Real Confidence, and Where to Find It

Coron05 500Money you can count. Confidence you can’t.

I’m no shrink. Just poppin’ off some ideas, you know?

Confidence does not seem to be an emotion, exactly. But it is a feeling. That’s weird, eh?

Lack of confidence generates emotions. Like fear or anxiety. It is a pit that often grows into depression or despair.

My observation is that Filipinos both have great confidence and totally lack it. That’s weird, too, eh? To be fully loaded with confidence, but to totally have none.

Perhaps I should explain. To do that, I must generalize mightily, a methodology that irks critics of generalizations. But generalizations are useful to incite the formulation of theories, which advance knowledge once the facts are in to prove them.  I shall do two third of the work,  the generalizing and the postulating. I’ll leave the facts to the factophyles.

And, of course, in generalizing, I may be describing a situation that does not fit YOU. That is because we are all exceptions in some way. So don’t take anything personally. I’m not talking about you, specifically.

The confidence I speak of is found in the magnificent Filipino Ego, with a capital E. It is special, unique, a masterpiece of God’s creativity. Ego with a big E is very pronounced hereabouts. It exists in the oldest farts like Senator Enrile and in the youngest farts like my four-year old son, and everywhere in between. One thing certain about Filipinos is that they are certain. They KNOW they are right, and they intuitively grasp all the correct arguments to deploy, a skill passed along in the genes, not school textbooks, to be able to demolish any counter-argument offered up, along with the person who would have the audacity to offer up a counter-argument. Filipinos are 100 percenters, “my way or the highway”, because they KNOW they are right. Thus, elections are murderous events.

That is confidence attached to Ego.

Now the total lack of confidence is something you’ll never get a Filipino to testify to. For one reason, introspection is outlawed in the rules of battle. Anyone crazy enough to go to a psychiatrist is crazy, by definition. So Filipinos don’t do psychotherapy or even self-improvement. Totally confident people don’t need no self-improvement.

Ah, but you see, therein lies the rub.

Only a person totally LACKING in confidence would be a 100 percenter. Only a person unsure of himself would be too frightened to listen and HEAR opposing arguments. Would be too weak of esteem to grant another person credit for being right, when he himself is proven wrong. Would be afraid to visit a shrink when the emotions pile up.

What you get on the street or in the blog thread is the totally confident Filipino, where confidence is attached to Ego. But sneaking around in the background is fear, rather like the closet gay feels, I suspect. “What if they find out that I am unsure of myself? What if Filipinos aren’t as good as modern nations. If we are lunatic enough to put Imelda Marcos in Congress. SOMETHING must be wrong with Filipinos.”

Well, that’s where we get to the processes by which confidence and low self-esteem play out. These are in the mechanisms of envy, ridicule and flaunt. These are the tools of war, the ones that assure Ego rises and low self-esteem is guaranteed.

  • Envy is the great leveler. It’s a feeling that is articulated often in the words “I hate you”. If anyone should seek to rise above the crowd, that person gets dragged back down. Not encouraged, not cheered on. Dragged back down. Those who rise to riches and success have many, many enemies. Guaranteed. It is not nice to watch someone around here succeed.
  • The method by which envy is generally applied is called ridicule. It is an armament kids pick up in elementary school as they direct their barbs at anyone who tries to be good or has aspiration or does anything at all to rise above the crowd. Ridicule is rather like a smart bomb, going directly to the place where confidence and self-esteem teeter.
  • The opposite of ridicule is called flaunt. Blasting recklessly down the national highway in a big black SUV is a superb example of the Filipino flaunt par excellence. Or public officials riding in an ambulance, siren flashing, to avoid the place where peons jam, the roads. Or people standing pompously at the ATM, casually pushing buttons, whilst old ladies and women with babies melt in the sun behind them.

It is egg and chicken, this Ego and weak esteem. You have to have Ego to withstand the blasts of envy, ridicule and flaunt. You have to second guess yourself, and have low self-esteem, when everyone around you is busy exercising the tools of social war, envy, ridicule and flaunt.

So there it is, huge Ego and low self-esteem, bound together as one.

Where, then, is confidence? REAL confidence. Exercising the Ego is a kind of false confidence, a bluster for show. One part ridicule and one part flaunt.

REAL confidence is something altogether different.

REAL confidence is devoid of flaunt, immune to ridicule, and does not recognize envy as a legitimate emotion. How to you find it when everyone else seems bound by these artifices of Ego and low self-esteem?

Well, bold reader, the fact that you have the courage to ask that question shows that you already have, or are ready to acquire, REAL confidence. Because you know there is a difference between confidence and Ego.

Real confidence requires honest introspection and the knowledge that comes with it.

Real confidence is more a process of letting go than grabbing onto. It is more a process of satisfaction than ambition, but it can empower ambition.

It is a recognition that our success is defined only by ourselves. As much as others may opine or criticize or push, confidence means we can listen, but choose whether or not to obey. Confidence means letting go of the wills and ways of others. For others are sure to try to exert their will through the games people play.

There is a personal side to confidence. And there is a patriotic side, how one views one’s country.

For myself, I’d like to see Filipinos gather up more confidence in their nation. I’d like to see them lose the envy of America, and the need to flaunt Pacquiao, and the relentless ridicule of people who see things differently.

Real confidence is simple.

It is the ability to be . . . and let it be.

34 Responses to “Real Confidence, and Where to Find It”
  1. The Mouse says:

    “Filipinos are 100 percenters, “my way or the highway”, because they KNOW they are right. Thus, elections are murderous events.”

    Now I know why the song My Way is very deadly in the Philippines 😀

  2. edgar lores says:

    1. In some past piece, you used the word ‘braggadocio’ which I liked. You know how Italians speak through gestures? This word is very Italian to me.

    1.1. There’s the root word ‘brag’ followed by ‘gad’, which as a verb means ‘wander aimlessly in search of pleasure’. And, I take it, the ending of ‘ocio’ is a Spanish word meaning ‘leisure’ or ‘idleness’. ‘Ocios’ are leisure pursuits.

    1.2. So ‘gad-ocio’ is a tautology. It’s remarkable how ‘braggadocio’ describes the Filipino character of empty confidence and his way of life of aimless pursuit of pleasure.

    2. I’m not criticising the pursuit of happiness as the goal life. This is our primary goal. What I am criticizing is the shallow pursuit of happiness without care. Care for beauty, care for truth and care for others.

    3. If one scans the commentary in news and social media, one will note that the majority of comments are condemnations. More, these negative comments garner the most upvotes especially those that are expressed with some color.

    3.1. Praiseful comments will earn a modicum of support, as well as those that offer solutions.

    3.2. Insightful comments often suffer from a scintilla of support. However it is most rewarding at times to receive thoughtful responses. Sometimes and somewhere you strike a note that resonates.

    4. By coincidence today, the PDI columnist CDQ wrote about the Filipino’s requirement for external validation. On introspection, the commenter @cato_the_younger wrote in part: “…one’s self worth should never be veiled by a lack of self-awareness.”.

    4.1. This was my response in part: “How true. To state it positively, one’s self worth can only be weighed by self-awareness. The criticism, or praise, of others should only increase that self-awareness. If the criticism is true, one can change. If false, what does it matter?

    “Accordingly, if the praise is false, one can change to make it true. But if true, what does it matter?”

    • The Mouse says:

      I think #4 is not exclusive to Filipinos but seemingly common among Asians.

    • Joe America says:

      “What I am criticizing is the shallow pursuit of happiness without care. Care for beauty, care for truth and care for others.” Ah, you could have been a carpenter, and maybe are, with hammers hitting nails so precisely. To disregard laws is to disregard others, I would append, and therein lies the truth of the matter . . .

    • edgar lores says:

      I have second thoughts on condemnation — brought about my condemnation of condemnatory comments.

      1. Condemnation is useful in that it highlights error. Without doubt, the chorus of condemnation in media is having an effect on the behavior of people in public office and, hopefully, on the commenters themselves.

      1.1. Whether the effect on public servants is corrective or for them to be more secretive in acquiring and secreting ill-gotten gains remains to be seen.

      2. But condemnation without self-awareness, which is often the case, is hypocritical. This is the condemnation practiced by politicians and priests.

      2.1. When one condemns, one should look through a magnifying glass as well as at a reflecting glass.

  3. JosephIvo says:

    Yes, this explains a lot. I always wondered about the mixed religious beliefs in the Philippines, but this is part of the answer.

    WE ARE CATHOLIC. In capitals because it is said in the most confident way. But at the same time we are not 100% sure, so let’s be prudent and not disturber dead people by pronouncing their names, let’s open all doors at new year’s eve to let all evil spirits out of the house, use Feng Shui and all other magical forces to protect us from the spirits. Saints, Angels, Mama Mary or even Santo Niño Himself are no sure enough bets to defend us from these spirits. Only Devine Grace is no guarantee, also good karma has to be collected.

    It is amazing that you find the same attitudes in the high walled villages as Bell Air, Forbes or Dasmariñas as in shanty towns, by celebrities and by tricycle drivers. Just fear for tomorrow cannot explain this behavior in Bell Air. So what is the root cause? Is it linked to the high respect for the elders, for authority? Is it cause by the caste-like stratification and inability to change your destiny? Overcompensation of a inferiority complex? Is there a psychologist in the room?

    • JosephIvo says:

      Causes: An inferiority complex occurs when the feelings of inferiority are intensified in the individual through discouragement or failure. Those who are at risk for developing a complex include people who: show signs of low self-esteem or self-worth, of different ethnicity, have low socioeconomic status, or have a history of depression symptoms. Many times there are warning signs to someone who may be more prone to developing an inferiority complex. For example, someone who is prone to attention and approval seeking behaviors may be more susceptible. Often, it is difficult to place an exact cause to the development of an inferiority complex. Those afflicted sometimes place blame on race, gender, genetics, sexual orientation, family, social class, mental health, physical appearance, or any character trait that the individual feels is lacking.

      (Discouragement in school: “just listen and repeat”. Physical appearances: dark skin, not like Americans or Koreans, not able to speak perfect English and/or Tagalog….)

    • Joe America says:

      Psychiatrists can’t find work in the Philippines. There are no customers, people are so sure of themselves. And the ones that do eke out a living, I am sure, eventually go nuts themselves. If I didn’t blog to let off steam, I’d be sitting in a dark corner of my cement house banging banging my head against the wall.

  4. cha says:

    Well I’m no shrink either, but I do have a background in Psychology, so I’d like to “pop off some ideas” too, if that’s alright.

    I’d skirt round the topic of confidence to start with and get back to that later. I’d like to frame the problem you describe here in the context of the drama triangle, which I’ve talked about in a previous article. (The drama triangle is a model of human interaction used in psychotherapy and counselling which shows how people in dysfunctional relationships can be seen to be alternately playing the roles of victim, persecutor, and rescuer.)

    I believe a lot of Filipinos go through life ensconced in this drama triangle, with that of a Victim as starting position. It could be rooted to poor self-esteem and lack of confidence or may also be the result of lifelong conditioning; this is the only way he knows how because this is how everyone around him has always been. (Too many telenovelas seen perhaps?)

    Thus, when someone says anything unflattering or contradictory to his position he sees it as an affront, an effort to put him down. And he either stays in a Victim mode and cries unfair, “why are you doing this to me/us? what have I/we done to you?” (e.g Tolentino to Dan Brown) in the hope that someone will come be his Rescuer and deal with his perceived Persecutor (e.g. Paulo Coelho to the Filipino people). Or he can turn the tables around and play Persecutor as well (e.g. Comelec Chairman Brillantes to his critics ‘It’s payback time.” and Filipino priest Lucas to Dan Brown: “You became rich by fooling people.”)

    So how do we get the Filipino people to move away from the victim, persecutor, rescuer mentality?

    Should we do as those GRP guys like Benign0 and company do and play Persecutor as well? Call our fellow Filipinos stupid and lazy in the hope that doing so would suddenly wake them up and make them want to do better. Well, try doing that with your own kids and see what happens.

    The antidote to the Drama Triangle is the Empowerment Triangle where the previous three roles are taken over by the following: Creator, Challenger and Coach.

    We can help move the Filipino from Victim to Creator, someone who stops to think what they want and takes action to correct or remedy his own situation by playing Challenger instead of Persecutor and Coach instead of Rescuer.

    The Challenger is like JoeAm in today’s blog, his purpose is to spark growth by encouraging a change in one’s way of thinking. “For myself, I’d like to see Filipinos gather up more confidence in their nation. I’d like to see them lose the envy of America, and the need to flaunt Pacquiao, and the relentless ridicule of people who see things differently.”, he says.

    “We all need a little push once in a while to learn a new skill, acquire some knowledge or insight, make a decision we’ve been avoiding, or take action to move toward achieving one of our dreams. The Challenger–whether conscious or unconscious–can help us do that.”

    The Coach, on the other hand, can be anyone “who supports, assists and facilitates the achievement of a desired outcome.” The coach helps one analyze how he is responding to the situation in an ineffective manner, and then help decide what steps to take in order to move forward. Kinda like Celdran in a recent interview, “Keep calm and ignore Dan Brown. Ang gulo talaga ng Maynila. Kung may confidence ang mga Pilipino or Manilenos in changing our city, I don’t think we’d be so pikon, I really think we should start concentrating in fixing Manila.”

    So how do we help the Filipino find real confidence? Less of the anti-Pinoy GRP approach and more of the JoeAm and Celdran way.

    • Joe America says:

      My, my, you do crystallize things beautifully. Thank you.

    • The Mouse says:

      a comment in a forum I frequent said that Marcos changed the psyche of the Filipino from forward looking to inward looking.

      Much of the envy is not really towards the US but to Asian nations that are more “Asian”. When I was still in school in the Philippines, there was this on going brainwashing to hate its EuroAmerican inheritance and lamenting that it is not Asian enough. This has been compounded by economic stagnancy for decades.

      This, I believe, was the most damaging to the Philippines compared to his corruption. The Alteration of the pyche. Much to our dismay, most of these “Maharlikanism” were proven to be hoax.

      Rather than being taught of its unique heritage, Filipinos are taught to hate themselves because they are not “Asian” enough

      • cha says:

        That Marcos changed the psyche of the Filipino from forward looking to inward looking.

        I’m sort of a martial law baby so I for one, grew up being told by people around me to be careful of what I did or said in public that may be seen as anti-Marcos. Marcos also imposed a curfew during the early years of martial law which of course kept people constrained and somehow shut off from their own neighbors and general community. People seemed to think that there were Marcos spies all around who would tell on you if you made the wrong move. So in that sense, I think Filipinos did tend to focus inward, kept things to themselves, didn’t want to get involved and just generally felt a sense of powerlesness in shaping their own future. I still encounter Filipinos from my generation who think this way.

    • edgar lores says:


      1. The Drama and Empowerment Triangles are neat and go a long way to understanding the dynamics of interaction.

      2. What bothers me always is that the role of agents — whether stimulus (persecutor or rescuer) or change (challenger or coach) — are external to the self. Why can’t one persecute and rescue one’s self? Why can’t one challenge and coach one’s self?

      3. I am aware (pun intended) this is a problem in levels of consciousness. Some people examine their lives and some don’t. But is it possible to teach humility without stunting the development of the fragile ego? Is it possible to teach uncertainty to a child without condemning him to a life of no self-confidence and of low self-esteem? Is it wise to say to a child, “There are many paths. Some have been discovered, some have not. This was my path, it may not be yours. Your mission, whenever you are ready, is to take the plunge.”

      3.1. In a way, I have presented the creative tension between certainty and uncertainty to my children. My wife is a religieuse and I am an eclectic. Where my wife wanted to control the children, I wanted them to experiment with life. My daughter has rebelled against her early religious beliefs, has experimented, and at an early age has gone independent although she is both financially and emotionally insecure. My son has also rebelled, has experimented with vices far deeper than I have ever done, and in fact is still experimenting. He still does not think straight, but he exhibits and is aware of inner strength. So the experiment is not quite a success, but also not a total failure.

      4. It may be that the issues of consciousness are related to age as much as to milieu. In my youth, I lived. In my old age, I reflect on living. In my dotage, I hope to live again.

      • Joe America says:

        Ahahaha, I think I am into severe dotage. As for 3.1, we need to go get drunk in one of Brisbane’s finest bars and trade stories about the tensions of religion and eclecticism as opposing influences on kids, for you echo my days in marriage number 2, and results have been roughly similar. Maybe 2015 I’ll haul my dotage family down there. I presume you have fine malls to occupy my boss for a few hours. She is a highly confident shopper.

      • cha says:


        Your no. 2 is actually possible, one can challenge and coach one’s self to become better. It can be done through education and self-study.

        Or better still, become a Buddhist. Which brings me to your no, 3, there is a different level of consciousness that seems to be required to be able to do such things. (I’m reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert’s struggle and eventual triumph in casting aside self-doubt in Eat, Pray, Love.)

        My own kids went to Catholic schools and my husband and I are more or less practicing Catholics… I.e practicing the teachings in our everyday life more than observing or taking part in rituals and ceremonies of the Church. But we do like going together as a family to Sunday mass whenever possible, then have lunch or dinner somewhere and talk about the priest and his homily. Always a great conversation starter. 🙂

        • edgar lores says:

          1. No. 2 is a reality. People who engage in productive self-analysis do it all the time. So it is a frame of mind. The issue, to me, is how people can be made to adopt the frame.

          2. To my mind the psychological element of Buddhist analysis is a refinement of that frame of mind. Before I discovered my affinity for this element, I was a programmer. Being such, you are trained to analyze problems from as many viewpoints as you can muster. The other side of it, of course, is to propose feasible solutions. This tandem of psychological analysis and design in shaping one’s life is encapsulated at the high end in Buddhist monks and in non-Buddhist mystics, and perhaps, to various degrees, in serious practitioners of other religions – such as yourself.

          3. I must note that analytical skills do not usually carry over into the personal life. The ingredient of Introspection is required. (To rephrase No 1: Can introspection, which is the act of internal analysis, be taught and successfully internalized?)

          4. The problem with monks and mystics, however, is that they are single! So the question arises: can one lead an unblemished life in the hurly burly of daily life while married with kids?

          5. The optimistic answer is one can, one must. So I ‘use’ my wife and my children as my ‘practice’. But all interaction, real or virtual, is educational. In fact I spend more time on the computer than on anything else! There is the danger, in all of this, of seeing one’s self as separate and superior, so one must be inordinately sensitive.

          6. There is this idea I am playing with that life is ‘open-ended’. (Religions are closed systems in that they supply a priori answers.) This idea goes hand-in-hand with the notion of free will. It turns on its head the notion that “if God did not exist all things are permissible” to “God gave man free-will so all things are possible”. This dynamic is often tritely expressed as “dreams can become reality” or “the sky is the limit”. But it is more than that — it is, mathematically and teleologically speaking, division by zero.

          • cha says:

            On no. 3

            Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence identifies 9 types of intelligence, one of which he calls intrapersonal intelligence. Those who possess this kind of intelligence are good at being aware of their own emotional states, feelings and motivations and are therefore strong on introspection and self-reflection.

            And then there’s existential intelligence, “the ability and proclivity to pose (and ponder) questions about life, death and ultimate realities.”

            The other intelligences are : Bodily-kinesthetic, Verbal-Linguistic, Logical-mathematical, Musical, Interpersonal, Naturalistic, Visual-Spatial.

            I’d say you probably would rate above average at intrapersonal intelligence and genius at existential. 🙂

            While some people may naturally gravitate and show aptitude for any one or several combinations of the different types, it is nevertheless possible to develop or grow one’s capabilities in any of them given the right resources.

            No. 5

            I, too, have done a lot of practice teaching with my kids. And the hubby and I tried playing teacher to each other until we eventually gave up and decided to just enjoy being classmates in life. 🙂

            I think our kids tend to pick up our own strengths in their early years by process of osmosis. And then as they take in more of the outside world, they find new interests and acquire for themselves new competencies by building on what they had to start with.

          • edgar lores says:

            Thanks! Cha.

            1. That makes a certain sense. I hardly have any bodily-kinesthetic intelligence and very low on interpersonal intelligence.

            2. I haven’t heard of Gardner before, and I find it coincidental that his book is titled ‘Frames of Mind”. Talk of Jungian synchronicity!

            3. I note your statement that some intelligences are more dominant than others, but it is possible to ‘educate’ people to develop their weak and latent intelligences.

            4. But what I really want is — hard to define. I do not think people can be educated to have moral, spiritual, existential intelligences because there is no universally accepted intelligence, no real content as yet. There is no universal secular code of ethics. Even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not accepted by Islamic countries (refer to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI)). So what I really want is the instillation and cultivation of an open attitude and frame of mind that considers, evaluates, rejects or accepts propositions of principles. In the hope that consensus will form.

            4.1. In the absence of universal principles, it is the questioning attitude that must be taught and hopefully that attitude will spill over into behavior. With no cognitive dissonance. Then there will be no fundamentalists of any kind, and even though we may not have ultimate answers we can, in the meantime, live in a gentler world.

            5. So many things to learn, so little time.

          • Joe America says:

            @edgar, well, you may have much to learn, but many of the rest of us are relegated to chewing your cerebral dust. Maybe you ought to put time into a bucket that does not have to be filled, but merely enriched. You are doing just fine. I’m inclined to want to install you in a shrine so we can come up and rub your tummy.

          • cha says:


            On no. 4

            Dunno if you’ve heard about Stephen Covey of Seven Basic Habits of Highly Effective People fame. His follow-up book to Seven Habits is called The Eighth Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, where among other things, he talks about spiritual intelligence and devotes a chapter on Modelling character and integrity. Perhaps that might help provide a model in some way to what you’re looking for.

            Speaking of coincidences, I was about to purchase a copy of this book last weekend but ended up buying something else. Greatness might just have to wait another week or so for me, I guess. Sigh… another week to catch up with the great Edgar Lores.

          • edgar lores says:


            Ahahaha! Malto, our dominant chihuahua, so loves his belly to be rubbed. Within 10 seconds of head petting, he will turn over, expose his belly shamelessly, and invite attention (or adoration) to the exposed part. Then he will close his eyes in doggish ecstasy. Do dogs dream, I wonder?


            Yes, acquainted with but not familiar with Covey.

          • Joe America says:

            @Ed, I think animals are getting smarter and humans are devolving, especially those in political jobs. Perhaps we’ll meet in the middle. The kids here have taught our new puppy how to “high five”, so now he walks around swatting the air when he wants to be petted.

          • edgar lores says:

            Certainly Malto and your puppy have superb bodily-kinesthetic and interpersonal skills. You think maybe a week in Robert’s Rules of Order and a year of law will do it and they’re ready to be members of the Senate? Perhaps a change of name will also be in order? How does Malto Estrada sound? Nah, maybe Malto Legarda?

          • Joe America says:

            Indeed, a couple more dogs in the Senate won’t hurt. No one is likely to notice them. ahahahahaha

    • Attila says:

      “drama triangle”

      Thanks Cha for your deep analysis and explanation. You help me to understand Filipino thinking and my ….wife. (lol)

  5. The Mouse says:

    I just suddenly remember a quote from a favorite cartoon:
    Pride is not the opposite of shame, but it’s source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.

  6. JM says:

    Very nice article

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