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Confidence and Self-Doubt: Can They Make Sense In a Man's Life?

A Study in the Life of Ty Cobb -- for all Men

By Ernest DeFilippis
Given in a seminar at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, a not-for-profit educational foundation in New York City, 141 Greene Street, in SoHo.

In The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Eli Siegel writes: 

People want to have ill will and good will. They want to fear, hate, despise the world; and want truly to respect and love it. The agitation of man has begun with this. What he has done with good will and ill will, liking the world or being against it, has affected everything in person's lives.  (Issue no. 77)
I've learned that if a man is to be confident he must be sure he wants to like and respect the world to have good will which Aesthetic Realism defines as, the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful because this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful". Good will I have learned, is not something soft or weak but it is the greatest power; to have it a man must want to know the world, be for and encourage what is good in people and be against and criticize his desire to defeat people, have them weaker so he can feel superior. Only good will can have a man integrated and whole and not feel as Eli Siegel once described to a man, that the "rowboat of confusion will rock forever...never truly knowing what represents him. 

1. How People Are Seen

I once felt to be confident of myself meant to be steady, dependable, in control of yourself, and to have no self-doubt. I didn't know there is a self-doubt a person should have that comes from the feeling, "I might not be fair to someone or something." I was arrogant and acted like I was up to any situation. To show uncertainty I felt was weakness. I wanted to impress people, get their approval, which I thought would have me more sure of myself. I remember the swell of pride I felt when I over heard Ronnie Polonetti's mother say to him, "Why can't you be like Ernie?" 

I did well in school, was good at sports, particularly baseball, and was a devoted son, nephew, cousin and grandson, especially at the holidays when I made sure to kiss every relative - and there were a lot of them as they came to dinner at our house. And as I arranged myself and graciously welcomed words of praise, words I knew I didn't deserve, I became more and more unsure of who I really was. I didn't feel the person praised was me. But I liked the feeling of power I was able to have over people, particularly women and the attraction of that was more important to me than knowing myself. In The Right Of #76 Mr. Siegel writes: 

...our attitude to other people concerns our own happiness or unhappiness very much...whether or not we like the way we see people is...a decisive thing in our own opinion of ourselves...The way we see people is close to the way we see the world. Indeed how see people arises out of how we see the world.
Though I seemed friendly and affable and at times really wanted to be useful to people, I didn't like people so much and as I got older, they seemed to be more and more an interference to me. I didn't want to get too close to anyone. Being affected made me feel less in control of myself, and though I went after love, my relations with women didn't last so long. Women confused me. I felt they made me unsure of myself. On one hand women seemed to like me and show approval of me, but then they'd feel I wasn't sensitive enough; that I was too selfish. I'd try to be nicer and please them but it never seemed to be enough. When more was asked of me and I had to question myself, I'd get hurt and angry and often say to myself triumphantly, "I don't need her anyway!" and move on. 

In an Aesthetic Realism class Eli Siegel asked me "Is there a desire to annihilate? Are you a good eraser?" To dismiss people and what they felt and any possible criticism they had of me, rather than want to know and be changed by them, enabled me to maintain a certain exalted picture of myself which I associated with sureness. I felt people were competitors and that I was in a constant fight for what I thought was my self esteem. Mr. Siegel asked me: 

Do you want to get along with people or not? One way of maintaining individuality is not to. You think you save your soul by being in a constant quarrel...
And he described what he called "the confusion of purpose formula" which was an exact description of how I saw people: "...these persons are stupid, don't understand me and so I've gained something".   Mr. Siegel asked: "Which way do you want to gain something that way or by knowing yourself better?" 

EDF: Knowing myself better 

ES: You should say "Every person can tell me something about myself" or you will want to find defects in everyone to build yourself up. People have lived and died never feeling they got along with anybody. 

I love Eli Siegel for criticizing my desire to be superior and for teaching me a way of seeing people I could like myself for. My contempt had made me very unsure of my value as a person. I'm very glad that now as an Aesthetic Realism consultant I am deeply useful to the lives of men, encouraging them to understand and like themselves. Some questions I've had the privilege to ask in consultations are: 

-- As you arrange yourself to impress a woman does it make you more confident? 

-- Do you think your self-doubt is a torment or perhaps an asset? 

-- Are you proud of the affect you have on people? 

-- Can you be unsure and still feel strong? 

Men have lived their whole lives, achieved fame and fortune and have not felt really confident because they have not felt their effect on people was good. One such man, a man who is seen by many people as the greatest baseball player who ever lived, asked the man who collaborated with him on his autobiography, "Do you think they'll remember me?" Shortly after, at age 74, Ty Cobb died of cancer. His life shows if a man doesn't have good will for the world and people he will never be sure of himself. 

Continued  >> "What Is the Approval a Man Wants?" 

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Copyright 2005 by Ernest DeFilippis