I Can

“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)

40 thoughts on “I Can

  1. My own path to confidence was difficult but simple. I did not find much of it at home, though I achieved academic success. Friends seemed to have more.

    When I was unhappy enough, I began to take more chances both professionally and personally. The confidence came because I enlarged my capacities in this way.

    Too many believe they must have confidence before they act, but never act, instead keep waiting. I found it because I acted first.

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  2. So does this mean some believe confidence is an innate trait or a learned behavior based on environment- or both? I would leave toward the learned behavior- seeing those around you who you admire, love, trust unconsciously giving you the tools to build and grow your own confidence

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    1. I agree with you that is a learned behavior, Deb. There is some research on monkeys that implies that the genetic sequence dealing with serotonin also relates to confidence as a predictor. But in humans, there is so much intertwined – self-esteem, optimism, competence… It’s really fascinating!

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  3. No question Miss O, and Mr. D, got their confidence from their mother. From your nature, and the way you nurture their belief in possibilities and themselves. For some of us, confidence resides in us naturally; for others, we learn to believe in ourselves over time. Kudos to you, Wynne, for fostering the “I Can” mindset in your children. 💜

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    1. What a lovely comment, Natalie. Thank you. And I think you are right on – “For some of us, confidence resides in us naturally; for others, we learn to believe in ourselves over time.” Yes!

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    2. Agreed! I’ve seen managers who shred their employees’ confidence and ones who build their employees’ confidence. You know which of those two managers you want… And parents, like managers, can do both. It’s a testament to your parenting, Wynne, that your children are empathetic, kind, and confident.

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      1. EW, your comment I’m sure strikes a chord with all of us that have witnessed both good and bad managers. You are so right – shred is the perfect word for the destruction they can do. And your comment highlights a parallel to the fact that it’s people with so much power and influence over us that can make such a difference either way. That totally makes sense!

        Thank you for the lovely comment about my parenting – they are easy kids to love! 🙂

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  4. I think that confidence may be a combination platter of heredity, innate and encouragement by others. Though I lacked confidence as a child, I constantly reminded my daughter that there was nothing that she could not do, be, or have. The proof shows in her life, and in the lives of her three confident, competent, successful daughters. Where does confidence come from? I can’t say for sure, but i wish i had more of it! Thanks for another wonderful post Wynne.

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    1. That is so wonderful that you gave your daughter confidence and she passed it on. I think that’s similar to how it flowed in my family. There’s definitely a component of confidence that comes from faith too – the ability to tolerate uncertainty. I am so interested in learning more! Thanks, as always, for the interesting and encouraging comment Julia!

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  5. Ah yes, confidence! Nurtured in a loving home but sparse in a home where criticism abounds! Both my daughter and I learned confidence later in life, both of us having received strong, even severe criticism in our childhoods. Me from my mother and she from her father. Our mantra for trying new things: “What have we got to lose?” Then when we succeeded, we built our confidence. Wynne, your kids are fortunate indeed to experience loving support. You’re doing a great job to raise confident people! Bravo!

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    1. I love it – “What have we got to lose?” That’s a perfect mantra! And your point about criticism – a huge obstacle to confidence but thank goodness for your courage to push past! Thanks for adding your great thoughts to this thread!

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      1. Always a pleasure! Yes, we love that mantra! I remember years ago finding the courage to take apart my toilet to fix it. I figured if I couldn’t do it at least I had disassembled it for the plumber! My daughter applied that same logic to replacing the blower motor her furnace! Thankfully we did do the repairs successfully!

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      2. That is exactly how I think about it, Tamara. At least I could get the work started even if I have to call someone else. And then with a little perseverance (and maybe stubbornness), it’s done! The toilet and the blower motor for the furnace – that’s impressive!! I love it!

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  6. Way to go, Wynne, for another great post and also for the tasks that you’ve accomplished! Yes, I am a stronger believer in the power of “I Can.” Henry Ford’s quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right,” is a well-known law of attraction saying. We’ve just got to feel the truth of that within.

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  7. I’ve learned to be more confident as I’ve aged– and interacted with people in blog land who’ve given me a broader perspective about how people do things. The two experiences have helped me say “I can” more often, but I’ll admit that I have to silence the voice of doubt programmed into me by my childhood experiences.

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    1. Such a thoughtful comment, Ally. I was wondering if bloggers would rate higher on the confidence scale – after all, pushing the “publish” button is not easy and the opportunity to interact with others abounds but it takes courage to comment/interact (at least for me). And age is another interesting factor – the perspective and experiencing overcoming doubt to get to “I can” builds on itself. Thanks for adding these thoughts!

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  8. Interesting topic, Wynne. I witnessed my mother grow and succeed as a seamstress through self-determination and persistence. My own self-confidence grew as I succeeded in achieving the goals I set for myself, even in the face of great odds. I’ve also faced several failures, but those only come when we are confident enough to give it a try.

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    1. What a rich and interesting comment, Rosaliene! Self-determination and persistence – such great tools in the toolbox. And when you say “even in the face of great odds” about your goals, it makes me realize that confidence is in proportion to the odds we overcome, isn’t it?

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  9. Very interesting, Wynne. I think over the years my confidence has increased by stepping out in faith and not letting fear hold me back. When I was younger, fear of failure often stopped me from doing the things I wanted to do. Faith is a big part of my life and that has been very helpful. I think of the Bible verse: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

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    1. I love that Bible verse, Nancy – thanks for adding that to this conversation. Yes, I think faith is a big part of confidence – and as you say so well, providing the courage to overcome our fears. Right on so many levels!

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    1. Your mother had so many wonderful lessons, I’m not surprised that confidence came along with all the other goodness. How wonderful to have had your husband by your side as well for all these years and the assurance and confidence that came from it. It makes so much sense to me why a healthy partnership would do that!

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  10. Lovely post, Wynne! I think “I Can” perfectly summarizes a positive mindset that helps kids – and anyone really – start to believe in themselves. Then coupled with positive experiences, such as your two pandemic DIY fixes or your daughter’s graduation comments, the positive reinforcement is the fuel that helps the confidence growing.

    It’s no surprise your daughter has developed self confidence at such a young age. You role model it very well for her! 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for a lovely comment, Ab! I love how you say ““I Can” perfectly summarizes a positive mindset that helps kids – and anyone really – start to believe in themselves.” Yes!!

      Hope you have a great Thursday my friend!

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  11. Confidence is such a mixed bag for me. I’ve got it in spades when it comes to writing…but assembling things? Ha! The only thing I’m confident in is the fact that I will somehow screw that up.

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  12. I am very lucky and don’t think I’ve really have had too many issues with confidence. I do think I can do basically anything but I recognize I can’t do everything. So often instead I think do “I want” vs I can to know what to prioritize. As for where I got my I can – I honestly think I initially got it out of spite, if you told me as a kid I couldn’t do something well then let me show you…

    Also over time, I’ve learned that I don’t have to be good at something to do it. Enjoyment and enthusiasm are much more important than being good at something so no longer really let the worries about my performance stop me from trying stuff. I won’t get embarrassed because I’m too busy having fun.

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    1. What a great delineation between I want vs I can – that seems like the heart of wisdom to be able to know that. And I love your comment about enjoyment and enthusiasm being much more important than being good at something – yes, yes, yes! Can you sense my enthusiasm? 🙂 Thanks for a great comment.

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