Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead once said of the band ‘We’re not afraid to go out and fall flat on our faces.’ By their own admission, the Dead did that many times (‘We usually do pretty bad at all the big ones,’ said Jerry Garcia in reference to Monterey, Woodstock and their shows in Egypt). Despite failing on some of the biggest stages of their era, the Dead continued on for 30 years as one of rock’s most successful and enduring acts, confident in themselves and in their fans’ unwavering loyalty.
Self-confidence ultimately starts at home. The way we are raised by our parents or caregivers likely plays the biggest role in whether we have it or not. Grow up in an environment that is encouraging and not overly critical, with people that accept mistakes and love you anyway, and you are more likely to have a solid foundation of confidence. That foundation is either further built up or eroded based on our experiences moving along further in life.
In many ways confidence is less about our self-assuredness and comfort with our own skills as it is about not being afraid to fail, to fall flat on our faces, as Weir said. If you think about the times you’ve NOT tried something – like asking a girl out, trying out for a sports team or the school play, submitting an essay for a contest – no matter how you rationalize it, it’s almost certainly because you’re afraid to fail. You may tell yourself that she’s probably got a boyfriend, or you don’t have time to commit to the team or whatever. It comes down to fear of failing, of being rejected, which is a lack of confidence.
Confident people, on the other hand, have little to no fear of failure and are willing to take chances as a result. Psychologists note that there’s no direct correlation between skill/ability and confidence (and I’m sure we’ve all seen examples of this): there are plenty of competent people who have no confidence, and lots of confident people with no competence. One doesn’t need a track record of success to be confident.
It’s somewhat surprising then that we see so many people who lack confidence in the world of the World of Warcraft. When you come right down to it, there’s no real risk involved. We’re talking about a computer game here, not trying to stem the flow of millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, or finding a cure for cancer or AIDS, or running a country. There are no risks to take in WoW. You wipe a group, so what? You didn’t just make a gaffe that’s plunging the world into nuclear war. Nobody gets fired, no one’s marriage ends, nobody gets killed over a mistake made in the game. Given that, we should all be playing with confidence – a willingness to fall flat on our faces.
And yet I constantly see examples of people with no confidence in the game and, I confess, I sometimes exhibit this a bit myself. I see tanks who are more than willing to let the other tank do the hard jobs (kiting Rotface slimes and grabbing adds, Bumble-driving on Putricide), I see healers running their mana tank dry 1/3 of the way into a fight because they’re so afraid of screwing up, I see dps who panic and lose all semblance of a decent rotation (or get so wound up trying to maintain that rotation that they forget to move out of the fire or interrupt or dispel the debuff of almost instantaneous death, etc.). So many people out there need to loosen up and find some confidence. Unlike real life, if you die you get to come back and try again. What’s the worst that can happen?