Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Confidence Dilemma

What is the difference between confidence and arrogance?

My friend Norm made a comment to me last week at the pool. He said something along the lines of "Jay, your self deprecating is annoying." This comment got me thinking. I am quite confident in my abilities without being unrealistic. I know I am a good athlete yet understand that I am a medium sized fish in a medium sized pond. For a local runner who works full time and fits running into my schedule I am exceptional, and I am getting close to beating some of those who run full time. At work I know my place. I know my practice area and try to do a good job, yet I am not lighting the OT world on fire. And with my physical appearance I am realistic. I am 'cute'. I am not handsome nor am I hot. People from an athletic background appreciate my body as a dedication to sport regardless of the ascetic outcomes. It is little and lean, just the way I like it. To be honest I love my little and lean body. I like that I can see my ribs and hip bones and that my elbow is the biggest part of my arm (biceps are heavy and I do not want to carry them for 70 miles of running a week). I understand most do not find my body attractive but I love it.

I am a good athlete, I have a solid career and I am not bad looking, but I constantly sell myself short. I need to learn to express my confidence in my abilities without sounding like an arrogant asshole. Instead of saying "yeah my race went ok", or "The workout was good" should I start saying "The race was awesome, I made those mother f***** eat my dust" or "I killed that workout and I am totally awesome!"? Maybe what I really need is to stop the 'black and white' thinking.

My difficulty with expressing my self confidence stems from my upbringing in North East Nova Scotia. I was raised in a Scottish Catholic Parish where jealously was woven into the tartan of society, a green line of envy. I was very fortunate to be raised by ambitious parents who knew the value of hard work and who were willing to make sacrifices to succeed, values that were passed to my siblings and me. In a small community we definitely stood out as the factory owners with some of the accoutrement that come with that responsibility. For example; after the death of my father my brave mother took my three siblings, my uncle and me on a trip to England and Scotland. We had to keep our trip secret until the weekend before we left to avoid the potential wrath and nay saying of the neighbors. I can imagine what they would say to my mom, taking four children (me the youngest at 8 years old) on a trip to England. Upon returning from our great adventure I was conscious not to 'brag' about my summer trip and barely mentioned it upon returning to school. Over the years, as my family grew our business, we met with jealousy and became somewhat distant from the community around us.

Through my university education I was told to express myself without prefacing my contributions with "I do not know if this is any good but here it is." Being an A student in kinesiology and my MSc. OT all of what I contributed was good, and some very good. I was told by one wise tutor that what I produced was always of an excellent quality yet my preface took away from the message of my material. I was finally being pushed to express my ability without selling myself short. I also learned in university that people believe what you tell them. Some of my classmates who were not the brightest were regarded as being bright simply because they told everyone else they were. There were athletes who I thought from a distance were excellent but in reality were far less able then me. Another lesson, people believe what you tell them.

Now I have to ensure I heed the advice of tutors and wise friends. I do not want to come across as a cocky jerk but it would be nice to garner respect for my abilities. I want people to see the confidence I have in myself without offending them with a brash ego trip. This will be a work in progress.

Today I had an abbreviated long run secondary to some foot pain. I ran a good ten miles, all on soft surfaces to protect my feet. I am thankful to have run at all as I was barely able to walk around the condo this morning. After my run and some prolonged icing my feet are feeling much better.

Now I will endure the final two weeks before the ScotiaBank Half Marathon. I have one final long tempo on Tuesday then taper. I am heartened that I am still excited to run despite the many niggles and touch of illness I have had the past few months.

Happy Training!


  1. Sometimes Jay you may want to keep how good you are to yourself. You may think your exceptional and you may be right, but this sure will put fire under the bellies of your local rivals ,if they read this. Most of your local competitors I know work or study full time. If I was running close to you, and read this comment, Id wanna bust your balls in the last 100 meters and that fire may have just stoked enough embers for me to create that spark I need. Gotta be a bit careful in what you say, otherwise I would have to catagorise you in someoene elses blog, but I think and know you are a lot nicer than that said person. Personally I thought of myself a as good runner, but not exceptional and I held down a 50 hour a week job and ran 30.06 10k! I let my results do the talking. Dont take it personally and you kindaasked for responses. Oh nad you are cute, I will give you that, you skinny bugger.

  2. Oh that was me, ddint want you to think I was hiding my name, Cheers Kevin

  3. ....i disagree kevin....i would actually argue that most runners look at mainstream in that;s just that we also realize that in the grand scheme of things we also suck when compared to the bekele's of this world and that anyone can have an off day in reality vs the sometimes fictional world of the masses (egs guys who think they could coach the canucks)...

  4. Thanks for the comments! For the record Kevin I think you are an exceptional athlete! I have oohhed and awwed over your times for a while now. For me it is relative. In the real running world I am a total small fry but compared to the real world I am a star.
    Everyone going into a race has to have a degree of self confidence to toe the line. What I am learning is to express my confidence without downplaying the work I have done or what I am capable of.

  5. Yeah, I may have been a bit harsh, the one thing I do know with you Jay is that you do give it everything, especially when flying past us on a workout when you have given us a substantial start. Keep on rocking and rolling. My calf is getting much better so in a week or two you will be able to beat the crap out of me once again. I hope you wasnt offended by my comments. Cheers kevin