What gives you confidence and self-worth

Personality: The art of trusting yourself

"You can do it, trust me!" - Believing in yourself is not always easy. Whether it is about the long-cherished wish to set up our own business, to participate in an important sports competition or simply to speak to the likeable-looking stranger in the café - sometimes we simply lack the self-confidence to make the decisive one To dare step. Then suddenly doubts gnaw at us: Are we really up to the whole thing? Can we even do it? And what if it goes wrong? Instead of taking a chance, we may let it slip by - or need the encouraging words of others, who often seem to trust us more than we do ourselves.

But what does that actually mean, "trust yourself"? Although psychologists have dealt with this question for decades, it is not that easy to clearly distinguish self-confidence from other terms that are often mentioned in the same breath. The term of general self-confidence mostly refers to the confidence in one's own abilities and abilities as a whole. When it comes to individual skills, scientists tend to speak of self-efficacy or specific self-confidence. "You can have a high degree of self-efficacy in math, but low in reading," explains psychologist Qin Zhao from Western Kentucky University in the United States. Self-efficacy in one area can also change over time: Perhaps you start with very low self-efficacy in tennis, but after a few extensive training sessions it slowly increases.

  1. Psychologists understand self-confidence to be confidence in one's own abilities and skills. How strong it is in each individual case probably depends on both genetic and environmental influences.

  2. How much we believe in ourselves influences, among other things, our willingness to make decisions and our consumer behavior. It also affects how well we do on exams.

  3. To increase your self-confidence, it can be helpful to realize that you can improve and train your skills. Parents can help their children appear more confident by encouraging independence and praising them properly.

This article is included in Spectrum Compact, A Question of Trust

The concept of self-esteem also often comes into play when it comes to self-confidence. Even in the scientific literature, the two terms are sometimes mixed up - although they actually describe something different, says Qin Zhao. “Self-worth isn't necessarily about skills. It's more the overall respect you have for yourself, your own appreciation. «As early as 1990 Jennifer Campbell, then a professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, was able to show that self-esteem and self-confidence are often connected. To do this, she asked 92 students with high self-esteem and 92 students with low self-esteem to fill out a questionnaire in which they were asked to indicate how much certain adjectives applied to them. Then the researcher wanted to know from the participants how sure they were about their answers. Subjects with a low self-esteem also showed less confidence in their ability to assess themselves as a result.

"There are people who have low self-esteem but are very sure of it" (Richard Petty, Professor of Psychology at Ohio State University)

However, this does not necessarily have to be the case, warns Richard Petty. "There are also people who have low self-esteem but are very sure of it," says the professor of psychology at Ohio State University. This could prove to be unfavorable in psychotherapy, for example. Some patients gain confidence over the course of the sessions, while their self-esteem remains low. "Then those affected are suddenly certain that they are not good enough," says Petty. That is why it is often more beneficial if self-confidence and self-esteem are in harmony with one another.

When doubts gnaw at us

How much we believe in ourselves and our own abilities has a huge impact on our behavior. For example, it can affect how decisive we are: Those who are plagued by self-doubt are more likely to look for further information and hesitate to commit themselves. Our consumer behavior is also sometimes determined by our self-confidence. This was shown in 2008 by researchers working with Leilei Gao from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The scientists first shook the test subjects' belief in their own abilities by having them write an essay about their intelligence - with their non-dominant hand. The participants were then asked to decide what they would rather receive as a thank you for participating in the study: a pen or candy. In this case, the test subjects chose the pen more often than subjects in a control group, who, as usual, were allowed to write about their own cognitive abilities with their dominant hand. Apparently the participants tried to straighten their own self-image with the "smarter" gift!

A lack of self-confidence can also block our opportunities. For example, the 2015 OECD education report suggests that girls often do worse in math than boys at school because they have less confidence in their ability to solve math problems. If one only compares the results of the boys and girls, who have a similarly high belief in their math skills, no difference can be seen in terms of the results.