“Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.” – Truman Capote
I was talking with my friend Scott the other day about confidence. How did he have the confidence to start his own business 25+ years ago? And does the person he’s picked to replace him have the confidence to run the business when he retires? In the course of the conversation, I told him a chain of events that sparked my interest about the subject of confidence.
About two years ago, in the spring of 2020, I had two things that I needed to replace. I’d torn the passenger side mirror of my car loose when I backed up too closely to the yard waste bin. And the torsion spring on my garage door had snapped, maybe after my 4-year-old hung from the door as it was going up. This was the very start of the pandemic so just calling someone to come fix the problems wasn’t a viable option and my inclination anyway is to at least triage things myself.
It took a little googling to figure out what I needed to do next to fix my problems but with help from the internet, I figured out what parts I needed and ordered them. Then I talked over the issues with my brother. He found YouTube videos for how to replace both things and said he’d help. But before he could come over, I did both on my own.
The way I saw it was that I could watch the videos and try. If I didn’t succeed, I could always ask for help but at least I’d learn something. And I did learn something – how to do both!
At this point in the story, Scott laughed at me because he thought I was leaving out the most obvious sign of confidence – that I’d had two kids as a single parent by choice. Right – there’s that. 😊
But what really got me thinking about this topic was that not long after I fixed my garage door and replaced my car mirror, my daughter who was then just 4 ½ years old had her pre-school graduation and the comments left for her from the other parents/teachers were things like:
I love your confidence and I appreciate how friendly you are to everyone!
I love your stories and your art and how confident you are sharing your ideas with the whole class.
I love how determined and confident you are. You are also so empathetic and such a kind and helpful friend to many.
As I was mulling over how confidence seemed to have been passed to my daughter, I heard an adult joke sarcastically about my daughter when she said she could do something, “Girl, you really need to work on your confidence.”
At that point, I knew I needed to understand confidence and if/how it’s passed from one generation to the next (because I’d say my parents were very confident people and my instinct is that I got the courage to try from my dad). More than anything what I really want to know is how to foster confidence in a child in a way that healthy, realistic and humble.
Writing for Psychology Today in an article called The Secret of Self-Esteem author and psychiatrist Neel Burton defines as being confident as to trust and have faith in the world. Merriam-Webster adds one more flavor to this with a kids definition of confident as having or showing sureness or optimism. Dr. Burton distinguishes confidence from similar concepts by explaining confidence is feeling “I can,” self-esteem is feeling “I am” and pride is the feeling of “I did.”
That resonates with me because what I often think is that I can try something and even without an expectation of victory, I have the belief it will get me to the next clue in the puzzle. I can try has a very different flavor than I will succeed.
It also matches what I learned from my dad. He taught me many of my house project skills and though we had to blunder and troubleshoot our ways through some projects there was no question that we would eventually get it done. Like the time we unknowingly bought bathroom drywall instead of regular drywall and then wondered why it was so heavy and had to figure out how to marry it with what was there. His attitude was always one of “we can.” Probably most influentially, he never told me that there was something that I couldn’t do.
When I was talking with Scott about confidence, I asked him where he thought he got his. He didn’t hesitate a moment before saying that it was from his dad. But I’ve heard other answers too – teachers, coaches, librarians – anyone influential that told us by word or by action, “You can!”
I’m still working out many of my questions about confidence as I read through a pile of well-researched and thought out materials so I have many posts on this subject to come: what happens to confidence as we age, how to help a child build healthy confidence and what role does faith play in confidence?
Tell me how you think of confidence. Does “I can” resonate with you? Was there someone in your life that gave you confidence?
(featured photo from Pexels)