Confidence is widely considered an excellent quality. It’s associated with communication skills, social suavity, and success. Studies even show that people possessing strong self-confidence earn more money than their less confident counterparts. Is it any surprise, therefore, that capitalist Western culture in particular places such emphasis on self-esteem?
Self-help culture has grown from the notion that everyone should strive to be more confident. Advice, mottos, and mantras are regularly spouted. And though these encouraging words have benefits, they can also often be summarised by a few easily-Instagrammed words. Believe in yourself, for example. You are beautiful. You are flawless.
Yet the message ‘you’re perfect; just be confident!’ overlooks an aesthetically regrettable – dare one say ugly? – truth.
Confidence is not an innate trait which some are born with, and which others must endeavour to acquire. Like most personality traits, it has roots in one’s nature but is fostered by environmental factors. If confidence does become internalised, this is largely due to consistent positive reinforcement and approval, building self-esteem. Consequently, an individual’s self-confidence is arguably based far more on ongoing external factors – namely, how people treat one another – than is typically acknowledged in self-help culture, grounded in the idea that people can “fix” themselves.