Rav Avigdor Miller on Self Confidence
What practical counsel can be given to a ben Torah, or to anybody else, to aid him in building up his self confidence?
Self confidence must be built up on the basis of good sense – and good sense means when people understand the issues of life. When you don’t understand what’s important in life, so sometimes you become frustrated because you are envious of things that are worthless. You have criteria that are meaningless and you allow yourself to be discouraged because you don’t measure up to these criteria.
But suppose you learn and understand how important it is to know Torah. Let’s say you learn a perek gemara and you know it well inside; you can say it without hesitation. Maybe even two or three perakim. Then you know you’re somebody! As you walk on the avenue, you are משכמו ולמעלה, you know you’re something; from your shoulders up, you’re higher than anyone else. It makes no difference what others think because you know what’s really important and that gives you self confidence.
However, if you don’t know what Torah means, if you don’t appreciate the greatness of Torah, you can be a big lamdan and still you’ll cringe in the presence of amei ha’aretz. You can be a big oived Hashem, but if you don’t appreciate your greatness then you’ll have no self-confidence. It’s because you have no criteria. When people know that righteousness, decency, emes, politeness, chessed and yiras shamayim are above all, that they are the jewels of a man’s character and of a woman’s character, then these people can hold their heads high in pride knowing that they are the ones who are considered important in the world.
Therefore, self confidence has to be built on values. You must learn the true values and aspire to gain them. If you are a Jew, that should be the first basis for self confidence, “I am from the Am Hashem!” If somebody never learned to respect himself as a Jew, he’ll be bashful; he’ll try to hide his identity among the umos ha’olam, when he comes among gentiles or among irreligious Jews. But when somebody appreciates what’s important, when he learns what it means to be chosen, the bechirai Hashem – the priests of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, the ones that Hakodosh Boruch Hu loves and has elevated among all the nations, אשר בחר בנו מכל העמים, ורוממנו מכל לשון – He elevated us among all the nations; once a person understands that, so every Jew has a reason to be proud. It’s only those who don’t understand that, who don’t have the true criteria, those are the ones who are lacking in self confidence.