Monday, 28 August 2017

The age of doubt

I think one thing that tends to happen as you age is a rise in self-doubt and a drop in self-confidence. The brash way I threw myself into things as a youngster has now given way to a more cautious approach to life.

When I was young, because I knew so little of the complexities of life, because I had so little work experience, I could dive into things with great confidence, quite sure of my skills and my ability to deal with anything that came along.

As I got older, as I discovered how tangled and complicated life actually was, as I discovered the subtle and detailed requirements of the average job, I realised I wasn't nearly as clever and competent as I had assumed. I had an awful lot to learn and there was always something awaiting me I hadn't bargained for.

So I started to doubt myself. Not necessarily in a destructive way - habitually undermining my own abilities.  But simply in the sense that I lost my earlier cockiness and arrogance and realised that whatever I was doing was more complex than I thought, maybe a bit beyond me, and I was probably going to make mistakes and annoy a few people in the process.

So now I'm a lot more careful about what I do and how I do it, and not overestimating my skills and knowledge. I may doubt what I'm doing, and I expect to ask other people's advice - frequently. I don't charge on like a bull in a china shop, wondering why crockery's smashing and why everyone looks horrified.

Every day I become more aware of how little I know and what vast expanses of knowledge I'm still ignorant of. And I become a little more humble, a little more willing-to-learn, a little less self-righteous and opinionated.

What do you know that I don't know? I'm all ears.

24 comments:

CheerfulMonk said...

I was never that brash and self-confident when I was younger. I was always (well, since I was 10 years old) aware of how big the universe was and how little I knew. Now I think we're all a bunch of nuts and it's silly to take ourselves too seriously.

Nick said...

Jean: The trouble is that a lot of the nutjobs take themselves VERY seriously and expect the rest of us to do the same. The American alt-right/fascists for example. They're the ones who should be chilling a little!

When I was 10, I wasn't aware of very much except my immediate family and my school. The rest of the world mostly passed me by!

Z said...

I've got a lot more self-confidence than I had when I was young, but I've always dived right into difficult things - I hope I know my absolute limitations, though.

Dave Martin said...

The more you know, the more you realise you know nothing.

Bijoux said...

I don't relate self confidence to throwing caution to the wind or being reckless.. Two completely different things in my mind.

Ursula said...

I am a little surprised, Nick, at your take. I thought it "normal" to start with baby steps, revving up as you get older, more experienced, surer in your step. Doesn't mean the older are infallible or not to be questioned. Not at all. Yet one thing I look for in old people, older than myself, is guidance, feeling safe in the presence of their self assured solid self. Even if I don't agree with one word they utter - as long as they utter it confidently.

U

Nick said...

Z: I know a lot of people would say the opposite to me - as youngsters they were plagued by self-doubt, but as they grew older their confidence blossomed. Clearly I'm a perverse sod as usual! But you've always struck me as a very self-confident person.

Dave: Absolutely. There's so much going in the world we don't even get a glimpse of. We see only a tiny speck of existence.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I think that's what my youthful confidence was based on - a large element of recklessness. When I think back to the some of the things I casually leapt into, I'm horrified. But you're right, there's a difference between confidence and brashness.

Nick said...

Ursula: A lot of people would think the same way as you. Baby steps, then mature strides. And older people are worldly-wise. But I don't see it like that. To give you an example. When I was young, I might have thought the answer to a problem was taking someone to court. Now I realise the complexity of the law means that even if you take them to court, they might still get off on a technicality or because of their lawyer's legal tricks. Things aren't so simple.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Possibly what I had when I was young wasn't confidence so much as naive enthusiasm....

John Gray said...

I bet you dont know that a chicken can eat a mouse whole!

Nick said...

John: I certainly didn't. You see, there's a million gaps in my paltry knowledge!

tammy j said...

I think I actually think how monk thinks!
"Now I think we're all a bunch of nuts and it's silly to take ourselves too seriously."
I mean... stacked up to the universe! perspective is everything. :)

joared said...

My confidence grew as I aged just as I ventured into more and more activities. The more I learned, the more I realized how much I didn't know which has served to help keep me open to new and different ideas. Childhood experiences likely had some influence in causing me to be cautious in certain aspects of life. Positive outcomes in many areas gave me reason to feel more confidence in other choices I made. I learned much from just observing and listening to the adults I encountered -- both positive and negative lessons. That's not to say I didn't make mistakes which have been truly important life lessons.





Wisewebwoman said...

I would say I grew in confidence. When younger I was terrified, fresh out of Ireland in a foreign land. I taught myself a lot. Studied. Pretended on the job and in social situations.

I honestly feel I'm more real now. And confident.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

Tammy: Indeed, nutjobs everywhere you look. Certainly taking ourselves too seriously is a mistake. At the end of the day, we're just grains of sand on the banks of the Ganges....

Joared: There's so much to learn just by observing and listening. Those people who never listen but simply pontificate don't realise how ignorant they are.

Nick said...

www: You do strike me as real and confident. Someone who's gradually gained the courage to be yourself and voice your true beliefs, after a repressive childhood.

Rummuser said...

At my age, I hardly have a choice in the matter. Perforce I have to be careful. Not to worry, all going well, you will reach there as well.

I too am more aware of how little I know and what vast expanses of knowledge I'm still ignorant of. And I become a little more humble, a little more willing-to-learn, a little less self-righteous and opinionated.

Nick said...

Ramana: Obviously great minds think alike! Sometimes I feel as ignorant as a ten-year-old boy. The world is moving too fast!

helen devries said...

When younger, I took every precaution in my work...aware of all that I did not know.
Retired, I am polite, but I know what I know and don`t waste my time on being polite to people whose views are based in unalterable ignorance.

Which is not the same thing as a lack of education.
Some of the thickest people I know have passed through universities.

Nick said...

Helen: I also take pains to avoid people I know will just engage me in vacuous conversations. Why be polite and pretend you're fascinated when you couldn't care less?

Too true about uni-educated thickos.

Jenny Woolf said...

I know what you mean, and yet sometimes it works just as well to simply throw yourself into something. Usually whatever goes wrong is unexpected, I find. Which is kind of annoying :)

Hattie said...

For me, as an American, not taking myself too seriously is very important. We have such license to make utter asses of ourselves! Look at our President! I don't worry about confidence. I worry about being insufficiently modest.

Nick said...

Jenny: I do sometimes throw myself into things, but only when there seems to be no alternative.

Hattie: You worry about being insufficiently modest? Interesting. I think I'm a naturally modest person, I feel most uncomfortable if I'm getting too much attention.