Friday, February 15, 2013

The Confidence Plan: How to Build a Stronger You

Confidence is a word which we frequently use in everyday language yet rarely do we stop and think what it means. Most dictionary definitions of confidence focus on two related ideas:
•    confidence is about being certain of your own abilities
•    confidence is about having trust in people, plans or the future.

Confidence is thus not simply a feeling that things will go well but also a judgement on our own, or others’, abilities. When the abilities in question are our own, having confidence suggest a high level of self-assurance. Since confidence involves the belief that things will turn out well, confidence may sometimes be used interchangeably with optimism.

As confidence is a multidimensional concept it is not a term much used by psychologists. Indeed the academics who are most likely to use the term are economists. Confidence is a key concept in economics as confidence is needed for investment and the operation of markets.

Instead of confidence, psychologists are more likely to use terms which may still be difficult to define but which are more focused and so more amenable to measurement. The most commonly used terms by psychologists are: self-esteem, self-efficacy and optimism.


Millions of words have been written about self-esteem and many critics believe it is a slippery concept. However, there is general agreement that there are two broad ways to define, and measure, self-esteem. One is to see it as the evaluation a person makes of their capabilities. The other is to see self-esteem as the essentially emotional feeling an individual has about their self-worth. The latter is the more common definition and is the one used in the most popular tool to measure self-esteem – the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.


Self-efficacy is the term that psychologists use to describe the belief a person has that they can reach their goals. Unlike self-esteem which is more of a global judgement on the self and its worth, self-efficacy specifically isolates the way an individual assesses their competence in relation to achievements, goals and life events. Self-efficacy expert, Professor Albert Bandura from Stanford University argues that “ordinary realities are strewn with impediments, adversities, setbacks, frustrations and inequities.” He therefore claims that people need “a robust sense of efficacy” to keep trying.” Research on self-esteem suggests that parents (through genes and parenting style) have the biggest influence on a young person’s self-esteem. However, Bandura and others argue that schools have a huge part to play in developing young people’s feelings of self-efficacy. (An entire chapter of the book is devoted to self-efficacy and how it can be fostered.)


In everyday life we usually use the word optimism to mean feeling positive about life. Often we refer to someone who is optimistic as seeing ‘the glass as half-full, rather than half-empty”.

In psychology, there are two main ways to define optimism. Scheier and Carver, the authors of the popular optimism measure – the Life Orientation Test - for example, define optimism as “the global generalized tendency to believe that one will generally experience good versus bad outcomes in life.” In everyday language this means “looking on the bright side of life.” In such a definition, pessimism is the tendency to believe “if something will go wrong for me, it will”. The other main way to define optimism is to use the concept of 'explanatory style'. This is the approach taken by Professor Martin Seligman author of Learned Optimism and co-author of The Optimistic Child. He argues that each of us has our own ‘explanatory style’, a way of thinking about the causes of things that happen in our lives. Optimists are those who see adversities as temporary and restricted to one domain of life while pessimists often see problems as permanent and pervasive. 

This book contains the following preferences

1-Mental Strategies: Beliefs that lead to peak performance

2-Emotional Approaches: Building Deep Confidence through insight and feelings

3-Behavioral Tactics: Actions that create confidence and success

4-Relational factors: developing a community that recharges rather than drains.

5-Spiritual Contentedness Discovering Unbreakable Confidence by living your purpose and mission