Q. Is self-confidence an inborn trait or something we learn? And if it is an inborn trait, can we still learn it?
A. I believe there may a debate beginning to develop on this subject. Many psychologists, coaches and therapists have maintained for quite some time that the degree of self-confidence in children is proportionate to the encouragement or discouragement given by parents, teachers and other significant others.
Quite recently, however, research has been published by behavioral geneticists that indicates that self-confidence may be a genetic predisposition.
This wouldn’t surprise me. There is already research that some people are born more optimistic, more resilient and happier than others. But it has also been proven that people can increase their capacities for these qualities no matter their inborn predisposition. Just because something is genetically predisposed does not mean it can never change.
When people have the will to change, they can become more positive, more resilient, more confident, less stressed, better leaders, happier, calmer…whatever they may desire to become. Will…or motivation…can trump many physical or psychological predispositions.
No matter if self-confidence is an inborn trait or not, I believe it can be learned. I know this through my own experience and in the changes I have seen occur in my psychotherapy and coaching clients over the years.
What are steps to learning self-confidence? Here are some basic steps to begin the process:
- Identify why it is important to you. For example, “I want to learn to be more self-confident because I want to: get a promotion at work, learn to speak my thoughts and ideas without quaking in my boots, become more at ease with potential dating partners or be more successful in my business.”
- Assess where you are now. On a scale of zero to ten – zero being non-existent, ten being the epitome of self-confidence, rate where you are right now in regards to your particular desire. For example, in terms of speaking your thoughts and ideas, you may rate yourself a two. Remember to ask yourself why you gave yourself this score. There is something that made you get to two…some personal quality, some skill. Even if it’s just plain old perseverance, give your self credit for this. Use what you came up with as a template for what works.
- Now rate yourself in other areas. For example, using the same scale, rate yourself in terms of how well you do your job, how well you get along with those who are in your immediate sphere of influence, how well you do in your hobbies and interests. There are qualities and skills that are clues you can apply to increasing your self-confidence in other areas, especially those you have identified in step one.
- List these strengths, talents and abilities from steps two and three and keep them where you can readily see them. Acknowledge yourself for them. Use them as building blocks.
- Start immediately to take the steps needed to increase your rating from the two you gave yourself in the previous example to a three. Don’t aim for a ten right now, aim for a three (or whatever is your next increment). Write down your goal; for example, “I will express my thought/idea about (name idea) to (choose a safe person like a trusted co-worker or friend). Then write down some of the previously identified personal qualities, talents and abilities you can use to achieve that goal; for example, “I will use my quality of (name identified quality), my talent for (name identified talent) and my ability to (name identified ability) in order to achieve this next step.” Take action.