‘With trust’. Confidence takes its Latin root from con- (with) and fidere (trust). Widely related to the feminine gender, and spoken extensively in self-help books, confidence, expressed by Michel Foucault, is a ‘technology of self’, one that implies a work on oneself: “their bodies and souls, thoughts, conducts and ways of being, so as to transform themselves”.
Self-confidence has become an urgency. Gliding through a room, all eyes on it, confidence is looked at with envy and as a glamorous state of being. However its absence, negative and problematic leaves space for doubt, insecurity and self-depreciation.
The statement “so as to transform themselves”, labels confidence as a process of (self-) transformation, a form of changing and exchanging one way of being to another. It marks a transactional action. Besides, etymologically, change and exchange share the Latin cambiare (change) meaning ‘to barter’. This linguistic root implies a mediation that negotiates the boundaries of this transactional process. Carrier and mediator, cloth has the capacity to change our way of being, thinking and behaving.
Giving us agency and assurance, clothes sometimes dictate our confidence. In textiles and fashion, I wonder what a cloth physically shares with confidence. As a day goes by, fabric moves, touches, creases, flows and drapes itself around the body. Every gesture engenders the mediation of the stories of our actions. As a result, folds and creases emanate from this dance, which to me, reflects the concept of confidence.
Never standing still, confidence, much like folds, cannot be seen as an end point. Rather, it is a destination, an itinerant journey and a back and forth effort to transform and renew a state of being. My thinking behind comparing confidence to a fold takes its root from the constant action, constant change and in flux status of a fold. It transforms itself without any mediation and reflects confidence as change. Simultaneously touching and being touched themselves and by themselves, folds carry a form of ‘self-assurance’, ‘self-worth’, ‘self-belief’ and ‘self-efficacy’, all portrayed by our walk, posture and body behaviour. As opposed to creases, folds never stop forming shapes. Their purpose isn’t to leave a mark or a trace of passage. Rather, they evolve in a choreographic manner, moving matter and here confidence, from one point to another.
A quality to gain? An achievement? A transformation of the self? Confidence could be regarded as, much like a fold, the narrative of the evolution of the self, one in which the idea of moving forward is allowed to go back on itself. The beauty industry has damaged our idea of confidence and set high standards of body aesthetics for women to reach, implying that confidence resides in slim and slender bodies. Cosmetics, diets, plastic surgery have been a means to an end, where ‘the end’ is a confident mindset. In 2008 the Dove Self Esteem Fund ended its advert with the written words: “talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does”. Setting impossible standards, the beauty industry in fact saturates the possibility for women to reach them, questioning if confidence is a quality to gain.
The attractiveness of confidence, an appealing effortless behaviour makes us believe that it can be trusted. Elusive and mostly lost as fast as it was gained, confidence might cloud our appraisal of the thing that we can actually do and the skills we do possess. The mantra ‘fake it till you make it’ shows it well. Perhaps, behind the glamorous and invincible portrait of confidence, it might be wise to pay attention to simpler ways of being and teach ourselves to love doubt, uncertainty and irresolution.