I’m going to a job interview. It’s important. I need this job to take care of my pregnant wife and two year old child. I take a shower and I’m naked. I need to get dressed. I can either put on a suit or a t-shirt. I pick up the tie and suddenly think. “Wait. Maybe if I wear this suit I will seem boring. Maybe I should wear the t-shirt so I seem fun and like somebody who breaks the rules. When I wear the suit I always feel uncomfortable. When I wear the t-shirt I feel relaxed, and fun, like I did when I was a kid. What should I do?” I wonder.
As I stand there naked looking at the clothes I remember a piece of advice I once read. “Trust yourself.” For a second I think, “Aha! Wear the t-shirt. That makes me feel like I really am — relaxed, and young, and fun.” But then an alternative way of looking at it occurs to me.
“I am worried about not getting this job. I am part of a civilization in which wearing a suit means responsibility. Maybe that’s also my “self”. Maybe the worry, and the desire to seem responsible, and the willingness to be uncomfortable to take care of people who rely on me — and my own skin — is my self. Maybe I should trust that.”
My wife comes into the room and says “Put on that suit.”
I think “How can I do what somebody else says? Is that “trusting myself”? It seems like it is obviously trusting somebody else.”
But then another voice within me says “Hang on. Maybe trusting myself includes trusting my decision to care about and trust other people, including my wife, who I trust cares about me, and knows more about suits and t-shirts and the messages people send with clothes than I do.”
“But then what is trusting myself? If trusting myself includes trusting authorities — priests who tell me what God wants from me, clubs that tell me how a man should be, states that tell me when my honor demands dying in foreign wars — then is “trust yourself?” anything other than a meaningless slogan?”
“That’s the issue. The person who will be humiliated if I fail to get this job, or who will be humiliated if I do get this job, or who will feel free if I tell the job to f off, or will feel empowered if I do get this job, after all is me.”
“I’m the one who lives or dies in this interview. So I have to trust myself. If I lack confidence I am trusting my own lack of confidence.”
“Whether I live or die, whether I am brave or cowardly, whether I listen to an idea that occurs to me or one provided by my wife or father or priest or recruiting officer, whether I wear a t-shirt or a suit, I am trusting myself.”
“But who would give advice that everyone follows whether he lives or dies, whatever he does?”
“Somebody who trusted himself!”