I was reading “On Confidence” where it discussed about why some people don’t have the confidence to face others who might judge or oppose them, something I am certainly still struggling with. The discussion moved, interestingly, toward some thoughts about proper parenting, which I copied below as something I’d like to keep strongly in mind:
The judgement of others have been given a free pass to enter all the rooms of our minds. There is no one manning the border between them and us: the enemies are freely in us, wandering wildly and destructively through the caverns of our inner selves, ripping items off the shelves and mocking everything we are. […]
Where does such underconfidence around enemies come from? We should, as ever, begin with parents and sketch an imaginary portrait of types who could unwittingly create such tortured mindsets. However ostensibly loving these parents might have been, they are also likely to have felt a high degree of trust in the system. If the police were investigating one of their friends, their guess would be that the authorities were correct in their suspicions. […]
When it came to their own children, these underconfidence-generating parents would have applied a similar method of judgement: the issue of how much and where to love would have been to a large extent determined externally. if the world felt the baby was adorable, they probably were (and if not, then not so much). Later, if the child won a maths prize, it was a sign not just of competence at algebra but of being, far more broadly, a love-worthy person. Conversely, if the school report described the child as an easily distracted dreamer, who looked as if he would flunk his exams, that might mean the offspirng didn’t quite deserve to exist. The lovability of the child in the eyes of the parents rose and fell in accordance with the respect, interest and approval of the world.
To be on the receiving end of such parenting is a heavy burden. We, the recipients of condiitional love, have no option but to work manically to fulfil the conditions set up by parental and worldly expectations. Success isn’t simply a pleasant prize to stumble upon when we enjoy a subject or a task interests us; it is a psychological necessity, something we must secure in order to feel we have the right to be alive. We don’t have any memories of success-independent affection and therefore constantly need to recharge our batteries from the external power source of the world’s flickering and wilful interest. Unsurprisingly, when enemies come on the horizon, we are quickly in deep trouble, for we have no ability to hold in our minds the concept that they might be wrong a we right; that our achievements are not our being, and that the failure of our actions does not presuppose failure of our entire selves. Rendered defenceless by our upbringing, we have no border post between inside and out. We are at the mercy of pretty much anyone who might decide to hate us.
Contrast this with the blessed childhood of the confident. Their parents would have maintained a vigorously sceptical relationship to the system. The world might sometimes be right, but then again, on key occasions, it could be gravely and outrageously wrong. Everyone was, in their eyes, endowed with their own capacity to judge. It is not because the crowd is jeering that the accused is guilty, or vice versa. The chief of police, the lead reviewer of the Times, or the head of the Pritzker Architecture Prize might well be idiotic; these things happen. In their role as parents, the messages of the confidence-inducing were no less generous in their scepticism: ‘You are loved in and of yourself because of what you are, not what you do.
You aren’t always admirable or even likeable, but you are always deserving of affection and charity of interpretation. It doesn’t matter to me if you end up the president or the street cleaner. You will always be something more important: my child. If they don’t have the wisdom to be kind, fuck them!’. Without necessarily intending this, the parents set up a soothing voice that still plays on a loop in the recesses of the mind, especially at moments of greatest challenge. It is the voice of love.