Friday, December 28, 2012

The Mind of Lara Croft

I hope I do not offend any fans of the series with this, but...Lara Croft is not exactly known for being a psychologically deep and complex character.  At least, not in any of her current incarnations.  The new reboot seems to feature a deeper, more vulnerable Lara, so whether this remains the case or not after the next game remains to be seen.  That said, there is one mental characteristic that Lara has in spades, and that is self confidence.

So what is self confidence, exactly?  It is frequently confused with arrogance, which I'm sure Lara also has a bit of, considering her aristocratic upbringing.  But arrogance is not a substitute for self confidence, and the self confident are not necessarily arrogant.  Well, to find out, let's go to...the internet!

A Google search gives us the web definition of, "assurance: freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities."

Wikipedia tells us "The socio-psychological concept of self-confidence relates to self-assuredness in one's personal judgment, ability, power, etc., sometimes manifested excessively. Being confident in yourself is infectious if you present yourself well, others will want to follow in your foot steps towards success."

Wikipedia also grants us this quote from Raj Persaud, "Promise yourself, no matter how difficult the problem life throws at you, that you will try as hard as you can to help yourself. You acknowledge that sometimes your efforts to help yourself may not result in success, as often being properly rewarded is not in your control."

I personally really like that quote, because I think it gets us on the right track here, especially when we're talking about Lara Croft.  Lara faces many unknown dangers all the time.  She's an explorer and adrenaline junkie, and as such, she must often face challenges with only her wits, skills, and tools to rely on.  The attitude of "I will throw my best at whatever comes my way," is the only way one can function in such a situation, and as such, Lara embodies self-confidence with her attitude and approach to life.

So how does one build self confidence?  There's a whole crapload of books and articles out there on it, so I'm not going to spoonfeed you stuff you can find with ten seconds and a google search.  Rather, I'm going to relate some of my personal methods and experiences with self confidence.

First of all, I'm going to come right out and admit that I sometimes have self confidence problems.  This may sound odd, considering I'm a black belt, run my own dojo, have a wife, etc.  Certain experiences in my life, however, mainly a bad relationship that went on for way too long have soured much of the time I've put into life doing things that build self confidence.  As such, I am still sort of "rebuilding" myself, if you will.  Here are some of the things that I, personally, am working on to further this goal.

Work Out
This may sound a bit cliché'd, but working out and being in good shape go a long way to helping my confidence level.  Knowing that I am physically capable of handling most things thrown at me helps quite a bit in general, day-to-day confidence.  It also helps keep hormones in your body in balance, which can assist with some of the negative mental situations that antagonize your self-confidence.

Talk it Out
Talking to someone you trust who cares about you can also really help.  I confide in my wife a lot when I'm feeling unsure about myself.  She's always in my corner for me, but more importantly, she isn't just a "cheerleader."  Building confidence isn't about ignoring your flaws, it's recognizing them, in addition to recognizing your strengths, and reconciling these thing with yourself.  This, in part, is what separates self-confidence from arrogance, in that the arrogant person believes they have no flaws, whereas the confident person knows they have flaws, but that their strengths counter-balance these flaws, and help them feel more complete as a person.  My wife doesn't just give me a "you're amazing" line.  She says yes, you have these problems, and you should work on them like this, but keep in mind, you also do these amazing things.

Take Chances, and Forgive Yourself
One of my favorite lines from any movie is from We Bought a Zoo, and the line is, "You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it."  Now, existing in hollywoodland, this phrase comes true in both instances it's used.  I can tell you that this is not always the case, at least in the idea of those twenty seconds will give you the results you desire.  However, that's where part two comes in: forgiving yourself.  

You do something stupid, and out there, totally sticking your neck out, you get shut down, in some way, for whatever reason.  It sucks.  It might even be embarrassing.  Even if it is embarrassing, however, you need to let it go, and move on.  Holding on to embarrassment doesn't help, and it will keep you from your next "twenty sections of courage" opportunity.  The movie line isn't wrong, then, if you take this approach, as the great thing that comes of it then will be you own rising self confidence.  As you make every mistake, you realize that mistakes happen, everyone makes them, and you can move on just fine.  Which brings us to...

Everything in life gets better with practice.  Seriously.  Every skill, trait, or ability you desire, will get better with practice.  Even self confidence.  How do you practice self confidence, you ask?  Well, you need to work at it, first of all, like anything else you would practice.  You're not always going to like it.  But you need to do it anyway.  Go outside your comfort zone, even just a little bit, at least once a day.  Seriously, just try it.  Do something you don't feel you can do(even if it's something small).  Say hello to someone as you walk past them.  Strike up a conversation in an elevator.  Attempt to learn a new skill.  Ask someone for help.  Go somewhere that makes you feel uncomfortable(please nowhere too dangerous =P).  Seriously, just think of something that gives you the sensation of, "Oh gosh, I don't think I can do that!" and attempt it!  Start small, and simple, and build your way up. Remember, one thing a day.

Self-confidence is something that comes with time.  It's not easy for anyone, at least starting out.  Remember that everyone feels uncomfortable, or afraid, or singled-out sometimes, and that's okay.  That's even what makes it okay, is that everyone on earth probably has the thoughts running through their head that you do sometimes.  We're all human, we all make mistakes, and we all get scared.  Admitting this is sometimes the best thing for your confidence level, it's sort of the old public speaking adage of "imagine the audience in their underwear."

Keep pushing yourself to be a bit more adventurous than the day before, and you never know, you might be raiding tombs someday!

Today being Friday, we won't see each other again  until next monday, New Year's Eve!  I'll probably throw up the Lara Croft roundup sometime over the weekend, and I'm thinking of doing something special for the new year, rather than jumping right into our next character.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do, yet, but we'll see next week!  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, hit up the Tumblr, and continue to be awesome!

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

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