Monday, April 27, 2009

La Bamba; Confidence and Self-Importance

Self-importance is our greatest enemy. Think about it - what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellowmen. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.

Carlos Castaneda Anthropologist and Writer
University of California

Do you remember in the movie, "La Bamba" when Ritchie's mother, Connie Valenzuela gets offended because the band does not allow her son to play solo at an evening garage performance? Ricki jumps in the car where his whole family is waiting and she asks, "What did they mean ...not letting you play, Ritchie?" He says, "Don't worry, I'll get them to listen." Connie is angry, though, and she says, "My Grandfather was a full blooded Yaqui Indian..."
I aways smile when I think of that pride. What is it? Mother's pride? Family pride? Some part of me knows that it does not really matter how you came into this world and which group of people you belong to...but another part can relate to that indignant mother! Respect! It's like Aretha Franklin R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

(Photo Yaqui People C1910 Mexico)

I'm thinking about confidence and balancing our needs with the needs of others....of knowing that you can make a difference in your own life and in the lives of others....of putting yourself out in the world. I think many of us are born with a introverted character, we have to learn to express our needs. Others are born with an extroverted tendency and may overlook the needs of others. Neither is necessarily better because we have to learn balance, either way. I know some people who keep giving until they harm themselves...and others who tightly hold on to what they have -but the universe or chance creates hardship and loss anyway. Perhaps, teaching generosity to some children is difficult in some way but so is teaching children to stand up for themselves and be noticed.
Many years ago, when my daughter was singing at a small theatre for a school function, I watched her get pushed away from the microphone by a more aggressive singing partner. (I have it on film so it's clear in my memory.) The other girl's parents had the shame of their daughter's public behavior to deal with but the girl who pushed was the one who was heard the most. I kept thinking that my daughter should have moved back toward the microphone and tried to sing again instead of staying in the background. I always wonder what is the right guidance to give in those situations. I didn't want my daughter to grow up into an aggressive personality but I did want her to know how to stand up for herself. She's turned out fine but I still wonder how to handle pushy people in the world.

As a shy child, I had to learn how to stand up for myself. My mother frequently commented about my own sensitive ways. She used to say, "I worry about you. You need to toughen up!" I think I must have gotten much bolder in my teen years but I remember feeling the need of support before I could try something new. I waited for friends to say, "Hey, you can do it!" I think you miss a lot of opportunities when you need to wait for someone else to discover your talents and encourage you to move ahead. Sometimes even people you love just don't want you to excel too much . Why is that? I'm naive a bit- when someone tells me it's control and jealousy, I don't want to believe it. Usually, I just look away and try not to notice. I think maybe my daughter does that too. It's a strategy. I don't know if it's the best one.
What do you think about confidence and self-importance? Sometimes when it comes to my children, I'm like Ritchie's mother, Connie Valenzuela. Do you remember when she was imagining for her son and she looked up into the sky while visualizing, "Ricky Vallenzuela and his Flying Guitar?" She's dreaming big for her child...her cause...


  1. Now see, I need to watch that movie over again. I seem to recall that Ritchie's mother basked in her one son's success while neglecting the other son. This created jealousy and animosity for the other son.

    Sometimes we need to let our kids manage some issues on their own-we can't fight all of their battles. To be certain, each child has their own personality. My oldest brother was an instigator, my older sister was quiet, I had a big mouth (the seeker of justice), and my younger brother avoided conflict like it was the plague. We all came from the same parents but have very different personalities. We're an interesting clan. With the exception of my youngest brother, we weren't treated too differently. He was spoiled rotten, and there were times I despised him for my mother's behavior. That's all in the past though. Interestingly, he hated my mother's behavior of singling him out to be spoiled. He didn't want special consideration. Hmmmm. It's hard to treat them all the same.

    As usual, this was an interesting post that seemed to stir a lot of feelings.

  2. I think you can be gracious and still be self confident enough not let people take advantage. It's been a hard lesson for me to learn, but I'm so much better.

    A very thought provoking post, Cynthia.

    I've not seen this movie! Gotta add it to the list.

  3. Hi C -
    An excellent post. I've known people who
    would completely ignore anything artistic that I did - as if I didn't even exist. Eventually you begin to doubt yourself and wonder if you're good at anything. It's cruel. I've let go of that now, but it has been very difficult. It is control and jealousy, as you said. In their mind it gives them a certain power over you which they need to soothe their own insecurities. I was shy like you - still am, a bit. But I stand up for myself now. I wish it hadn't taken me to my 50's to do so. I probably wouldn't grab that mike back - even now - but I sure would lean in close and belt out my song!

  4. You're posing an interesting dilemma. Self confidence comes from esperiencing success. Self importance comes from the respect we demand from others. They are not exclusive in some cultures. In America, we like to think that we treat everyone with respect. Those who feel slighted by a lack of respect, will object, will be offended, will push for recognition. Shouldn't they?

    I think we resent pushy people; but that might be the only weapon they have. Pushy people see themselves have earned respect not yet bestowed. I found that many of them will get nastier and more obdurate if respect doesn't come to them.

    See? We can come up with an answer. It may just explain our own experiences.

    My mother used to say: "We've all come naked into this world. It's how we choose to behave that dresses us in fineries."

  5. I've not seen the film but it was interesting to hear that you were quite a shy child. I was as well but I'm certainly not now. If someone shoved me out of the way they would soon find an elbow in their ribs. But if I'd been young then I too would have been pushed away from the mike.

    Is it better to always have been confident or to find it in our maturity? I dunno


  6. The right amount of confidence can be our greatest gift - too much confidence can be our worst enemy. Another wonderfully thought provoking post Cynthia, xv.

  7. I would stay back from the microphone, I think, But I would then blog about how much I wanted to smash her!

    I constantly struggle with this issue in regard to my kids. My teaching of manners and respect for others, has often seen them being pushed around.Hmm.. can't quite get the balance right.

    Love to you.xx♥

  8. I haven't seen this movie, but I'll try to now. I like looking for the messages or meanings in a film. Thank you for telling us about this. It's a good thing to think about, this point you bring up about confidence. I've tried to teach strenght of self in my children, with a big dose of humility. I don't know if there is the "right" balance. My mantra is hurt no living thing. My self included.
    ♥ lori

  9. My daughter is a bit shy too and I hope with experience and age she will gain strength and confidence. It is hard to teach it to someone, many times, life's lessons are the best teachers!

  10. Rudee, yes, you remember the movie correctly-the older brother (Ritchie's half-brother) was competitive and often unhappy but he was involved in selling drugs and other criminal behavior. Ritchie was the 'good' son and his mom tried to push him to succeed. I understand her challenge but think that she was fair. Your family dynamics are interesting because everyone was so diverse. Often people think of a family as a type, eg. "Oh the Smiths-they are so outgoing." It seems like you all had your own individual personality. Thanks for your comments and reflective thought. I hope all is well in your new home. (We have two more puppies!)
    xx <3

    Willow, I never would have thought that you allow people to take advantage. You seem to have the right balance of grace, self-expression, and strength-charming all the way. A learned skill? I wonder if your children grew up confident? Your daughter sings opera and your sons are in college- quite a success. Thank you for responding and do see the movie. It's a good life story movie that connects to a fun music period- early rock and roll. xx <3

    Catherine, yes, so difficult when people don't acknowledge your artistic worth. Now that you show your creations on the blog, it's clear to all the world that you have an artistic gift! (or at least those of us who read your blog and see your work.) May you have even more success and acknowledgment in this life. Take care and much affection to you. xox <3
    Lakeviewer, I love your mom's saying. It has an old fashioned but true feel. I still think that those who push too hard end up shaping their someone who has a chip on their shoulder...always looking for a slight. On the other hand, what happens to people who suffer from discrimination? When you experience a lot of slights, and are not allowed to shine it's natural to become angry. Maybe it's bitterness that is the problem? I appreciate those who fight for the rights of others-expecially if they can accomplish change in a positive way. Btw, I heard that discrimination has lessened in the States and that race relations have improved. Great!

    I've been away for nearly 14 years but the last place I lived was below the Mason Dixion Line. Sometimes people treated my husband as if he was an uneducated Tyson worker (chicken cleaner) because of his "tanned" look. We decided to leave rather than fight. I wanted my children to grow up without prejudice but then I discovered that there is prejudice everywhere. Thanks for your comment. You made me consider another aspect of the situation. Take care! <3

  11. French Fancy, an elbow in the ribs!! Ouch! Still, I guess it's like you have to stand up for yourself. I think I was introspective and not attention seeking, which looks (feels?) a lot like being shy. I grew up in a large family of 7 (parents and children)...maybe you saw the photos? I never had to look for friends outside of my sisters and brother. We all got along well...of course with our share of arguments- but we learned from each other.

    I remember when my younger sister found the courage to jump off of the high dive at the local pool; I decided I must also take the plunge. Knowing that she could be brave, made me sure that I could find the courage too. I guess that's healthy competition. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. <3

    Vickie, yes, it's getting the balance that's the problem. When I moved to a new culture-Puerto Rico- I came with my hard won confident and comfortable self...and after a few years, I felt that I had the rug taken out from under me. Now I feel 'situated' but it is still difficult sometimes.

    I suppose you have a similar experience in England/France but the language is an issue here. In your case, language nuances and French are your challenges...maybe cultural differences too? Thanks for commenting! xx <3

    You're facing the challenge now as you teach your children. I imagine that they see you expressing yourself about situations...and that is teaching too. They see that you must connect to your feelings in life...a valuable lesson. Love back to you! xx <3

    Lori Ann, so true! I mean that it is important to not harm others---and to not harm yourself. I think some of us tend to just over-give/support.

    Yesterday, I thought about how I "laid down the law" with my son about completing his homework and then I paid for a trendy haircut. As a result, he was not writing his paper, he was getting his hair styled. What a pushover I am sometimes! Now he looks like a startled bird and he hasn't yet finished his paper. I hope you get a chance to see this's a bit "Hollywood" but in a way that is heartwarming and pleasing. <3

    Greener Bangalore, thanks for your visit and comment. Come back again soon.<3

    Artist Unplugged, I certainly agree that life is a teacher...but sometimes it's easier to learn with a bit of a buffer. I remember my first yearning to go to college...I had no idea how to approach it. I didn't even have the courage to ask a school counselor. I decided to go into the Navy so that I could get the GI Bill to pay for my college. I really didn't have a good idea about alternatives. It all worked out fine...but I had a difficult couple of years until I found the strength to stand up for myself. I think I have a tendency to hide how foolish I might feel. Pretend confidence and soon you will feel it- at least that's what I hoped. I think it takes confidence to say- "I'm lost with this-can you help?" I feel more comfortable with the unknown now...I think it's important to push boundaries. Sometimes, I dare myself to swim out past the safe line in the ocean...just being on the outside of a line gives a feeling of freedom and a sense of opening.

    May your daughter have the opportunity to gain strength and confidence. I'm sure she is talented. xx <3

  12. cynthia , what a question! I raised three kids and each as different from each other as night and day...I don't know when I realized some things were out of my control and best left to life to teach that particular lesson...for me, it was WHICH lesson to keep silent on and which to cajole, overrule, teach, train, etc etc...that, for me, is the hard part...and even now, I'm still wondering at times because if you are a parent, the questions never stop least not yet! ;)

    I have given you an award but please do not think you must do anything...I just wanted to tell you how much I love your words, your thoughts, your's stimulating and makes me think, something one always needs!!! so come see, dear cynthia ;)


  13. Very interesting post. I would think it helps to be assertive, and firm instead of being aggressive. Aggression is about intruding into another's territory. Assertiveness is about holding one's territory from aggression.

    Personalities are different for sure, some are shaped by circumstances, others at birth. Often it is the acute sense of perception (for self) that drives one's behaviour more so the quiet personna.

  14. Hi Linda,
    Thank you for the award. It does present a challenging tasks. I think I will do it. Is your blog still private or is it open to other people? (I ask because of the link requested.)

    With your family experience, you confirm what some others have said about differences in children---from birth. Do you ever wonder what your own life would have been like if you had different experiences? You started painting as an adult but maybe you were born with the talent and inclination? It's curious to think about what may have sent us one way or another, don't you think?

    Take care and I hope you feel more relaxed about your son's absence. You will see your grandkids soon...Christmas is not that far away! love to you xx <3

  15. Hi Anil, you express an important distinction between aggression and assertion. I agree that there is an important difference but it's interesting to realize that the distinction is culturally influenced.

    If I wear my 'American' hat, I understand the difference well but here in Puerto Rico 'my hat'doesn't fit! I think that the girl who pushed my daughter away from the mike might have been seen by others as a girl who took what she needed...sort of competitive rather than rude. She seemed entitled and overly bold to me but my feeling is shaped by the politeness idea that I have internalized. Friendship, sharing and all daughter pretended that the girl wasn't rude. In my view, that's one way to handle a public situation...unfortunately, it also means that her chance to shine at singing was missed; however, she did shine in her own gentle manner.

    You bring up another point, that about hightened self perception...I think she and I both are quiet personalities...and we both put on the extroverted self as required! (though it feels a little false.) Take care <3

  16. Thanks for another beautiful post Cynthia. Children are all so different...and that is the challenge and the beauty (believe that or not;) Like you, I too was a sensitive child, but I think that's what made me more of a people's person...bering in-tuned to others. Thanks. You're always so nice..and your comments are worth so much to me:)

  17. I am learning the balance between being gracious and helping other and not helping TOO much. Helping too much can often only hinder the other person's ability to take care of themselves. I have learned, for example, that helping my family members over and over, has only enabled them to be more dependant on me and less INdependant for themselves.

    Good post!

  18. You take me back to my teen years here...La Bamba! Thanks for coming to my blog today, and yes, I like all your owl photos.

  19. Ms Lucy,
    thank you for your comment. I'm thinking about what you said...being in tune with others...I am a kind of people person, too. Eventhough I like to be quiet and reflective...some people wouldn't know it...I disappear when I need quiet. (I go into the hermit stage.)

    When I'm around people, I'm available for the most part. A friend told me that he was going to say, "You are such a communicator" because I was talking on the phone while walking to my next class, he saw me visiting with people along the way, and I also blog, use Facebook, and promote the documentary about my mother's murder(The Pittmann Puckett Story) by sharing my own experience.

    I'm often busy with people. In class, in my yoga group, at our cafe Casa Lima, in meetings...still I think of myself as a home centered, quiet, would-be gardener who reads, cooks, 'makes stuff' and writes.

    I am happy in a quiet environment..but adapt to noise when I have too. Maybe your insight is true...being observant of others can create a 'people person' style of communication. Thank you for your insight. xx <3

    Paris, yes that can be a problem when you are seen as the Rescuer...I think that is true in the family situation especially...but happens at work situations too.

    I've found that it is better to signal a boundary either or not...because people understand without being hurt.

    Recently, I had to explain that I wasn't available (just now) for a few people who were asking me quite often to edit or help them with a project (behind the scenes).

    Sometimes I have "over-helped" and that is not good for their own independence (and professional development)-as you so rightly expressed.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. <3

  20. Lynn, thanks for the visit and your comment. Your snail photos today were remarkable...always a gardener's issue...should I set beer out in a little bowl? Is that cruel? Use poison? Go buy some other 'greener' chemicals? Pick them off with my hands? About the comment... teen years? Wow...that song has been around a lot...I heard it in TJ before it was popular, I think. But it had a different feel...more like folk music. We used to visit there a lot when lived in San Diego. Take care...<3

  21. Such a delicate balancing act between pushing oneself forward and being trampled on!
    I ache for you and your daughter.
    I can be pushy for my children but not for myself.
    As ever, so thoughtful and interesting.
    I hate people who 'toot their own horns' a lot -- but if you don't who will.
    Greetings for a peaceful and lovely weekend.

  22. I've always been very introverted and seem to forget about my wants and needs in my family... I'll remember that I need to buck up and be more of a powerhouse about once every 5 months...and then I revert back to my mother henness! Oh well! Wonderful and thought provoking post Cynthia:)

  23. Such an interesting and thought provoking post! Oh to be properly balanced... but I tend to be more of an introvert. I'm braver now than in my youth, however ;-)

  24. thank you for visiting my can follow me at

    I am a 6 month old kid with my own blog...the blog is my own narrative in words lent by my father....

    you can revisit your own childhood in things I do...

    check out at

    thanks again

  25. Hi Elizabeth, thank you for your kindness. My memory was when my daughter was in kindergarden...she's in 11th grade now. We have gone through so much from that time...I know what you's easier to fight your child's battles...but sometimes you have to fight for yourself, too. May you also have a lovely ...Sunday- what's left of the weekend. Take care...stunning photos over at your blog today! love to you <3

    Marie Isabelle, thanks for reading. I know that you are a mother too...I like to nest- domestic life...still I have to get out there and do what I should in this life. You express yourself so much in your postcard blog...that's extroverted! Take care xx <3
    Japra, yes, we do change over makes you wonder if nature or environment is the most impacting factor in personality development...I like to think that we can choose to change as needed...seems more positive.

    Your own daughter has gone through some of this...the competition and performance...I think performance is enough! It's so stressful for parents...good luck on your exciting...the land of tulips! <3

    Reveda, lovely of you to visit and answer my questions...I tried to sign your guestbook, too but the computer waves were blocked (or something!) You are a pretty baby, indeed, tell your father that I can appreciate his celebration of your and light surround you always. <3

  26. This was a great post and had me thinking a lot about various times in my life when I chose to be a wall flower instead of stepping out to be noticed. There is somthing to be said for wall flowers though.

    I really stopped by to say a personal thank you for your comments on my blog earlier. It was an appreciated gesture at this time. Thanks again.


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