The first stanza of Rudyard Kipling's poem If speaks about self confidence. Explain why?

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jeffclark's profile pic

jeffclark | College Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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The classic "If" is Kipling's wonderful contribution to the genre of inspirational poetry.

The first stanza, with its admonitions to "keep your head" and "make allowances" is an amazingly concise and accurate primer on the development of a well rounded person. And yes, self confidence is a big part of that.

To be able to stand in the midst of confusion, to bear up under the weight of disagreement from others, to wait patiently for results and to not allow the opinions of others to stop you are requirements to being able to effectively function in life. This is only possible "if" you believe in yourself.

kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The first lines in the first stanza of Rudyard Kipling's poem If are direct expressions of the author's emphasis on self-confidence and moral courage:

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too; 
 
With these lines, Kipling begins a paean to maturity. If is a declaration of the mental attributes that collectively comprise the model of adulthood the author envisions. It is a poem that suggests that emotional maturity is the product of the individual's ability to rise above circumstances and to retain the proper or appropriate demeanor when those circumstances bring out the worst in others. While the question references solely the first stanza, the beginning of the second stanza reasserts the attributes by which one can define manhood. When Kipling writes "if you can dream, and not make dreams your master," he is again emphasizing the value inherent in perspective. He is not admonishing one against dreams and ambitions; he is, rather, drawing that crucial distinction between recognizing the practical responsibilities of adulthood and the genuine need to envision goals that may or may not attainable. It is that first stanza, however, that reflects the importance the author placed on self-confidence. Being sufficiently self-assured and secure in one's position, even in the face of overwhelming opposition, is a definition of leadership, and every great leader is imbued with a sense of self-confidence that enables him or her to rise above the crowd and to endure the attacks, verbal and otherwise, that often accompany such self-assurance. That is the meaning of the first stanza of Kipling's poem.
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joanna0506's profile pic

joanna0506 | eNotes Newbie

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The opening paragraph of Kipling's poem If-- provides a model and a framework upon which the rest of the poem is built. It defines what mature self-confidence is--it includes poise, faith in one's own judgment, compassion for those who doubt you, patience, personal integrity, kindness in the face of hatred, and genuine humility about how one fits into the world objectively.

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