The human ego. More unstable than an X Factor winner’s pop career, it is something that we struggle with all our lives. Sure, we all have scenarios where we can feel confident, happy and relaxed. But there are so many occasions when you see people just fall to pieces. Take the fidgeting candidate at a job interview. A bunch of pasty Brits undressing on a beach. A group of girls on a night out. The man giving shifty looks to the urinal next to him. Only too often, I can smell the blood of insecurity around me. This gives me the same uneasy sensation that I associate with watching a stand up comedy act as they crash and burn on stage: I’m happy that the poor sod isn’t me, but, fuck, I know exactly how it feels.
And don’t we all? Is it really possible to love yourself, or, in this age of pseudo-therapy, are we not able to believe someone is truly happy with themselves, without searching for underlying layers of self-doubt and insecurity?
“There is room on this earth for many queens. I have an authentic God-given talent, drive, and longevity that will always separate me from everyone”- Beyonce Knowles
Now, if I was to hedge my bets on someone with unmitigated self-confidence, it wouldn’t be God. It wouldn’t be Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II, despite her generously-endowed knockers. No, it would be Beyonce, self-proclaimed equivalent to both. Beyonce, in interviews, shuns fake modesty, and is famously praises God for blessing her with such remarkable talent. She is also renowned for the hard work she puts into her exercise regime, leading to that ‘Bootylicious’ bod. No fried chicken for Beyonce.
Well, maybe just a little bit.
Beyonce is an confident, independent woman. She doesn’t need a man. She is self-sufficient, perfect in every way, and not afraid to show it.
My only qualm here is…and, pray, hold back the torrent of rotten tomatoes, but I don’t actually ‘get’ Beyonce. Are women supposed to uphold her as the role model for all confident, independent ‘single laydeez’? For a start, she’s already married to Jay Z; and, in all seriousness, as she gyrated around his leg in the ‘Crazy in Love’ video (well done for setting that car on fire, baby, you always know what to do) they really did make a cute couple. But I just can’t see what is so liberating for females about the ‘you can look but you can’t touch’ mentality, suggested as she waltzes around in some form of swimwear singing about ‘Independent Women’ and ‘All Da Single Ladies’. (Incidentally, what exactly are us independent women supposed to do, Beyonce, congregate in the middle of a dance floor and shake our booties wearing next to nothing, threatening our male counterparts not to come within ten feet or we’ll shoot?)
What Beyonce is proposing to her vast fan-base (she is more universally well-known than the Dalai Llama these days, apparently) is an obtrusive, semi-aggressive display of confidence, which kind of screams ‘my ego is hard as rock, I’m indisputably superior to you’. Is this the sign of someone truly confident? The male equivalent would be the beer-downing rugby lad in the corner of the pub, proclaiming ‘I’d give ‘er one’ as if they are universally desirable. Or Jay from The Inbetweeners.
And so, perhaps Beyonce isn’t the definitive model of unfailing self-belief. The lady doth protest too much, I fear. It isn’t this kind of person that screams self-confidence. At the moment, it is actually the dickhead walking into the exam hall with that placid facial expression of ‘I’m going to nail this’ that I really envy. But self-confidence is something that comes with age and hard work. The satisfaction of raising children. Sustaining a successful marriage. Or managing to copyright ‘Post-Its’ and accumulating millions. Confidence is something that comes with time, wisdom, and a sense of having proved yourself. Something that no one under the age of thirty can realistically attain, with the possible exception of Justin Bieber. It’s a result of giving back. Of managing to transcend the ego and proving that you, as a little speck of dust within this infinite universe, have actually made a difference. In comparison to these substantial achievements, the 30 day squat challenge won’t change your life, nor will the fact that 24 people favourited your latest Twitter status.
The social-networking culture we live in gives us an artificial means to gratify our own egos, for instance the temporary rush of a hot acquaintance ‘liking’ your profile photo. But increasingly a ‘profile’ page becomes a means of well-maintained self-advertisement, whilst anyone’s newsfeed will be littered with posts from people funnier, smarter, and much more attractive than them. And this leads us into a rut: an endless cycle of narcissism. Narcissism, for the record, is defined simply as ‘self-obsession’. The word itself is based on a Greek dude named Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. But, defined in psychological terms, it is somewhat more of a double-edged sword. It is, in fact, denotive of someone who both loves and hates their self, sometimes feeling on top of the world but falling apart the minute they receive an insult, or praise from others dwindles. If we feed off affirmations of our own brilliance, then without it we inevitably end up feeling like dog shit. And no one, not even Beyonce, receives the ceaseless stream of praise necessary to prevent this.
Returning back to the subject of stand-up comedy, I imagine this is how a successful comedian feels when they get off stage. To make a room full of people laugh is an exhilaration that few can beat; in that moment, you truly are ‘da man’. But to exit the stage, to go back home to an incontinent Shih Tzu and stagnant milk, is a comedown which fully illustrates the sheer fragility of a person’s self-confidence.
There are always going to be ups and downs: that’s life. Have you heard the one about the high-school drop-out who became a billionaire? Yeah, me too. We’re all kind of hoping to turn out a bit like that. But in the mean time, everyone has their strengths. Everyone has something to contribute besides a cracking booty-shake and an astonishing ability to down dirty pints. And it’s once you start doing the things you’re good at, instead of wallowing in your deep pit of egocentricity, that you ultimately become the person you want to be.