only available while supplies last? The implication is we must get up early, stand in line, and hope we get some before it runs out. There is not a national scarcity of confidence and there is plenty for everyone. 

In the U.S. there seems to be a cultural penalty for having confidence or even a healthy self-image.  We experience too many mixed messages implying we don’t quite measure up (advertising for example) but changing that so we do measure up can often come with a penalty. It’s almost like we just can’t win.  What is our cultural obsession with a) not feeling good about ourselves; and b) being angry with and attacking those who do? My personal observation is social media has made this worse. It’s easier to be shitty to each other now without the consequence or pressure of face to face interactions. That is likely a topic for another time…

Confidence is inherently healthy and it promotes other healthy behaviors. Learning new tasks is a common example of this.  If I can learn one thing in a given field, I can likely learn another and another until proficiency and then later excellence is achieved.  Can I learn all things expertly? No, probably not. But if I can learn things I enjoy doing and get myself paid in the process, I am likely in a good place.  We have this cultural fixation on the strong, independent, rugged individual who marches to the beat of their own drum. We also dismiss them and sometimes target them outright and attack them until they “arrive.” After they arrive, they are still subject to cruel scrutiny by their peers or the media.  Celebrity culture, anyone? This is why the aforementioned entertainer spent so much time dodging rocks.

I think if we can adopt a supportive attitude toward each other rather than viewing the accomplishments of others as threatening, we will be more likely to view confidence-building as a natural progression rather than an attempt to unsettle the rest of the collective. If we can view this as a natural progression we all go through, helping each other excel becomes a natural part of life rather than needless animosity. Let’s be good to each other.

Ted Morris is an experienced therapist, having worked in community mental health systems, working primarily with men engaged with the criminal justice system. He recently launched Audacious Growth, a personal development coaching business specializing in working with men who wish to deprogram toxic beliefs and patterns to more fully integrate the Divine Masculine into their lives.

July 2020 Update

Over the past week, I’ve been working on quite a few projects that align with the work I really want to do in the world. From launching a Patreon to recording a Divine Feminine Roundtable, my heart’s calling is taking off in ways I wouldn’t have dared imagine even a year ago, much less 9 years ago when I first started this blog.

Originally, it was a way to transfer my energy away from LiveJournal, to continue writing and share with anyone who might be listening. It was a way to reclaim myself after being outed for using my voice. This journey has been long and difficult, traumatic, and even heartbreaking at times. But it has also given a safe space to stretch out my voice and connect with people in ways that I hope help them feel less alone. It’s given me an opportunity to cultivate a vision and speak deeper truths.

But it’s also noticeable that I don’t post often. Perfectionism often gets in my way, but so has this burgeoning new project of me. So, I’m making a few changes and updates that hopefully will give us additional ways to engage with one another.

Ted Morris, @audaciousgrowth on Social Media platforms, is my partner of 12+ years and now will be adding his voice to mine in sharing his insight and experience here.

Welcome Warrior (aka Ted Morris/AudaciousGrowth)

Yep, the man you’ve read about on my social media posts, my polyamorous partner of 12+ years, is now going to be adding some of his own posts to this blog. Audacious Growth aka Warrior aka Ted Morris will soon be posting his own perspective on the SharpSweetBella blog.

Ted Morris is an experienced therapist, having worked in community mental health systems, working primarily with men engaged with the criminal justice system. He recently launched Audacious Growth, a personal development coaching business specializing in working with men who wish to deprogram toxic beliefs and patterns to more fully integrate the Divine Masculine into their lives.

Here is a video of Ted in action during the June #OneHeartOneEarth summit, presenting about the Shadow Masculine

I can’t think of anyone better suited for this work than Ted. Welcome, my love!

Patreon-Only: Password Protected Posts

You may have noticed that a new category has popped up called “Members Only”. I have made the decision to put some of the more NSFW (Not Safe for Work) or more personally deep or revealing posts behind password protection.

Part of the work I’ve been doing on myself includes holding better boundaries with the outside world. This includes how often the general public gets to access, use, and judge my image and words. There are some posts that are meant for the public, that align with my calling that will always stay public, but to get access to a deeper part of me, I need a way to ensure the safety of that content by ensuring that those who use and view it are more than casually invested in this aspect of me.

The launch of my Patreon campaign seemed a good time to start this process. This level of access is $12 and available to a limited number of patrons. There are other levels of support as well that get access to monthly messages, a community Discord channel and more. All of this contributes to the overall vision I am creating for my business: Rose Connections.

Become a Patron!

New Categories & Tags Coming

When I started this blog 9 years ago I didn’t have a specific vision of what I wanted it to be. loving the grey areas, the overlapping concepts, and celebrating being present in the flow of life. But I want things to be easy to find – for you and for me. So many categories will become tags and some really big tags will become categories. Most of you won’t notice, but hopefully, if you want more info about a topic, it will become easier to find.

Rose Connections YouTube Channel

Yes, you can now listen to me in addition to reading me on our various forms of media. My new venture focuses on three main tenants I view as the building blocks for creating a better world:

  • #RadicalReflections These are videos that are about self-reflection, growth, authenticity in truly knowing, and owning your own story. It’s about climbing your own mountain to see the world from a new perspective. You’ll hear me refer to this as “Silver Mountains”
  • #RelationshipReboot These are videos that discuss how to transform our connections with others. Whether it be professionally or personally, these videos reframe all of our human relationships to be more productive, understanding, and connective. You’ll hear me refer to this as “Rose Gold Flames”
  • #RadiantResilience These videos focus specifically on the leadership skills and analysis required to leverage our lived experiences into meaningful social change. Embracing vulnerability and humility, recognizing the patterns that have hurt humanity, and encouraging the authenticity of others is how we can create a better world for all.

You will also find a monthly Divine Feminine – Divine Masculine exchange with Ted (posted later today). I will also be posting Trauma-Informed Social Change videos from time to time as well – just my personal commentary on policies, ideas, and trends that highlight this new project of mine.

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