Welcome to this weekly online resource. Wellness professional Jo Foster, offers self care tips through her insights on mindfulness and positive psychology, her weekly online yoga classes and nutritious recipe recommendations.
This week we will begin considering how we can develop, preserve and enhance confidence. Enjoy!
No one is born with limitless self confidence. Confidence is a trait that comes and goes, in some areas of life it proves illusive and in others it can flourish. All of us at times feel like we've lost it and all of us in some situations will have it in abundance. It may also be true that on occasion you may recall having had too much confidence which may have led to reckless actions or resulted in embarrassment (this probably happened plenty in your teenage years!)
Over the coming weeks we will explore how confidence can manifest in our lives, looking at how we can build it, keep it, and moderate it.
Let's begin with some science and myth busting.
Myth: Some of us are born with confidence?
Confidence is predominantly a learned trait, so this isn't strictly true. We are however all born with the capacity to experience confidence. We all have the genetic make up that primes us to experience self assurance and some scientific studies have highlighted particular genes that may play a role in determining a predisposition to experiencing higher levels of self assurance.
Studies have shown that there are several variants of a collection of receptor genes that impact the effectiveness of how hormonal messages in the body are neurologically transmitted. In particular the variants relate to neurological "transporters" of messages created by the hormones Serotonin, Oxytocin and Dopamine ("S.O.D");
- Serotonin: is associated with experiencing feelings of rationality, clarity and calm
- Oxytocin: creates a feelings of desire, love and positivity
- Dopamine: motivates us to take action
Together these hormones form some of the ingredients in the cocktail that primes us to experience ambition, high performance, courage and confidence.
So if you happen to have the longer DNA strand of these variants then perhaps you are marginally more able to experience confidence more easily than someone with a shorter variant. However, our genes do not necessarily express themselves as they are designed, instead they are highly infulenced by lifestyle factors. So it all depends on how well we use the tools that we have.
Do men or women have a confidence advantage?
The science on this is muddy at best, there is no study that I have found that conclusively supports any advantages to either sex in this regard. There are so many variables that interact with each other and impact how confidence is expressed, such as hormones, lifestyle and culture that it is virtually impossible to untangle this to give a definitive conclusion on this matter. But let's look just at the hormonal differences at a glance.
There is a myth that men are naturally more confident than women, this has largely been born out of the "Testosterone Theory". Testosterone plays a biological role in our propensity to take risks, and as men naturally have more testosterone than women, it has been surmised that this means men will naturally have the advantage in this regard. This works on the basis that "Risk = Reward" in the pursuit of confidence (this is not entirely the case and we will look at this in coming weeks).
But let us consider that risk taking is also a learned skill and is just one element involved in the development of confidence, for example there is also the need for realism and compassion in order to develop self assurance. So does Testosterone really give men a meaningful advantage in the ability to experience confidence?
Well women have a confidence hormone in their corner too; oestrogen. One of the effects of oestrogen is that it increases serotonin production and the number of serotonin receptors in the brain, an important ingredient in the confidence cocktail.
So men and women both have built in capabilities in this regard, they are just different and as such the way that we exhibit and learn self assurance differs accordingly. But when it comes to confidence, it is equally attainable.
I don't believe there are tangible advantages or disadvantages that are created through our genetics. So S.O.D genetics! I doubt many of us will be rushing out to get genomics testing carried out to find out whether we are biologically at the top or bottom of the S.O.D scale, because what difference would knowing make? Whether male or female, a highly efficient or less efficient S.O.D transformer, your make-up might contribute up to 20-25% to your capacity for confidence. In other words you still have the capacity to develop confidence, the other 75-80% is self will. The real root of confidence is in our personal choices.
There are numerous fascinating studies that have been carried out about the genetics behind confidence but one book that has made headlines in this regards is "The Confidence Code" by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. The book is focussed around exploring the expression of confidence in women, however as men and women have much in common in this respect, it is a fascinating and relevant read regardless of gender.