Whatever Happens

Issue #14

"If someone is playing a competitive game, but they're pretty poor at the game, they can still radiate confidence. Not the confidence that they're going to win the game. They might lose. But the confidence that their self-worth, their peace, their well-being, is not dependent on winning or losing the game."

This is from a podcast I listen to sometimes called Audio Dharma. It's a completely un-fancy show. You hit play, someone clears their throat or shuffles around a little bit, and then they start talking. The speakers aren't introduced or even named. There's no whoop-dee-do, no attempt to convince listeners that the person we're about to hear is a Big Deal. I think that's why I'm able to take in the talks deeply sometimes -- because no one's trying to tell me I should. I don't claim Buddhism or any other religion, and I loathe being evangelized by any group. I rarely listen to an entire talk from start to finish. And being the iconoclast I am, I almost always want to challenge something I hear.

But often something lands in me, too. Some story or turn of phrase drops in with a little thud of truth. Like that quote above. I heard it this morning while eating an egg on toast and watching the steam rise out of my tea cup in the sunlight. Here it is again:

"If someone is playing a competitive game, but they're pretty poor at the game, they can still radiate confidence. Not the confidence that they're going to win the game. They might lose. But the confidence that their self-worth, their peace, their well-being, is not dependent on winning or losing the game."

So often, confidence is confused with certainty: "I know I can do this," "I'm sure I'll win." And also grandiosity: "I'm the best."

But this image of the not-very-skilled-game-player puts certainty in one category, confidence in another. I love this. It feels right to me. True confidence doesn't have to be certain. It's not bulletproof or boastful. It's something much more flexible, humble and resilient than that. It wears a smile, it can laugh at itself, it can try hard with no guarantee of fabulous results.

I think of myself playing ping-pong. I'm terrible at that game. But could I "radiate confidence" while I play, knowing that my "well-being is not dependent on winning or losing the game?" Maybe. What about with something nearer and dearer to my heart, like creating a new podcast? Harder. But possible maybe?

It's something to ponder. Something to aim for. I think this is the confidence I need to see me through big creative projects -- including the big creative project called life. Quoting from that talk again, it's a "confidence that we can find our way whatever happens."

Here's a link to the talk. It's called "Anxiety and Lack of Confidence."

And here's to a week of nourishing the voices inside us and around us that radiate that smiling, soft confidence which doesn't depend on winning or losing to be OK.

~ Amy

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