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I visited a local book club last night. Whenever I visit as an author, I get many of the same questions, but there are always a couple that surprise me. The surprising ones tend to be things like “Do you think you could ever be a shaman?” and “So just what is it about you?” Neither of which are as specific as the askers seem to think.

To the first: No, probably not going to ever be a shaman.

To the second: beats me. I’m a well-meaning lummox who reads a lot.

I did get a question last night that I’d like to address, and it’s something I’ve written about before.

Q. With the way your Tourette’s is, how can you be so confident? How can you stand to be out in public?

I’d answer this with another question, to start with.

Q. Is confidence something you have, or something people think you have?

I say it’s the latter. Picture someone trying to act more confident. I’m picturing a guy. He’s walking bigger, swaggering, etc, and he looks like a jackass. I can’t think of a way to act more confident that doesn’t look annoying. You can probably think of better examples.

I don’t know if I’m confident. I do know that I get fixated on my goals and will do whatever I have to to keep progressing, according to my definition of progress.

It might look like perseverance, or confidence, but I don’t feel like it’s something that I can take credit for. I am interested in things, I know what’s important to me, and I fill my life with my interests, obsessions, and the people I love. That’s pretty much the whole story.

However, I do have a definition of confidence that helps me think about it more productively.

What would one hundred percent confidence look like? I think it would look like the complete absence of self-consciousness. Maybe that wouldn’t always be a positive thing, but it makes sense to me.

If I wanted to be more confident–not something I focus on, for reasons outlined above–I would try to figure out how to be less self conscious. How? Good question. Some of it just comes with time. Some of it is retraining the brain. Some of it is doing difficult things until they feel easier. And each person is different.

Maybe I should just be a shaman.

And here’s the book club!






Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jack M May 23, 2014, 5:58 am

    Confidence is writing a memoir telling the truth about yourself and your life, and not flinching for one second, and that’s what you have done. It’s not something you have, it’s something you are.

  • smark May 23, 2014, 7:39 am

    Asking “How can you be so confident when you have ______?” is problematic. It’s implying that people don’t have the right to be confident if they have a trait that somehow makes others uncomfortable. It’s implying that there’s something inherently flawed and wrong with the person that sets them apart, something that they maybe should hide or be ashamed of. At least, that’s my perception.

    I’m guessing you get the question a lot, but it’s one that bothers me.

    • Josh Hanagarne May 24, 2014, 9:43 am

      I don’t see it as an issue of who has the right to be confident, but I get what you’re saying. It implies that I (or you, if you have Tourette’s) necessarily should be struggling more to be confident.

  • Pat Donovan May 23, 2014, 8:23 am

    Confident yes, you do come across as a confident person when speaking about your book. I am hopeful that many people affected by Tourette’s are encouraged by reading your book and listening to you speak. I found your memoir uplifting and memorable. I Enjoy the blog too! Thanks

  • evelyneholingue May 23, 2014, 4:44 pm

    Physical appearance triggers all kinds of assumptions.
    You are tall, so you look confident.
    But when people get to know you, they realize that, like anyone else, you are dealing with your own demons.
    I speak with an accent, which for some reason, people find cute.
    I don’t want to be cute. I have lost some of my confidence because of this.
    Like Pat and Jack, I think that your memoir is a terrific story that shows your vulnerability and your journey toward confidence.
    In this aspect, I think your story has a value for each of us because I think that we are all a mix of fragility and self-assurance.

  • cj wentworth May 29, 2014, 12:43 pm

    How do people learn to ‘curate’ books for other people? There are soooooooooo many books.

    Thank you for your response to #yesallwomen.

    Have just read The Elegance of the Hedgehog & The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Both excellent books that I would have thrown against the wall 20 or 30 years ago.