cover image Self-Confidence: A Philosophy

Self-Confidence: A Philosophy

Charles Pépin, trans. from the French by Willard Wood. Other Press, $22 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5905109-3-3

Novelist and philosopher Pépin (Philosophers on the Couch) offers not the philosophy promised by the subtitle, but generic tips based on lessons garnered from a random smattering of pop culture figures, athletes, and philosophers, as well as many others, both famous and not. The author unifies these disparate examples (including Sigmund Freud, and Søren Kierkegaard, Madonna, and Serena Williams) with his own memories of developing self-confidence as a student and teacher. The result ends up being a list of anodyne directives, such as “establish relations with different and inspiring people,” “develop your abilities to the greatest extent possible,” “pay less attention to the voices around [you],” and “‘become what you are’—and do it before you die.” Such suggestions can be intriguing, but they do not grapple with the murkiness of self-confidence as a concept. For example, commandments such as “stay true to your desire” are likely too vague to be of use to readers looking for practical solutions to quandaries of self-confidence. Instead of grappling with modern research into self-worth, the book posits self-confidence as a simple, direct destination. Pépin’s punchy, aphoristic advice will only appeal to readers who also believe that self-confidence is an “alchemy” to be conjured. (Dec.)