Q. Is self-confidence an innate trait or something we learn? And if it is an inborn trait, can we still learn it?
R. I think that a debate on this topic may be beginning to develop. Many psychologists, coaches, and therapists have long held that children’s degree of self-confidence is proportional to the encouragement or discouragement of parents, teachers, and significant others.
Very recently, however, behavioral geneticists have published research indicating that self-confidence may be a genetic predisposition.
This would not 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 regardless of their innate predisposition. Just because something is genetically predisposed doesn’t 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 want to become. Will… or motivation… can trump many physical or psychological predispositions.
It doesn’t matter if self-confidence is an innate trait or not, I believe it can be learned. I know this from my own experience and from the changes I have seen occur in my psychotherapy and coaching clients over the years.
What are the steps to learn self-confidence? Here are some basic steps to start the process:
- Identify why it is important to you. For example, “I want to learn to be more confident in myself because I want to: get a promotion at work, learn to express my thoughts and ideas without trembling, feel more comfortable 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 now with respect to your particular desire. For example, in terms of expressing your thoughts and ideas, you might rate yourself a two. Remember to ask yourself why you gave yourself this score. There is something that made you reach two… some personal quality, some ability. Even if it’s simply perseverance, give yourself credit for it. Use what you came up with as a template for what works.
- Now qualify 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 in your immediate sphere of influence, how well you perform in your hobbies and interests. There are qualities and skills that are clues that you can apply to boost your self-confidence in other areas, especially those that you have identified in step one.
- List these strengths, talents, and abilities from steps two and three and keep them where you can easily see them. Recognize yourself for them. Use them as building blocks.
- Immediately begin taking the necessary steps to increase your rating from the two given in the example above to a three. Don’t aim for a ten right now, aim for a three (or whatever your next increment is). Write your goal; for example, “I will express my thought/idea about (name of idea) to (choose a confident person, such as a co-worker or trusted friend). Then write down some of the previously identified personal qualities, talents, and abilities that you can use to accomplish that goal, for example, “I will use my (name of identified quality) ability, my (name of identified talent) talent, and my (name of identified ability) ability to accomplish the next step.”