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Unraveling the Mystery of Confidence

June 10, 2024, in Articles > Baha'i Life, by

Some people exude a natural tendency to be self-confident. They seem to coast through life achieving success in whatever they do. They appear not to be hindered by any fear whatsoever. Other people, like me, seem to come into this life struggling with insecurity. We find it tremendously challenging to trust our abilities and are often overpowered by self-consciousness and doubt. Having spent a lifetime grappling with this unfair reality, I have come to understand that both tendencies often lead to an undesirable outcome. While the latter may lead to underdeveloped potential, the former may result in an exaggerated sense of self-worth. Interestingly, these outcomes stem from a common source: the ego. 

Throughout my life, I have avoided situations and opportunities that require demonstrating a skill in front of people. The fear engendered overwhelms my normal state of joyful calm. In those moments, I’m flooded with a tumultuous anxiety that fogs my mind, weakens my nerves, and unsettles my stomach. From as early as I can remember, I have been confronted by this fear. I am certain, however, that it has been exacerbated by an overly-competitive society that hammers into us that, to be successful, you must “believe in yourself”. This seemingly harmless saying creates a greater division between the haves and the have-nots — that is, those who have confidence and those who don’t. The egos of those who are able to muster that belief are rewarded, while those egos who find it more difficult to believe in themselves are crushed. Adib Taherzadeh elucidates:

“Human society at present exerts a pernicious influence upon the soul of man. Instead of allowing him to live a life of service and sacrifice, it is highly competitive and teaches him to pride himself on his accomplishments. From early childhood he is trained to develop his ego and to seek to exalt himself above others, in the ultimate aim of achieving self-importance, success and power. The Revelation of Baha’u’llah aims to reverse this process. The soul of man needs to be adorned with the virtues of humility and self-effacement so that it may become detached from the Kingdom of Names.”1

My faith as a Baha’i strengthened my spiritual identity but fell short of having enough trust in God to conquer my lack of confidence and resultant fear. The fear had crept like a dark shadow into many aspects of my life, frustrating my efforts to achieve what I knew I was capable of achieving, until my mental state succumbed to its pernicious darkness. That low period, however, prompted deep introspection, and led to an ‘aha’ moment. My heart intuitively discerned that confidence cannot be based on accomplishments, rewards or praise from others because when the accolades cease, one’s confidence is eroded. I realized that if confidence is so dependent on outside influences it cannot be true confidence. True confidence should be unwavering, no matter what society tells you. But then, where does true confidence come from?

To answer this question, I turned to the best source of knowledge that I knew — the Baha’i Teachings. The Teachings encouraged me to tap into the power of divine assistance to conquer my ego as the means of achieving true confidence. The process began with deeply acknowledging that my innate powers emanate from God, not myself, and to actualize those powers I needed to pray for assistance and strive with great effort to overcome myself. 

“[T]he Cause has the spiritual power to re-create us if we make the effort to let that power influence us, and the greatest help in this respect is prayer. We must supplicate Baha’u’llah to assist us to overcome the failings in our own characters, and also exert our own will-power in mastering ourselves.”2

I turned fervently to God in prayer for the first time to help me resolve this inner struggle. It felt like a seed in my heart opened itself to receiving the rejuvenating water of divine inspiration, nourishing it with deeper faith. I began to unravel the mystery of true confidence, which had been so elusive in my life. I gleaned that it is born in the heart only through recognizing that all good comes from God. I began to see this truth all around me in nature. For instance, a tree derives its ability to bear fruit only from the life-giving energies of the sun, rain and soil. Although the tree is endowed with the potential to bear fruit, it is merely an instrument that enables the fruit to appear. It would be remiss to either take credit for its fruit (arrogance) or to hinder the fruit from springing to life by depriving itself of the energizing forces of nature (lack of self-confidence).

Now, with my burgeoning understanding of this spiritual principle, I was inspired to put my newly discovered source of confidence into action. I decided to quit my job and serve at the Native American Baha’i Institute (NABI). Despite having no service experience, I quelled my fear with a constant reminder to put my full trust in God. 

“He that giveth up himself wholly to God, God shall, assuredly, be with him; and he that placeth his complete trust in God, God shall, verily, protect him from whatsoever may harm him.”3

Arising to serve at NABI was the beginning of my spiritual journey of learning how to rely more on the Creator than on myself. Upon arriving at NABI, my new approach to confidence was soon tested. I was asked to set up a booth at a pow wow and talk to strangers about the Baha’i Faith. It was the first time I didn’t avoid an opportunity to be in a space that required speaking in a public setting. Though my cohost did most of the talking, I found myself able to subdue my fear and be a source of love and kindness to everyone who visited our table. 

For this occasion of relative success, I credit Dorothy Baker. She was an example of putting reliance on God into practice. I have always been inspired by how she overcame her fear of public speaking through meticulous preparation and steadfast confidence in prayer. Through conquering her insistent self, she became a mere channel for the Holy Spirit to flow through her.

My experience at NABI provided my heart with the foundation of faith it needed to develop true confidence, free myself from depression and protect me from ever becoming arrogant. Beyond trusting in God, orienting myself toward service, rather than toward pursuing self-interests, put me on a path to subdue the ego and tap into the divine strength that builds true confidence. Confidence in God has enabled me to traverse many mountains within myself and throughout my life: moving to new countries, mingling intimately with people from diverse backgrounds, and detaching my heart from the many trappings of material society.

“…he would advise you to persevere in the task you have set your heart to accomplish, confident that through Divine assistance you will be able, sooner or later, to attain your goal.”4

Through prayer, action and reflection, I have learned that confidence in God aligns our souls with our purpose in life. We are not born to have our ego be at the centre of the universe; we are born to be God’s channels and contribute our unique share to an ever-advancing spiritual civilization. My fraught journey to confidence has been intricately woven with tests and victories and more tests. As I scale one confidence-mountain, another one appears; but with each victory my confidence grows and the next mountain doesn’t seem as insurmountable.

  1. Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 22 []
  2. Shoghi Effendi, The Importance of Prayer, Meditation and Devotional Attitude: A Compilation []
  3. Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts []
  4. Shoghi Effendi, The Power of Divine Assistance []
Posted by

Pamela Douglas

Pamela is currently living in Ireland, striving to dedicate the precious days of life to the betterment of the world. When not engaged in community-building endeavours, her favourite pastimes are baking, gardening, listening to Afrobeats, and playing cards with her family.
Pamela Douglas

Discussion 1 Comment

This entry in your blog uplifted my heart, Pamela. I remember my own service at NABI in Arizona. It was a wonderful experience and I can relate to what you felt there.

Susan Burridge

Susan Burridge (June 6, 2024 at 3:49 AM)

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