On confidence as a gift

Lately I’ve been thinking about the idea that confidence in yourself is a gift that you give to other people. If you have something to share — an idea or an insight that could resonate with other people — but you either don’t have the confidence to put it out into the world, or your delivery lacks strength, the idea will have a hard time landing.

I know I’ve listened to speakers who were uncomfortable onstage and it tends to make everyone else uncomfortable too. We want you to be confident so that we can relax.

Aaron and I recently watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor about Fred Rogers and his wonderful work and television show. Aside from loving the movie and feeling just as comforted by the onscreen presence of Mr. Rogers as I did as a little girl, I was really inspired by the nature of his confidence.

The film shows footage of his testimony to Congress in support of federal funding for public television. By the time it was Rogers’ turn to speak, Senator Pastore, who was leading the hearing, was thus far unconvinced and unimpressed by those who had testified, and pretty surly about it.

Mr. Rogers spoke plainly and gently as he explained his work. But it was also clear that he believed in himself and he conveyed complete conviction in the power and importance of his work. Confidence. At the end of his testimony, Senator Pastore responded simply “I think it’s wonderful.” You could almost see his inner child beaming back at Mr. Rogers.

It’s easy to imagine that confidence should look or feel a prescribed way, perhaps a forceful or especially masculine way. And if you don’t represent that version, it’s easy to assume that you can’t or don’t project confidence. It’s good for me to remember Mr. Rogers, in all his gentle peacefulness, as a beacon of confidence.