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Self-Confidence: Is it Nurture or Nature?

Part One

written by Ray Williams March 18, 2020
Self-Confidence: Is it Nurture or Nature?

Are you born being self-confident, or do you learn to be that way? This question is the classic nature vs. nurture inquiry. While conventional wisdom has been on the side of nurture, there’s research that indicates some people may be genetically predisposed to being self-confident.

Intelligent children tend usually to do well in school. But there are a lot of exceptions to that rule. Some young people with high IQs don’t ever become academic superstars; while those identified as less intelligent can become super successful. Some psychologists have focused on things like self-esteem and self-confidence to explain these outcomes. The assumption has been that these psychological traits are shaped mostly by good parenting – by positive beliefs and expectations, as well as through parent modeling.

However, some recent research has rekindled the debate over nature vs. nurture, indicating there may be more of a genetic determinant than we commonly think.

Definition and History of Self-Confidence

The concept of self-confidence has been defined as “self-assurance in one’s personal judgment, ability, or power.” It is a positive belief that in the future one can generally accomplish what one wishes to do. Self-confidence is not the same as self-esteem, which is an evaluation of one’s own worth, whereas self-confidence is more specifically trust in one’s ability to achieve some goal, which one meta-analysis suggested is similar to the concept of self-efficacy.

Famous psychologist Abraham Maslow and many others after him have emphasized the need to distinguish between self-confidence as a generalized personality characteristic, and self-confidence with respect to a specific task, ability or challenge (i.e. self-efficacy). Self-confidence is different from self-efficacy, which psychologist Albert Bandura has defined as a “belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task.” Psychologists have long noted that a person can possess the self-confidence that he or she can complete a specific task (self-efficacy) (e.g. cook a good meal or write a good novel) even though they may lack general self-confidence, or conversely be self-confident though they lack the self-efficacy to achieve a particular task (e.g. write a novel).

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