Now Felix Keep on Walking

Before ‘Keep calm and carry on,’ there was Felix the Cat. From my mother I inherited the last surviving little plate of a 1920s doll’s tea set. The cartoon shows Felix staunchly keeping going, beset as he is by the frenzy of dogs barking and other cats panicking.

Granted, Felix looks strapping enough to handle any setback; but the kind of resilience you need to take difficulties in your stride is more to do with size of attitude than physique. If you believe that you have, or can find, the resources you need to handle a situation, it becomes manageable. And every difficulty you manage to deal with increases your ability to rise to the next challenge.

Conversely, every upset, shock or pressure that you can’t cope with will knock your confidence, and deplete your energy. Anxiety feeds on itself. Avoidance can become a habit. When your confidence leaches away, or if you never had much in the first place, trying to keep on top of day to day living can at times become overwhelming. Then even a trivial setback seems to swell out of all proportion, and your physical and emotional well-being become harder to maintain.

Confidence can be learned. It is not a matter of individual temperament, it is a way of thinking. Many people mistakenly feel it is somehow safer to dwell on what could go wrong, than to imagine a happy outcome; as if worrying in advance might somehow avert disaster, or as if expecting the worst will save you from being disappointed. But the fact is that disheartening thoughts will only dishearten you. They will not enable you to cope better when difficulties arise, as they inevitably will. It takes confidence to deal assertively with the problems that are always snapping at our heels, and to keep going, doing the best you can from one unforeseen moment to the next. 

Keeping on walking will bring you through a situation and to another place. It means not letting yourself be daunted or side-tracked by the growling of your own regrets or resentments, or frightened by uncertainties.

Confidence means ‘with trust’. This is not the kind of trust that shuts its eyes and crosses its fingers, like the ‘peril-sensitive’ sunglasses in The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that go black in the presence of danger, so that you can’t see what you don’t want to. It is not the kind of trust that depends for its peace of mind on locks and alarms, belt and braces, insurance schemes and guarantees; or on rosy-tinted wishful thinking, either.

What you can trust is the extraordinary capacity we all have to come up with new and previously unimagined possibilities. You can trust that (like everyone else) you will make wrong decisions and be disappointed, ashamed, frustrated, like everyone else…but that you will also adapt, change, regenerate and learn as you go along. Keep walking, and your view will change as you walk.

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