Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Clint Eastwood at the 2012 Republican National Convention - Stan Honda, AFP/Getty Images
Is “self-doubt” good for you?

Use the Internet to search for the term and you are directed to sites that give advice on how to conquer, break, or cure self-doubt.  Evidently it is bad if you have too much of it.

But is the absence of self-doubt a good thing?  It is an attribute of authoritarianism, and can lead to problems.  A few examples from our current politics:

--The United States Senate has not passed a budget in three years.  The feeling is, “You people don’t need no stinkin’ budget!  We’ll spend your money any way we like.”

--Public Schools don’t like being adjudicated.  “We don’t need no standardized testing!  We will teach students any way we like.”

The righteous absence of self-doubt is a power trip, but it’s also destructive.

DWI automobile accidents are a case in point.  A person who has no concern for his or her driving ability while inebriated is exhibiting the absence of self-doubt.  Senator Ted Kennedy’s experience at Chappaquiddick is emblematic.

A person who is texting while driving is also displaying the absence of self-doubt.  But must we criminalize the behavior?  Do you catch the irony in lawmakers who have no self-doubt in passing anti-texting legislation?  Their lack of self-doubt enables them to criminalize the behavior of citizens who exhibit the absence of self-doubt!

The “60 Minutes” coverage of last year’s mission to kill or capture Osama bin Laden provides another look at self-doubt.  The author of “No Easy Day” noted how the women on site at the bin Laden compound were unusually combative, aggressive and hostile.

He didn’t relate this behavior to the absence of self-doubt, but it was a factor.  The people at the compound had absolute confidence in their ideology.  They lacked self-doubt - and it worked to their detriment.

So, if too much self-doubt is bad, and too little is no better, what are we to do?

A line from the Clint Eastwood movie “Magnum Force” comes to mind:
“A man’s got to know his limitations.”
That advice helps us understand the proper amount of self-doubt.

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