I Don’t Believe in Me

When one’s self-confidence is leased with an option to buy, as mine is, one looks outside oneself for: 1. Reminders that one ought to have, or to try out, this thing called self-esteem and 2. The nearest venue where one can find some.

Because without self-confidence, some say, one can not achieve great things, or any things. But immediately after sentences like that always comes the caveat: Be humble. Needle-across-the-record screech. From life’s start, we are asked to be philosophers negotiating the nuances of existence: Believe in yourself, humbly. Possess something that no one can give you. Walk softly, and chew gum at the same time.

I don’t believe in me. There, I said it. For forty years of life, when all that was required of me was to trust myself, believe in myself, meet or sometimes exceed expectations, I successfully fashioned places to hide and then hid. Now, I have accomplished some things in this life, there are some external indications of a life okay-lived, but jeesomelordmercy, it could have gone easier or better for me (some people have knitted their brow watching me careen through existence); “easier” could have killed me, though.

However, for all my self-confident proclaiming that I do not possess self-confidence, I confess that I am addicted to the external verification that I exist and that I am doing okay. There are too many ways of doing this available for someone like me who spends time typing on a keyboard that has Wi-fi. I wrote a little about it about six months ago: “I, Toward a Metrics of Me.” Do I know what I am doing, where I have been, where I am going, who I am with—who I AM, even?—without social verification, approval, disapproval, a certain number of thumbs-ups or stars or re-Tweets?

Oh, wait. There is no disapproval online. There is only approval or … silence. An absence of little blue thumbs pointing the way to Heaven or hitch-hiking there. The silence of zero stars. Page views: Zero, zilch, negatory.

The American corporate world introduced the idea of measuring everything, every dang thing, many decades ago, but in the late 1990s employees discovered that their employers were creating new ways, additional ways, to measure everything, and that their continued employment depended on successfully counting those things and presenting them in a package that looked honest. I remember my revulsion upon hearing the word “metrics” used in a sentence the first time. (For months, I heard the ghost-word “system” immediately after hearing the word “metric.”) The precise sentence I heard was, “We are using all available metrics,” and I quickly noticed that no one else at the meeting table was laughing, and that they were still scribbling notes more furiously than students in a freshman philosophy seminar. (“Do I need a soul by the end of this semester? What percentage of my grade will that be?”)

For a while, the number of documents I was actively working on was my key metric, or so I was told by my employer. Soon after, and without an announcement, this was changed to the total number of pages. It changed, often. For a year or two, I was publicly publishing the average number of pages per document completed per day. Then it was the actual pages per document per day. Illustrations were counted for a while, then they were not. The number of metrics used to measure my metrics was never itself added up and counted, unless that was my boss’ monthly metric for her boss.

Some time after that one, I was let go. A bad attitude has no metrics.

The social media revolution was long in coming and I enjoy it very much, but metrics have infiltrated our lives, even our fun-filled social lives. “How many ‘likes’ did that get?” Does my employment hinge on it? No? Why does it feel like it does?

When a celebrity or actually important person finds him or herself in an online controversy over something they published online, the number of re-Tweets of the news-worthy posting is supplied in news accounts about the contretemps. That number is a fact, but the fact that this number is available and can be reported does not actually make it a statistic, much less a statistic worth reporting.

Everything can be counted, after all. I can count the number of bags of candy in my local Wal-mart; that number is a fact, just not one worth doing anything with. One can count the number of facts not worth having, too.

Sadly, I find myself watching the likes and numbers of visits to this web site right here, the one in your hands, every night. “The Gad About Town” is not my employment, it is something I want to do and share. But the fine people at WordPress make the information so easy to find and digest. It is information, after all, and it looks like an impressive collection of live statistics, and it makes me want to have a boss to report it to every night. (So I Tweet it out sometimes, to attract more readers.) “This number of visitors read my work last night, but it is a smaller number tonight. Whycome is that, world?” Sad face.

(Sigh.) Metrics.

Never before in my life have I known how many friends I have, but if I wanted to, I could look and see every morning in Blue Thumb World if the number of my online friends is larger or smaller than yesterday’s. Metrics.

Am I my numbers? Am I my metrics of me? Everything in the world can be counted, and that number can be known and disclosed, but more often than not this simple fact does not make it information. Not real information.

My self-confidence depends on it. See for yourself right here:

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for March 7 asks, “Are you good at what you do? What would you like to be better at?”

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21 comments

  1. sparkyplants · March 7, 2015

    Perhaps it all about instant self-gratification. We need numbers to prove our worthiness – instantly. But I was thinking, after reading your post that some of the most important things you do in life, take years before you can evaluate the worthiness of your actions. I was thinking about parenting for one, you spend years and years providing care and maintenance and insight and wisdom, but you don’t really know what the outcome is going to be for at least a decade or more and even then you are not sure you have done the right thing. Can you imagine what it must be like for farmers?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: I can do this…I CAN do this…I CAN DO THIS! | The Hempstead Man
  3. John Lundemo · March 7, 2015

    Great Mark! I have the exact opposite problem. I liove my music, songs, exicution etc,. Getting folks to listen to it is another thing, like pulling teeth. But I do all my own instrumentation and that’s pretty cool. I make the swords but so do many others, but I don’t seem to be getting the vacations and spending as freely as before. My ego still does not deflate, even though my old apprentice is doing great and he is a TV star blacksmith. My once would be competitors are doing movie props and growing into large production facilities with multi emplyees. My swords will always be superior and my music rocks like no other. So, all the other makers and players can blow themselves, on TV if you like. I don’t have helpers, I don’t try to get more popularity by posting on all the forums how I make things and blowing all the other makers for LIKES! This is how I keep smiling:)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Martha Kennedy · March 7, 2015

    Strange. I never thought of self-confidence this way at all. But that could be the 20 year difference in our ages, son. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. loisajay · March 7, 2015

    Mark, I think you are way too hard on yourself. Everyone of my cats, I am sure, and I have 3, looks at themselves in the mirror (well, of course they actually don’t) and sees a lion. Yours is one of the blogs I save for last to read because I savor your words and click on your hyperlinks and it takes a long time to read your posts–but I want to read them. The hell with the likes and the thumbs up–it’s the people who consistently stay with you. There is your self-confidence, not the click of a ‘like’ button. Anyone can do that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Aldrich · March 9, 2015

      Thank you for being a dedicated reader. Your words made my day. I strive for a balance between not giving a (insert swear word) and enjoying giving a (insert swear word) about certain things. My own woolly mind is not the trustiest filter.

      Like

  6. pattyalcala · March 7, 2015

    Well written. I enjoyed the read. I think you have confidence and are humble at the same time.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sharon Marie Himsl · March 8, 2015

    Hi, Found you over at DCRelief’s blog. I don’t do Twitter (yet). I’m avoiding it because it feels too much like Facebook, which is endless chatter, chatter, chatter and then gets lost. Okay, but I know what you mean by numbers. The word wasn’t “metrics” when I was in the working world, but “quantity”…..and oh, that also means “quality.” The two always collided in my opinion. But back to the discussion. I don’t think we will ever know who or how many we have influenced in life (good or bad), or how many friends or enemies we have. I have a little fantasy where in heaven someday people will come up to me and thank me for helping me, etc (I know, not very humble; I don’t want to meet the other group!). Anyway, wishing you well. Thanks for a nice post…..Stay the Course _\)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · March 9, 2015

      That’s a nice fantasy. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      Like

  8. Keigh Ahr · March 8, 2015

    I really enjoyed your sardonic perspective on social media and this odd thing we call self-image. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Leigh W. Smith · March 8, 2015

    Mark, I have experienced much like what you’ve written here (if that’s any help, and I’m not suggesting Schadenfreude!). I suppose it also might be cold comfort that, as of this writing, 30-plus souls have endorsed your writing. Perhaps only you and the ones you hold most close IRL, such as your special lady, can infuse and instill the confidence and (this may sound weird but) self-love (as opposed to the self-loathing that many of us writerly folks feel) you seek. I like to think that, even with the demographics and metrics available to us today as writers (or, as humans), we should always seek a quality over the quantity. From my youthful days as a grocery cashier, where the emphasis was fast-fast-fast, I’ve always clung to the quantity idea, and perhaps that has gotten me no place special as a result as well. I guess it all also boils down to what you hope for in this blogging endeavor. Back in our print days, I suppose we had only hate mail to guide us, or phone calls if someone was really livid, so that has certainly changed. Everything is always on, everything is always now (and, indeed, forever-seeming), now. Perhaps it’s good for folks like us to “switch off” as far as the metrics, at least sometimes . . . Anyway, this was intended as a picker-upper, but I’m afraid it’s pretty dull. I blame the Dayquil/Nyquil. 🙂 FWIW, I wish you a fantastic writing week; I’ll look forward to your “columns” (I can’t help but think of your posts as such)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · March 9, 2015

      You aren’t capable of dull, Leigh. I hope you feel better today from whatever was causing you to take WhateverQuil.

      Like

  10. Charron's Chatter · March 9, 2015

    I dig your voice. And your soul-searching is very relatable and endearing.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Everyone Wins | The Gad About Town
  12. Susanne Leist · March 22, 2015

    Numbers are not important. It is not the number of friends but the quality of them. I only have a few friends that I can rely in time of need. I’ve never asked them for help because I don’t want to know how small that number really is.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Rose Red · April 1, 2015

    I wouldn’t let the numbers decide anything. People get busy, people don’t stop appreciating you because they are busy. For me, I find having even what some would say a small number of blogs followed kind of overwhelming.I often miss people I like and go back to them later. I feel guilty about missing blogs I follow but I could never read hundreds a day.

    That said I really enjoy your humour and insight. I was especially tickled to listen to the podcasts you posted earlier. That was fun to see that side to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Why Bother Getting up in the Morning? Awards, of Course | The Gad About Town
  15. vermontbookworks · September 3, 2016

    Reblogged this on Vermont Book Works and commented:
    Very good Mark

    Vermont Book Works

    Liked by 1 person

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