The confidence of a young man is a powerful, yet very fragile trait, especially during his teenage years. Schools must dedicate time in their curricula to character development and, in particular, confidence-building for boys. Our freshmen take two such courses, Public Speaking and Lifetime Fitness Skills. These classes introduce and strengthen two critical life skills, self-presentation and healthy living; both build the confidence of our young men.
I am lucky to teach Public Speaking. In this course, we view a TedTalk by Amy Cuddy, a faculty member at Harvard Business School. The talk is titled, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” (Talk available via link below) Her message is simply, “Fake it until you make it”. She believes, as do I, that we can trick ourselves into being confident, even in the most stressful situations. By focusing on our body posture, we can make ourselves more confident. It seems like a psychological trick, and it is a trick to manipulate the way we think and feel. In all honesty though, it is tough to argue that the presence of any confidence is no more than an intangible, psychological manipulation of thought. Yikes, why should anyone feel confident?
Confidence comes from the validation of others. We are validated by our achievements. We are validated by our credentials. We are validated by our positive experiences. When validated, we transfer others’ belief in us into optimism about the future and confidence in our ability to meet new experiences with success. That’s powerful! With that in mind, engendering confidence in a young man is a valuable tool for his future success, and it is something all schools must consider an essential part of the curriculum.
Just be careful, confidence is fragile. If a young person loses confidence, it is even more difficult, sometimes nearly impossible, to regain.