On Monday I browsed the PT Blogs and found one featured by Ray Williams titled "Self-Confidence: Nature or Nurture" and my feathers got ruffled. He claimed that self-confidence is genetic and that we each (mothers, fathers, scientists, children) are solely "stuck" with our biology of confidence. Having just spent a year of my life studying confidence, I can tell you that self-confidence isn't a result of your genes.
The Biology of Confidence
Without question, there is a biological basis to behavior and your parents provided you (and you provide your children) with the predisposition to be more optimistic or geared towards seeing the cup as "half-empty." As any leading-edge neuroscientist will tell you, however, your biology isn't your destiny. You have a whole host of options that can positively increase your natural sense of self-confidence—like adding regular exercise, meditation, healthy eating, positive thinking, personal growth classes, consistent sleep patterns and more to your life.
I am so adamant about self-confidence not being a "pre-determined" biological gift from parents because I have studied this subject in-depth for years. In 2012, I have a new book coming out, Growing Happy Kids: How to Foster Inner Confidence, Success and Happiness (HCI), that provides a whole new model of how to create confidence in children, and set them up for their happiest lives. (Due to agreements I cannot talk too much about the details here, but please stay tuned).
The Skill of Self-Confidence
Being a guide to so many parents and children on the topic of self-confidence, I can tell you that it is solely a skill to be mastered. There is no "magic pill" that you take, and boom — you wake up feeling confident from the inside out. But there are certain ways to think, feel and be in the world that nudge you forward and help you develop the skill (hear me: I said skill) to believe in yourself wholly and completely.
There are stages of self-confidence, and also varying types of self-confidence that exist. Let's for a moment return to thinking of your own life: Do you have the same level of confidence your mother did? Or father? Or have you grown in new ways that pushed you beyond your parents' confidence level? I can only speak from my personal and professional experience — I know that I am much more confident than my mother (whom I loved) because I made the decision to learn the skill of self-confidence, surround myself with other people with authentic confidence and begin to "do the things" that bolster self-confidence like seeing myself succeed.
Children Can Learn, Too
In my private practice, I have helped countless children improve their ability to master the skill of self-confidence from learning how to "stand up" to a bully in the playground to feel less anxious during EOG's (end of year grades). One boy in particular, Billy, came from a "broken home" with his father in jail and mother working a very physically demanding job so let's just say his natural level of confidence wasn't there ... But with time and practice, I witnessed Billy say things like "I am going to make the soccer team!" and "school is easy" that are clear indications of a growing level of self-confidence.
So in closing, I felt it was important to add some color to this conversation and celebrate the power of biology but underscore the fact: Your biology doesn't pre-determine your ability to master the skill of confidence.
© by Maureen Healy
Founder of Growing Happy Kids, and parenting author of the upcoming book, Growing Happy Kids: How to Foster Inner Confidence, Success and Happiness (HCI, 2012).