Is Confidence our Greatest Personal Asset?
(The ESC Confidence Survey Report© is in seven different parts to cover all the findings adequately. This first section deals with the reasoning and rationale behind the survey, and the explanation of Confidence.)
Nathaniel Branden (1930-2014) was the first writer to popularise the concept of self-esteem (The Psychology of Self-Esteem,1969). His book, heavy on philosophising and light on emotions, emphasised the power of thinking, personal principles, and individual values, to shape self-esteem and build confidence. However, he ignored the most potent force of enduring self-esteem: self-love. He thought that the act of thinking and questioning would enhance our awareness and help us to love ourselves. According to him, we had to “cherish our ability to think” to get high self-esteem. But while thoughts influence feelings and emotions, they alone do not give us self-love, or personal confidence. Something else is also in operation.
I was brought up in one of the poorest areas of Kingston, Jamaica, where even basic food was difficult to come by, and the environment was pretty demoralising and demotivating. However, I had one thing my local peers seemingly didn’t have: a positive mindset that dreamt beyond my surroundings, and an encouraging mother who shared those dreams and my determination to do better. In time, confidence in my potential, prodigious reading ability, and sheer self-belief, propelled me out of there and into a very different life in Britain.
Not surprisingly, I have always felt that confidence and happiness had little to do with material things, or even external interactions. Those may enhance personal feelings momentarily, but do little for long term emotional wellbeing and satisfaction. Both confidence and happiness are states of being, not destinations to which we can aspire. They have to start from inside us, according to how we feel about ourselves at any given time, and whether we are prone to be more positive or negative.
Excellent examples of super confident people are Muhammed Ali (1942-2016) and Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), who both shared some distinctive characteristics. They believed in themselves wholeheartedly, and what they could do; they had deep faith in their abilities and destiny; they took setbacks in their stride, as a necessary part of their aims, and were generous in defeat, with an obvious pride and authority that tended to reinforce what they had achieved, or where they were still heading. Above all, they put principles at the heart of their lives, regardless of personal costs. They were both clearly awash with confidence, yet were two very different individuals, with widely differing personalities, and across two different continents.
One chose to shout to the world that he was ‘The Greatest’, while fearlessly matching it with action, while the other preferred to let his principles, patience, unwavering belief, and deeds speak for him. Yet there were times when Mandela must have felt pretty demoralised by his situation. Fancy sitting in a prison for 27 years, all the time believing, and telling people, how you are going to be the President of South Africa, then finally leaving that prison to do just that, and forgiving your enemies as well? Unreal. You have to be supremely secure in yourself, and confident in your own power, to steadfastly believe something that was more likely to make others believe you’re delusional!
Other very confident people tend to be persuaders, motivators, and pioneers, who believe that everything is possible, and have proven it in many areas. Motivators like Anthony Robbins (Awakening the Giant Within); Susan Jeffers (1938-2012: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway); Martha Beck (Finding Your Own North Star); and Martin Seligman (Learned Optimism), the Father of Positive Psychology; politicians like Barack Obama (U.S President), who came from nowhere to nab the highest office in his country, with a simple, ‘Yes we can’, and pioneering aviators like Amelia Earhart (1897-1937), in particular, who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and whose confidence and conviction enabled her to overcome all the technical, financial, and gender obstacles she would likely have faced - they all took confidence to its ultimate possibilities.
They took self-belief to great heights and have changed their circumstances, our expectations and our world, in the process. These people, and countless others, have not only inspired me over the years, and boosted my own self-confidence, but they confirmed what I have always suspected since childhood: that confidence is our greatest single asset, no matter what other advantages we have. Talent, qualifications, or looks are not enough for realising our potential, or making an impact. We must have the confidence and courage to utilise them to full effect.
However, confidence is not the preserve of the famous. We all know members of our own immediate families, or friendship circles, who have a strong self-conviction and enjoy proving their beliefs; people who seem to make things happen so effortlessly, when others appear to struggle so much; or those who seem able to take knockbacks without any complaints while others feel devalued with every disappointment. In fact, I have been so convinced of the power of confidence over our lives, years ago I decided to research it further, at a time when my own confidence was in its fledgling state. But being little understood, confidence as a powerful motivator has been much undervalued, and there wasn't that much written on it.
That is not so surprising, as we cannot appreciate what we don’t understand. Hence confidence as a tool has often been expressed through trivialities like how we should act, or dress; what we should say; the way we should prepare for the unknown, etc., with very little information addressing the root causes of confidence - the way we actually feel that affects our confidence level, and why! Some confidence advisors do mention positive thinking and self-belief, but it is well nigh impossible to be positive, if one doesn’t know how to be positive, or why one is feeling negative in the first place! That’s putting the cart before the horse. All this confusion made me determined to identify the roots of confidence and, in my 1991 book, Signposts to Success, I would like to think I did just that.
I proposed a human confidence triangle that carried three essential elements: our feeling of belonging, our level of achievement, and our self-esteem, with three separate quizzes for readers to test their own level of each element. The actual confidence level depended on how satisfying all three aspects were to the individual, as they combined to create the overall confidence state. Twenty-five years of research later, analysing thousands of quizzes from the public, and gleaning tons of information, my theory has been refined to identify five key elements that form the basis of confidence - the most important being self-love, as well as the three original drivers that maintain it.
If we are anxious, stressed, or don’t feel very good about anything, we are not likely to be thinking enhancing thoughts, or seeing the world in optimum mode. Our perception will be limited to our fears.
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The Essential Roots of Confidence
We are social beings who need others with whom to interact, and to validate our presence, otherwise we could go insane from loneliness. Thus we all have an innate need to belong
- whether to a group, community club, workplace, social media, or otherwise (it makes us feel valued and wanted), and that need drives everything else. With confidence being an internal state, it means that the happier we are about our bodies, identity (especially self-love), sense of belonging, personal value, and achievement, the more contented and confident we are likely to feel about our situations and interactions, regardless of whatever is happening externally.
Thus how we actually feel when we wake up each day drives our thoughts, actions, and self-worth, which, in turn, impacts on how we react to possibilities, opportunities, adversity, and other people. If we are anxious, stressed, or don’t feel very good about anything, we are not likely to be thinking enhancing thoughts, or seeing the world in optimum mode. Our perception will be limited to our fears, with everything appearing overwhelming.
That is why, as an early victim of poverty, I am convinced that throwing money at the problem as the total cure-all for limiting opportunities and mindsets, is often futile, unless we’re going to also change the poor’s thoughts, attitude, and feelings about themselves to match it. In effect, to boost personal confidence through raising their awareness of what is possible. Money might alleviate temporary material need, and make their surroundings more attractive and uplifting, but it won’t stem ongoing, or generational, anxiety and poverty, if the limiting mindsets remain the same, and there is no internal confidence to build on any external assistance.
Clearly, I regard confidence as the most important emotional asset we possess; one that has an enormous effect on influencing the quality and enjoyment of life, and realising our potential. For that reason, I wanted to find out why some people have a lot of it, while too many people don’t. I also wanted to test whether confident people perceive themselves in a more positive way than others, and have a different self-image to low confident people.
But to test my belief about this essential commodity, I had to know what confidence was, and my own definition of confidence is this:
“A positive way of thinking and acting, that is formed by personal experiences, and powered by self-belief, to keep individuals motivated.”
To that end, I created a formula for Confidence (consisting of self-love, self-belief, positivity, self knowledge, the desire to experiment, and the capacity to accept change), and decided to test it, but in a fun way, rather than by any rigorous methodology. These elements were translated into seven survey questions that formed a Confidence Quiz on this website for visitors to try.
Respondents were asked to give a self-rating - ranging from 5 (highest), to 1(lowest) - that assessed their routine feelings for each of the seven aspects below: People rating themselves with mainly 5 or 4, would be claiming to be far more confident than those with self-ratings of only 1 or 2. The total of their scores (maximum< i>35) decided where they were placed on five Levels of Confidence.
The actual questions related to:
1. The degree to which they loved and appreciated themselves (Self Love)
2. The strength of belief in their own abilities (Self Belief)
3. How comfortable they felt in their own skin (Self Comfort)
4. How much they knew themselves (Self Awareness)
5. How fearless they felt in their approach (Fearlessness)
6. Their desire to try new things (Experimenting)
7. Their perceived level of Happiness
These are all essential hallmarks of the confident person: loving the self, believing in it; feeling comfortable in who we are, and being aware of our identity; having strong principles, and not being afraid of defending them, or afraid of setbacks; not fearing to make mistakes, or try new situations, and having a high degree of positivity and happiness. The most confident people should exhibit all these characteristics to a great degree, but no test has ever been done on the extent of those traits compared to non-confident people, hence the ESC Survey.
The subsequent public responses to the survey questions were made between January 2013 and December 2015, and have proven to be most enlightening. One could say that the results have shown that confidence plays a very significant role in how we see ourselves, and how positive and happy we feel. Above all, the findings have revealed the wealth of research that can follow, especially on a much larger number, and for specific groups, to see how much these findings can be universally applied.
(Part 2: Details of the Confidence Survey participants and key gender differences.)
The Peak Year of Anxiety for Men and Women
(The ESC Confidence Survey Report© is in seven different parts to cover all the findings adequately. This section reveals which gender is most confident, and which age is most problematic for Women. The reasoning and rationale behind the survey, and the explanation of Confidence, are available in the first section at the beginning of this page.)
A total of 350 diverse people participated in the online confidence survey over three years, of which 317 completed all the required information. It was fascinating to see that, though they were promised complete anonymity, those who were short on personal details tended to be among the least confident too! They wanted to know their scores, but their fear got the better of them when it came to providing the simple information to help the research.
A greater number of Females completed the quiz than Males - a ratio of almost 3:1. Could it be that Women are more concerned about appearing confident, while Men take it in their stride as a given? Though the average age of respondents was 35.2 years old, participants ranged from 12 to 71 years (the oldest and youngest were Females), while the oldest Male was 61. Females tended to be older, in general, while Males were noticeably younger, on average, at 32.7 years old.
The breakdown of the number of participants were:
10.6% under 18 years old
26.3% between 18 and 29 years old
27.3% between 30 and 39
19.1% between 40 and 49
16.7% 50 years and older
The bulk of respondents concerned about their confidence levels (53.6%
) were, understandably, in the 18-39
age range, particularly when that concern is placed in an achievement context: with these being the crucial years for making one's mark in jobs and careers. But to what extent does confidence propel one forward in a chosen career? Perhaps the most confident, and least confident, participants could answer that more clearly.
The emerging Five Levels of Confidence were decided by the total score of the self-ratings for all the questions, and they revealed the following distribution:
12.6% of respondents were on Level 5 (Most Confident - total scores ranged from 29-35 max.)
21.4% on Level 4 (Confident - total scores from 24-28)
30.6% on Level 3 (Some Confidence - total scores from 19-23)
21.4% on Level 2 (Less Confident with more fear - total scores from 14-18)
14.0% on Level 1 (Least Confident and most fearful - total scores from 7-13)
The average confidence score, out of a possible 35 total, emerged as 20.8. Not surprisingly, there was a marked difference between the self-rating total average of those on the top level of confidence (31.4) compared to that of respondents on the lowest level (11.1). In fact, the majority of respondents (66.0%) appeared to lack confidence, compared to only 34.0% who claimed to have the highest levels of it, while a third of respondents claimed low levels of confidence for themselves. The implications of this, for a wider application, is discomforting, because it would suggest that an awful lot of people live in fear, lacking the confidence and positivity to enhance their life quality.
Of course, it is possible that the fact respondents felt the need to do a confidence quiz showed some anxiety about the issue, which would draw them to a tool to test it, and might then result in skewed ratings towards the lower end of the confidence scale. However, there were certain noticeable trends within the results that would make any assumptions about the participants questionable, not to mention some stark differences between the genders.
For example, though Male respondents made up only 25% of the overall number of participants, they accounted for 42.5% of the top Level 5 confidence group, and 16.2% of Level 4 - highly disproportionate to their actual numbers. In fact, 21.5% of all Male participants, compared to only 9.7% of all Female participants, occupied Level 5, while Females seem more dominant on the second tier. Perhaps they don't think highly enough of themselves to occupy the top level? But the difference in gender percentage at this level is pretty significant, because no less than half of all the Male respondents (50%) emerged on the first two levels of confidence, compared to barely a third of Women (32.9%). The suggestion of higher confidence among Men was even more stark when it came to the group with the lowest level of confidence - Level 1 - which was completely dominated by Women: 77.3% to 22.7% for Males!
A snapshot of gender differences in the ESC Confidence Survey© revealed that the best age in confidence for women is 42.6 years old, while the men enjoy peak confidence at 33.7 years average. In general, Men came out far more confident than women in most aspects, but not in one area: maturity. Older Males were noticeably less confident than women over 40, as evidenced by the fact that 62% of all the Women on top Level 5 were over 40, compared to only 25% of the Men on this confidence level. The key message here is that there might be more Men at the top of the confidence scale, but it's the older Women who gradually increase in self confidence at this level.
But, whether Male or Female, the 30s decade appeared to be the defining age of anxiety for participants. Being mid-thirties appear to be the age of turmoil for them, and 32 years emerged as the peak anxiety year, on average, for Females, who appeared to lose their confidence the most, while, for Males, it was 36 years old.
From these responses, one could say that around the same time the Men were enjoying their greatest level of confidence, the Women were tanking in theirs, only to be revitalised around10 years later to feel most confident about themselves, while the men slowly continue their own downturn!
As to technology, the iPhone, Ipad, and computer were the main methods used for accessing the quiz. While there was no noticeable difference in ages, or genders, for those using the computer, the iPhone seems to have younger users (34.1 years old, on average), compared to the Ipad whose users were 40.2 years old, average. Also noticeable is that 47% of Males on the top confidence level used iPhones compared to 39% of Females.
(Part 3: The notable findings of each confidence level.)
REVEALED: Older Women Are The Most Confident!
(The ESC Confidence Survey Report© is in seven different parts to cover all the findings adequately. This section reveals the significant age gaps in levels of confidence, and the most confident time for both genders. The reasoning and rationale behind the survey, and the explanation of Confidence, are available in the first section at the top of this page in Part 1.)
There were five confidence levels to match the five self rating scores - from Level 5 (best) to Level 1 (worst), and each level revealed something different about the relevant participants. While the average confidence rating for all respondents was 20.8 out of 35 total, the Men’s average was higher, on 21.9.
A significant difference between the genders in their levels of confidence appeared on topLevel 5 (which consisted of 21.2% of the Men’s group, compared to only 9.7% of the Women’s), a noticeable difference when one compares the actual number of Males to Females in the survey. Another key difference was that the Level 1 group (lowest) was dominated by women: 77%compared to only 23% Males.
The ages of all respondents on each confidence level were also significantly different, especially for the top two, and lowest, levels.
Level 5 Confidence Ages -(Males:33.7 Females:42.6)
Level 4 Confidence Ages - (M:37.7 F:41.7)
Level 3 Confidence Ages - (M:31.9 F:35.8)
Level 2 Confidence Ages - (M:28.5 F:29.8)
Level 1 Confidence Ages - (M:36.3 F:31.8)
Respondents who claimed the highest degree of confidence (Levels 5 and 4) averaged 39.7 years old, though Males were peaking in confidence at 33.5 years, almost 9 years earlier than Females. The strange dip in age on Level 2 confidence (consistent for both Males and Females), and which goes against the natural trend, perhaps suggests a fear of leaving the 20s and turning 30s, as well as anxiety around opportunities for child bearing (Females). The low confidence state clearly begins at that age, especially for women.
It seems that as the confidence levels decline, down to Levels 1 and 2, the confidence gender gaps decreased, so that the 9 years gap for the most confident Men and Women became a gap of less than 4 years on Level 4, and barely 1 year on Level 2 (the least confident Males being just a year younger than the Females).
The sharp contrast in the age gaps suggests that the older the respondents got, the more confident they felt within themselves, with at least 6 years difference between the most confident and least confident people. However, the early thirties age is obviously very significant in its feeling of low confidence among all the respondents.
This survey results strongly suggest that older Women become more confident with age, and perhaps experience, after being pretty low in confidence in their 30s. As for Men, the confidence continuum from one decade to the next appears much more stable, but gets worse after 40 years old, with older men actually seeming to decline in confidence as older women surge ahead.
For example, 7.5% of the Level 5 respondents gave themselves the top score (35) for their confidence level, and they were all Females between 49 and 60 years old. However, while no Male claimed the top score, 17.5% of them claimed a very high score of 34 or 33, and they were between 18 and 40 years old, with just a single Male over 50: almost opposite to Females, in the ages at which they felt most confident.
On the lowest confidence level, the average age was almost 33 years (9 years below the top confidence age), with an average score of only 11.1 of 35. Women made up a massive 77.3% of that level, compared to less than 27% for Male. Interestingly, low confidence participants mainly responded in the winter months (between October and March), while the high confidence people responded mainly in the summer months (April to September). Do those times signify when respondents feel at their best, or worst?
As far as all the individual questions were concerned, most people appeared comfortable with Ques.6 - Experimenting, which had an average rating score of 3.3 (3.5 for Males), the highest average rating for any question, while Self-awareness and Self-belief scored very positively, too, with the most confident respondents.
However their scores dropped when it came to Ques.7 - Happiness, averaging only 2.6. Happiness and Comfort in own Skin got the lowest average ratings. The most significant, though not too surprising trend, in the results, is that the higher the confidence level, the happier the individual. But more on that later.
Overall, it seems that women appear far less confident than men, with their confidence improving only when they are mid- to late-40s, while Male confidence seems much in evidence from as early as possible, but begins to decline after 40 years old.
This finding confirms an earlier survey of 1000 British secondary headteachers (Heads Under Pressure - Sihera 1989) that clearly demonstrated that gender difference:
“The female headteachers in our survey (being much younger, on average) appeared to be very anxious when they are newly appointed, lacking the belief in their own abilities, and needing much more training and support than their male peers. But by the time they are in their 40s, they have developed a sense of authority and confidence that the younger men flaunt so effortlessly.
Ironically, this is age the men start to get anxious and need extra support. This survey suggests that by the time they reach their 50s they begin to doubt their own capacity to manage effectively, and many are almost reduced the level of anxiety of the youngest headmistresses…..It appears that the most contented managers are the female heads in the 43-49 age range. Only 1% of headmistresses felt they were ‘too old’ to carry on, which contrasted significantly with a fair number of men who cite their age, and the need to hand over to a ‘younger man’, as valid grounds for leaving.”
(PART 4: Key responses to the first two Questions:
Self-Love and Self Belief)
Self-Love and Self-Belief:
The Pivots for High Confidence People
(The ESC Confidence Survey Report© is in seven different parts to cover all the findings adequately. This section reveals the importance of Self-Love and Self-Belief to people who are highly confident. The reasoning and rationale behind the survey, and the explanation of Confidence, are available in the first section at the top of this page in Part 1.)
Self-love and self-belief are the two pivots of personal confidence. If we don’t love ourselves, there is likely to be dissatisfaction with our identity, and constant anxieties about our looks and worthiness, leading to frequent comparisons with others. There is likely to be a feeling of inadequacy: of not being as good, clever, skilled, or whatever, compared to peers. A lack of self-love is often the biggest cause of relationship issues too, because it is difficult to love others, or accept love, when we dislike ourselves
In response to all the questions ESC Confidence Survey©, there was a clear difference between the top level confident participants and those on the lowest confidence levels. People with high confidence (on Level 5 or 4) tend to rate themselves 5 or 4 for every question, while those on Level 1 or 2, tend to give him selves the lowest ratings in almost every category.
The survey gave the clearest correlation between these two important aspects and the level of confidence respondents believed they had, especially when one looked at the near perfect scores for all the respondents with the top level of confidence, contrasted with the very low self-ratings given by those on the lowest levels. Most noticeable is that both the lowest and highest confidence groups were highly consistent in the type of ratings they gave themselves.
For example, the least confident people also gave themselves the lowest scores for self-love and being happy in their own skin, while the high confidence responses showed mainly top scores for those aspects. The overall message from the responses to these questions was unmistakeable: No self-love or self-belief means no self-confidence either!
QUESTION 1: SELF-LOVE
Average rating for all respondents: 2.8 of 5
Average rating for those with highest level of confidence: 4.5
Average rating for those on lowest confidence level: 1.5
While majority of the top Male (58.8%) claimed the full 5 for loving themselves, only 43.5% of Females on this level chose the top rating. There appeared to be some reluctance by Females to rate themselves very highly in this aspect, especially by the younger age groups. The difficulty in loving the self is demonstrated by the fact that the only group who rated themselves 5 for this question was the top confidence group. None of the other participants did this.
The average rating for self-love on the lowest level of confidence was only 1.5, and 93.2% of respondents in that group rated themselves just 1 or 2. Obviously, if people feel badly about how they look, blame themselves, or have problematic situations where they are not treated with sufficient value and respect, they would find a degree of difficulty in loving, or appreciating, themselves.
Breakdown of the average rating for self-love on each level of confidence was:
Level 5: 52.5% chose a self-rating of 5 (97.5% chose 5 or 4)
Level 4: 33.8% chose 4 (0% chose 5)
Level 3: 0% chose 5
Level 2: 60.3% chose 2 or 1
Level 1: 59.1% chose 1 (90.9% chose 1 or 2)
The most interesting statistic is that even among those rating themselves highly confident on Level 4, self-love is still problematic, evidenced by the percentage choosing the top rating for this question dropping off dramatically to zero on this level. The majority of respondents on Level 4 (52.9%) chose 3 to describe their self-love, compared to most top level confidence respondents who chose 4 or 5. In fact, no one on Level 5 chose 1 or 2 to rate themselves.
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QUESTION 2: SELF-BELIEF
Average rating for all respondents: 3.1 (Males 3.4)
Average rating for those with highest level of confidence: 4.6
Average rating for those with lowest confidence level: 1.7
Self-belief is crucial for our confidence, because we have to believe in ourselves to make things happen, or to realise our potential. If we have little self-belief, it is difficult to be confident because there is no basis for that feeling of assurance. Self-belief cements the ‘can do’ approach by enhancing the positive thoughts about our identity, self value, actions, and aspirations. Without the belief that we are fully capable, fully competent, and fully in charge of our situation, there will be anxieties about our worthiness and performance, because we are likely to think mainly negative thoughts about our skills, abilities, and situations, and to keep comparing ourselves to others and be found wanting. In a nutshell, it is difficult to be confident when we are constantly worried and anxious, or have no belief in what is possible.
This category had one of the higher self rating averages (3.1) but Men believed in themselves more than the Women. Predictably, the least confident people also had very low self-belief: 1.7 on average. In fact, it is fascinating to see that as the levels change, the scores for this category gradually change too, so that by the time one has reached the top level of confidence, the average rating was 4.6. Interestingly, while 76.5% of the Men on this level rated themselves the full 5, the corresponding percentage for the women was lower, at 70%.
Breakdown of the ratings for self-belief on each level of confidence:
Level 5: 67.5% chose a self-rating of 5 (97.5% chose 5 or 4)
Level 4: 20.6% chose 5 (most chose 4 or 3)
Level 3: 3.1% chose 5
Level 2: 73.5% chose either 2 or 3 rating (1 Male chose 5);
Level 1: 84.1% chose 1 or 2
Noticeably, the lack of self-belief on the lowest confidence levels seems in direct contrast to the cocky self-belief of those on the highest levels. No one on Level 5 chose 1 or 2 to rate themselves.
There can be little doubt that self-belief is a real issue for people lacking confidence, which eventually forms a crucial part of a vicious circle: they don’t believe in themselves, ipso facto, they have little faith in their thoughts, decisions, and actions. This would tend to make them more ambiguous, and vacillating, in approach. they are also likely to find it difficult to achieve as much as others who have that firm sense of value, worth, and purpose, with the can-do mentality to match.
The results of this particular category are important because every aspect of our achievement hinges on self-belief. It follows that if people don’t believe in themselves, and what they are capable of doing, they are likely to under-achieve or be plagued with self-doubts. That would not be conducive to positive, motivating feelings. Hence why personal confidence is such an important personal asset.
(PART 5: Key responses to the next two Questions: Being Comfortable in Own Skin and Self-Awareness
High Self-Awareness: The Hallmark of Those Who Are Comfortable Within Themselves
(The ESC Confidence Survey Report© is in seven different parts to cover all the findings adequately. This section reveals the importance of being Comfortable in Own Skin and Self-Awareness for people who are very confident. The reasoning and rationale behind the survey, and the explanation of Confidence, are available in the first section at the top of this page in Part 1.)
These two confidence roots are strongly connected to the self-love aspect of confidence.
If we don’t really like what we see in the mirror, we are unlikely to feel comfortable with ourselves, or develop a true awareness of who we are, and what we seek. Doubts are likely to cloud the vision of our potential, which then hampers our progress. Yet, being comfortable within us is a key factor of confidence. It means that our acceptance of who we are can override any brickbats others might throw at us, because self-awareness of our capabilities will cement that self-belief, becoming a buffer to the negativity of others. Being comfortable within ourselves is likely to encourage less anxiety, and more trust in others too, because we tend to look outwards, and become more open, when we are less anxious and uncertain.
Self-awareness is also a key part of building confidence because that’s what drives self-belief. If we know who we are, what we can do, where we are heading, what we like or dislike, and what fires or demotivates us, we are more likely to feel good about ourselves, and have greater confidence in our decisions and actions. If we don’t know ourselves, it is easy to follow the path that others dictate - to be a caricature of someone else, or to end up doing the wrong things for our needs, personality and aptitude, while blaming others for personal problems and setbacks. Without that necessary self-awareness, we will continue to lack confidence in ourselves, through being unable to make the right choices and decisions for our benefit, while being dependent on others for our direction, with constant uncertainty about what would improve our life quality, or make us happy.
QUESTION 3: COMFORTABLE IN OWN SKIN
Average rating for all respondents: 2.8
Average rating for those with highest level of confidence: 4.4
Average rating for those with lowest confidence level: 1.3
There was a huge difference in the ratings of respondents on Level 5 (4.4 average) compared to those on Level 1. The most confident Men felt marginally more comfortable with themselves (4.6), than top women (4.4). Compare those ratings with respondents on the lowest level of confidence, where the average rating for feeling comfortable was only 1.3, and no one rated themselves more than 2. In fact, over 68% rated themselves the lowest figure - 1, diametrically opposite in self-perception to those on Level 5. These results suggest that it is very difficult to feel comfortable with ourselves, if we really don’t like who we are, how we look, or who we claim to be.
Breakdown of the ratings for self-comfort on each level of confidence was:
Level 5: 62.5% chose a self-rating of 5 (87.5% chose 5 or 4)
Level 4: 14.7% chose 5 (63.2% chose 5 or 4)
Level 3: 3.1% chose 5
Level 2: 60.3% chose 1 or 2
Level 1: 68.2% chose 1 (97.7 chose 1 or 2)
Interesting to note the clear gender difference in responses for this category: while 65.2% of the most confident Female respondents rated themselves 5 for this category, fewer Men (58.8%) felt able to rate themselves so highly. This seems to be in contrast to the ratings for self-love, where the percentages were in reverse. Does this suggest a stronger Female self-perception of being comfortable with their self-image, though they might find it more difficult to love themselves? However, in line with the younger age group of women on the lowest confidence level, the reverse was true: 60% of Men, compared to 70.1% of Women, rated themselves only 1 for this question.
QUESTION 4: SELF-AWARENESS
Average rating for all respondents: 3.2
Average rating for those with highest level of confidence: 4.7
Average rating for those with lowest confidence level: 1.9
Generally, respondents seem more comfortable answering this question, judging by the proportion on the top confidence level who gave themselves the highest rating of 5, and the fact that even people on lower Level 2 rated themselves 5 too. Not surprising that this category had the highest average top group rating of 4.7, as a significant 80% of these respondents rated themselves 5 for this question!
Interestingly, only 5.9% of Men, compared to 26.1% of women rated themselves less than 5, for this category. Respondents on this level claimed to know themselves well, which correlated with their overall high confidence scores. Compare that to the lowest confidence respondees, the majority of whom rated themselves just 1 or 2. The contrast couldn’t be more stark. These results show the strong connection between the perception of real confidence and actual self-awareness.
Breakdown of the ratings for self-awareness on each level of confidence:
Level 5: 80.0% chose a self-rating of 5 (95% chose 5 or 4)
Level 4: 26.5% chose 5
Level 3: 7.2% chose 5
Level 2: 60.3% chose 1 or 2 (2 young Females chose 5)
Level 1: 69.6% chose 1 or 2
The key finding here is that many people believe they are fully aware of themselves, though this perception does not often match up with the level of confidence they claim to have - for example, as demonstrated by those on Level 3 confidence. Yet, without genuine self-awareness, it is difficult to build real confidence, because a lack of self-awareness is likely to make a person feel more uncertain, vulnerable, anxious, unhappy, and frustrated with life. The unmistakable fact from the results in this section is that the majority of people who claim high confidence also regard high self awareness as part of that positive state.
(PART 6: Key responses to the next two Questions: Fearlessness and willingness to Experiment.t)
Fearlessness and Experimenting:
Are They Desirable Confidence Traits For Men?
(The ESC Confidence Survey Report© is in seven different parts to cover all the findings adequately. This section reveals the extent to which Fearlessness and willingness to Experiment appear to be desirable traits of confident people, especially Men. The reasoning and rationale behind the survey, and the explanation of Confidence, are available in the first section at the top of this page in Part 1.)
Being fearless and having a willingness to try something new, are hallmarks of true confidence, mainly because they cement the ‘can-do’ mentality.
Fearlessness in a confidence context does not mean having no fears at all. That would be highly unlikely, and even impractical. We all have survival fears. They are most natural to our well being, as they support our desire to live as long as possible without being harmed. However, fearlessness in confidence reduces the irrational fears we have around life caused primarily by low self-esteem and lack of self-belief. People who feel worthy and believe in themselves tend to have few fears about going after what they want, and developing that ‘can-do’ mentality, and the difference in scores for both extreme levels of the confidence quiz bears that out.
In short, fearlessness helps us to deal with our adversities and setbacks in a rational way. We won’t be plagued by too much anxiety in uncertain situations, or dwell on negative aspects too much. A willingness to accept change opens up even more opportunities and avenues for us, because we won’t be affected by the irrational and limiting fears of others.
The willingness to experiment is also a key part of building personal confidence because everything we are willing to do, that gives us the results we desire, helps us further along the road to greater confidence and belief in our abilities. Fear prevents experimentation, because it causes us to focus on the negative results that might ensue, the mistakes we might make, the things that could go wrong, and the possible consequences of our actions, instead of the positive benefits, the lessons we might learn, and we might gain from the new activity. In this regard, it is quite an eye opener to see that 97.5% of confident respondees rated themselves 5 or 4 for this category, compared to 70.4% of those with the lowest confidence who gave themselves contrasting ratings of 1 or 2. The difference between the two groups in this regard couldn’t be more obvious.
As far as the genders go, every single male on Level 5 (100%) rated himself 5 or 4, for being willing to experiment, compared to 95.6% of females. Could it be this can-do mentality that allows many confident Males to assume even more power for themselves?
QUESTION 5: FEARLESSNESS
Average rating for all respondents: 2.9 (Males 3.1)
Average rating for those with highest level of confidence: 4.2
Average rating for those with lowest confidence level: 1.6
The average score for this question, among the most confident respondents, was 4.2 of 5. The majority of this group, over 52.5%, rated themselves 5 for being fearless. Compare that top rating to the 56.8% of Level 1 respondents who chose 1 as their rating to match the low perception of their confidence. The contrast between the two groups, and how fear affected their perspectives, is clear to see: confident people have less fear towards their actions, and Men, in particular, appear to see fearlessness as a desired quality.
Breakdown of the scores for fearlessness on each level of confidence was:
Level 5: 52.5% chose a self rating of 5
Level 4: 25% chose 5
Level 3: 6.2% chose 5
Level 2: 58.8% chose 1 or 2 (2 people chose 5)
Level 1: 54.5% chose a self-rating of 1
It seems the most confident Men (4.3 average) were ahead of the confident women (4.1 average) when it comes to claims of being fearless. There was no obvious gender difference between the Men and Women who chose 5 as a rating for this category, but a striking difference could be seen in the overall numbers who chose 4 or 5 to rate themselves: 69.6% Female compared to 76.5% Male.
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QUESTION 6: Willingness to EXPERIMENT
Average rating for all respondents: 3.3 (Males 3.5)
Average rating for those with highest level of confidence: 4.6
Average rating for those with lowest confidence level: 2.0
This question got the highest self-rating, on average, of all the questions, for both extremes of the confidence scale. It seems the desire to experiment goes hand in hand with self-belief and self-awareness, judging by the similarity in self-ratings of these categories. No one on the highest confidence level gave themselves less than a 4 for this question, hence why the average rating for respondents on Level 5, was a high 4.6. Contrast their average to those on Level 1, the lowest confidence level, (2 average rating), with almost half their group, 45.5%, giving themselves only 1 as a rating.
An interesting observation of the two extremes on the confidence levels was that, while the top 20% on the highest confidence level gave themselves a 5 rating for this category, in direct opposition the bottom 20% on the lowest confidence level each gave themselves a rating of only 1. Their perception of this aspect couldn’t contrast more.
Breakdown of the scores for willingness to experiment on each level of confidence:
Level 5: 62.5% chose a self-rating of 5 (a total of 97.5% chose either 5 or 4 rating)
Level 4: 33.9% chose 5 (another 42.6% chose 4 - total 76.5% on this level)
Level 3: 19.6% chose 5
Level 2: 45.5% chose 1 or 2
Level 1: 71.4% chose a self-rating of 1 or 2
The main discovery in this category is that the willingness to experiment runs across all confidence levels, from highest to lowest. But it was noticeable that many of the people who gave themselves either 3 or 4 rating for this aspect, claimed only 1 or 2 for fearlessness! Ipso facto, they might be willing to try new things, but their nagging fears clearly stand in the way of them fulfilling their desires.
(PART 7: Key responses to the final Question: Personal Happiness)
Confident People Revealed to be Happiest!
(The ESC Confidence Survey Report© is in seven different parts to cover all the findings adequately. The results of this section suggests that personal Happiness goes hand in hand with confident people. The reasoning and rationale behind the survey, and the explanation of Confidence, are available in the first section at the top of this page in Part 1.)
The explanation, by a variety of sources, for what causes happiness has been attempted over many decades, with various results. It’s like a continuous search for the holy grail of life, with lots of attempts to clarify its source and maintenance. Thus the Happiness question was a crucial one for the Confidence Quiz because it is my firm belief that all the other six confidence elements lead to this state - the degree to which we feel real happiness because of how confident we feel.
Not surprisingly, the Happiness question proved a most challenging one for many of the respondents, as it received the lowest self-ratings on all levels, of all the questions. The results appeared to correlate exactly to the level of confidence each participant felt they had. This meant that people who claimed the top level of confidence also claimed to be much happier than those on the lower levels.
For example, while the average rating for happiness in the whole group was 2.6 out of 5, 85.3% of Females on the lowest Level 1 confidence also gave themselves the lowest rating (1) for happiness. 70.6% of them also gave being comfortable in their own skin (Question.3) the lowest rating, while almost 56%% claimed the lowest ratings for self-love, self-belief, and fearlessness - the key confidence aspects they clearly find problematic. It seems that the inability to love and appreciate themselves correlated strongly with their low feelings of happiness.
By comparison, the average happiness rating for the top confidence group was 4.2 out of 5. In fact, 80% chose a self-rating of either 5 or 4 to describe their current emotional state. This was in stark contrast to the 81.8% of low confidence respondents who selected only 1 to describe their happiness level. Most of the top confidence respondents (over 84%) chose 5 or 4 rating for all the other categories too. For example, 97.5% chose 5 or 4 rating for both ’loving themselves’, and ‘self-belief’. Contrast that with the 93.2% of Level 1 respondents who rated themselves only 1 or 2 for self-love, and the 79.5% who claimed the lowest rating for self-belief, and the two groups are diametrically opposite in perceived levels of happiness.
As real happiness tends to be generated and sustained by self-love, self-belief, self-acceptance, achievement, and positivity (all key confidence components), it is not surprising that the happiness ratings correlate strongly with these aspects. After all, it is difficult to feel happy and contented in one’s self when there is anxiety all round regarding other key factors in one’s emotional well being
QUESTION 7: HAPPINESS
Average rating for all respondents: 2.6
Average rating for those with highest level of confidence: 4.2
Average rating for those with lowest confidence level: 1.2
Breakdown of the scores for happiness on each level of confidence was:
Level 5: 80% chose a self-rating of 5 or 4 (45% chose 5)
Level 4: 32.4% chose 5 or 4 (only 1.6% chose 5)
Level 3: 9.3% chose 5 or 4 (3.1% chose 5)
Level 2: 80.9% chose 1 or 2
Level 1: 81.8% chose the lowest self-rating of 1
Interesting to note a clear gender divide in responses for being happy. While 88.2% of the most confident Male respondents rated themselves 5 or 4 for their feeling of happiness, only 75% of confident Women rated themselves highly for this. This gender pattern is also repeated in the lowest confident respondees, where 85.3% of Women rated themselves only 1 for happiness, compared to70% of Males - a most significant difference.
The Happiness responses suggest that true happiness comes from feeling good about the self, especially self-acceptance, being self-aware and comfortable emotionally within ourselves. Material things have very little to do with such happiness. They simply enhance how we already feel, if we are already happy, or give us temporary feelings of pleasure, if we are unhappy. Hence why our internal emotional state is a continuous one which entirely depends on our self-perceived level of confidence and empowerment.
(PART 8- ESC Confidence Survey©: Summary of FINDINGS and CONCLUSIONS)
Confidence Survey: Findings and Conclusions
(The ESC Confidence Survey Report© is in seven different parts to cover all the findings adequately. This section summarises all the key results and ask some pertinent and relevant questions in the light of those results. The reasoning and rationale behind the survey, and the explanation of Confidence, are available in the first section at the top of this page in Part 1.)
The ESC Confidence Survey© revealed some interesting facts about the importance of confidence to the personal feeling of capability and well being, which could extend to many situations and people. From the results, the following key findings emerged:
1. Confident people were revealed to be happiest. Conversely, it seems that the inability to love, appreciate, and believe in one's self correlated strongly with low feelings of happiness.
2. Men are likely to be more confident than Women up until the mid-thirties, on average. After the positive 20s decade, they seem to become unsure of themselves, less confident, and anxious, so that by age 36, personal confidence is likely to be at its lowest level, being unlikely to return to the high levels of their youth.
3. Women lack confidence in the earlier years, with a peak loss around 32 years of age, when their confidence takes a nosedive, and anxiety comes to the forefront. This seems to be the age at which they are most worried and unsure of themselves. However, unlike the Men, their confidence gets even better as they get older.
4. While the most confident Men in the survey were under 35 (average age 33.7), the most confident Women were over 40 (average age 42.6), a clear gap of more than 8 years between the most confident genders.
5. Confident people have less fear towards their actions, and Men, in particular, appear to see fearlessness as a desired quality.
6. There is a strong correlation between personal level of happiness and level of confidence. Those with the highest confidence scores claimed to be happiest, while, correspondingly, those with the lowest self ratings claimed to be the most unhappy, especially among the Women.
7. Males tend to have greater self-belief and willingness to experiment than Females, and were disproportionately represented on the top confidence level (21.7%), compared to their actual numbers who participated in the quiz, in contrast to only 9.7% of all the Female participants who are on this level.
8. Women dominated the lowest levels of confidence, so that a significant 44% of their total number were on Levels 1 and 2, compared to 32.5% of Males. In fact, the lowest level of confidence was made of of 77% Women to 23% Men!
9. Most of the low confidence participants seem to have difficulty with self-love, and being comfortable in their own skin, compared to those with top confidence levels who rated themselves much more positively for their emotional well being.
10. Being self-aware seems to be another key part of confidence. Perhaps one needs to know who one is, where one is heading, and what one is capable of, to have true self-confidence. Those with the highest confidence level seem to exhibit this trait in abundance - 92.5% rated themselves 5, the highest percentage for any question. This contrasted sharply with the 56.8% of participants on Level 1 - the lowest confidence level - who each rated themselves at the other extreme (rating 1).
11. Teenagers (those under 18) appeared to be most worried about their confidence, and 56.7% of their group were on the lowest confidence Levels (1 and 2) compared to an average of 33% for adults on the same levels. Very few of them rated themselves 5 or 4 for anything. However, despite the clear trend of low confidence among them, the number of participants in this age group is too small to have a high degree of validity and would need further testing.
This confidence survey has thrown up some surprising discoveries, especially the age at which women feel at their lowest in self-value, and the way their confidence significantly improves after 40 years old. What does that suggest for how men and women are perceived and treated in the workplace?
Men tend to be the dominant force in managerial and power positions, especially from an earlier age. But this latent confidence aspect of women has been both misunderstood and overlooked to the extent that, the older women get the less we see of them. Yet it seems acceptable for very old men to soldier on past their prime, especially in the media - the suggestion being that men lose nothing with ageing - even becoming more distinguished as they mature - while women become incapable as they mature, almost an invisible force after 50, in particular. However, this survey has shown that women come into their own after 40, much more self assured, and that’s the time they should be most visible.
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Again, men appear to conform to the stereotype of being very confident in the ESC Confidence Survey©, especially when they are younger, but it seems that older men do have issues with their confidence; perhaps wondering whether they are still as good as younger peers. This survey puts the gender difference in stark relief, and begs the following questions:
1. If self-belief is at the core of confidence, in both education and work, should more emphasis be placed on the level of confidence in predicting achievement and actual capability?
2. Could one predict, through such a confidence quiz, how the genders - and different age groups - might perform in a given situation, much better than any other type of testing?
3. How much would confidence training help some women, and those who lack confidence in themselves, to develop a more positive and empowering perspective?
4. Should women be given greater opportunities after 40 years old, instead of being sidelined, in view of their increasing confidence on maturing?
5. Should there be more support and encouragement for older men who might lack the confidence of their younger peers, and who might need that extra boost to reinforce their value as they advance in age?
6. Do young people need special encouragement and emotional boosting, given their low confidence level at that age? For example, should low confidence youth/children be given confidence training as early as possible to boost their self-belief, self-esteem and motivation? To what extent is failure among students of various ages attributable to low confidence and a feeling of being inadequate?
7. Could feelings of anxiety, worthlessness, and low confidence be the driving force among youngsters who veer towards gangs and deviant groups which make them feel they belong, and which enhance their feelings of self-worth?
8. Should poverty be addressed solely through money and resources, or should boosting personal confidence, to enhance self-worth and self-belief, be prioritised as well, to change the mindset regarding what is individually possible?
9. Would repeated felony offenders benefit from confidence boosting to change their limited mindsets, stop the cycle of criminality, and encourage them to see possibilities for improving the quality of their lives? It is very likely that most offenders would score rather low on a confidence test through likely feelings of frustration and impotence.
10. Given the colonial history, and its emotional legacy, which robbed Black minorities of their culture and self esteem, could their low status, underperformance, and exclusion from many aspects of society, be changed through personal confidence training and awareness of their capacity for self-empowerment?
11. Would those in the majority community, who are most racist and discriminatory, also score very low on such a quiz, with their tendency to see others as scapegoats?)
12. Would personal confidence training help to change the perception of social inequality by lessening, or removing, feelings of exclusion, victimhood, and neglect from many oppressed communities?
13. Do we need to start accepting that people are not clones of each other, and will react differently to situations based on how confident they feel about challenges?
14. Do government administrators need to develop a whole new mindset to match our digital society, and to deal with social ills? One that leaves the confident people wishing to fly as they see fit, while support is given to the less confident, to enable them to see the possibilities for themselves. Could that be true social equality, rather than trying to reduce everyone to the same non-discriminatory level?
PRESS RELEASE: Confidence Survey Reveals startling Gender Differences!
An online Confidence Survey by leading UK emotional health expert, Elaine Sihera, of Confidence-Guide.com and ES Consultancy (ESC), has revealed some fascinating insights into the level of confidence between the genders, especially the discovery that older women are the most confident, and confident people claim to be the happiest people!
The survey findings have confirmed that confidence is little understood, which makes it an undervalued and underrated personal attribute, yet it could be our most valuable asset of all!
Headings of the ESC Confidence Survey Report©
1. Is Confidence our Greatest Personal Asset? Background to the survey, explanation of confidence, and overview of participants
2. The Participants: The Peak Year of Anxiety for Men and Women
3. REVEALED: Older Women Are The Most Confident!
4. Self-Love and Self-Belief: The Pivots for High Confidence People
5. High Self-Awareness: The Hallmark of Those Who Are Comfortable Within Themselves
6. Fearlessness and Experimenting: Are They Desirable Confidence Traits For Men?
7. Confident People Revealed to be Happiest!
8. Confidence Survey: Findings and Conclusions, with some pertinent questions.
1. The ESC Confidence Quiz
3. Interviews with Elaine can be arranged via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Report's Author: Elaine Sihera
A British writer, public speaker, freelance broadcaster, and social commentator, Elaine is also the leading emotional empowerment (confidence) guru in the UK. She was the first Black graduate of the Open university, and a postgraduate of Cambridge University.
Publisher of Confidence-Guide.com, and a passionate ageing champion, she is keenly interested in personal growth and development, celebrating diversity and inclusivity, and helping people of all ages to positively alter perspectives and outlook to appreciate their unique selves and realise their true potential.
She began her empowerment work as a successful secondary school teacher/manager, motivating teenagers to achieve their best in the classroom, and boosting their self esteem. She has also presented personal development seminars for over 20 years as a training consultant, and staff empowerment advisor to various blue chip companies and government departments, especially in changing perceptions around personal ability, and boosting minority esteem and achievement.
Founder and Organiser of the pioneering British Diversity Awards (improving excellence in workplace inclusion, and human resource practice, that ran successfully for 12 years), Elaine helped to significantly shape effective diversity management in many of the major business and public service establishments in the UK, through publicly recognising and sharing good practice. The Windrush Awards, which she also created, recognised outstanding minority achievers for their contribution to society.
Additionally, in keeping with her life’s work of empowering others, she also organises a very successful social club in her area. Currently with over 260 members, it provides much needed activities for people on their own, or new to the locality, in order to increase their confidence and interaction, and stem loneliness and isolation. She is also the author of 5 published books, and 5 e-books dealing with the subjects of diversity management, relationships, confidence and empowerment, and communicating effectively.