Confidence consists of positive expectations for favourable outcomes. Confidence influences the willingness to invest - to commit money, time, reputation, emotional energy, or other resources - or to withhold or hedge investment. This investment, or its absence, shapes the ability to perfrom. In that sense, confidence lies at the heart of civilization. Everything about an economy, a society, an organization, or a team depend on it. Every step we take, every investment we make, is based on whether we feel we can count on ourselves and others to accomplish what has been promised. Confidence determines whether our steps ? individually or collectivity ? are tiny and tentative or big and bold.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Confidence: Leadership and the Psychology of Turnarounds, 2004

Introduction to the Confidence section

In this section we look in general at the concept of confidence before moving on to examine in much more depth a variety of work on self-esteem.


Confidence is a word which we frequently use in everyday language yet rarely do we stop and think what it means.

Positive Psychology & self-esteem

There are ? almost no findings showing that self-esteem causes anything at all. Rather self-esteem is caused by the whole panoply of successes or failures in the world.
Martin Seligman, The Optimistic Child, 1995

A short history of self-esteem

The history of self-esteem can be traced back throughout time. In this section we have a critical look at the self-esteem movement.

The evidence on self-esteem

In this section we shall look at how self-esteem is measured and what research says about the importance of self-esteem to a variety of outcomes. As we shall see high self-esteem can have important beneficial outcomes ? happiness, for example - yet in other respects it is unimportant or may even be undesirable.

Definitional difficulties

One does not need to be a trained psychologist to know that some people with low self-esteem strive to compensate for their deficit by boasting, arrogance and conceited behaviour. What educated person does not know about compensatory mechanisms?
Nathaniel Branden, 1997

Differences in self-esteem

Any study of self-esteem has to ask why it varies from individual to individual. Professor Nicholas Emler in his book Self-Esteem: The Costs and Causes of Low Self-Worth surveys and presents the evidence on the roots of self-esteem under three headings:

Can self-esteem be overdone?

Confidence is a sweet spot between arrogance and despair.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Confidence

Impracticality of the concept

'Today, almost everyone seems to be talking about self-esteem, and the danger is that the idea may become trivialized'.
Nathaniel Branden, 1997

Seligman's critique of self-esteem

Baby-boomer child-rearing and the self-esteem movement in schools ?(are) not alleviating the on-going epidemic of depression and might even be creating it.
Martin Seligman, The Optimistic Child

Twenge?s critique of self-esteem

'Why today's young Americans are more assertive, confident, entitled - and more miserable than ever before'

Crocker's critique of self-esteem

The person who is not concerned with feeling worthy, and valuable, or with avoiding feelings of worthlessness, is a rarity in American culture.
Jennifer Crocker and Lora E Park, 2004