Thoughts from Tutors

Self Confidence: A Skill Worth Training

by Matt Trela — Master Tutor

Dr. Ivan Joseph of Ryerson University gave a TED Talk over the “skill” of self-confidence and internal motivation. He defines self-confidence as: “The ability or the belief to believe in yourself to accomplish any task no matter the odds, difficulty, no matter the adversity.” I believe that as students and tutors we often overlook just how important this is to our success due to how often we view a “lack” of self-confidence when we are confronted with failure. Self-confidence is a skill, not a character trait, and not something we are born with. This is a good thing, though, since skills can be trained. Dr. Joseph states that there is not a magic button that automatically increases one’s self confidence (which would be nice); rather, we should be focusing on training this skill much like any other: repetition, repetition, repetition.

It is hard as a student to “repeat success” when we are often only given three to five exams or big assignments each semester to prove to ourselves that we are being successful in a course. We want to be in a situation where we can be confident enough to say “I’ve done this a thousand times, no big deal” but there may not be enough time in the day to practice that math problem a thousand times, or write a midterm paper five hundred different ways until it’s just right. A problem with repetition is this: How many of us stop at the first sign of adversity? Maybe repetition could be better “replaced” with persistence. From personal experience, it’s much easier to feel defeated about a low midterm grade or bad interview than it is to talk myself up after achieving a success. If this is the case, how can we train ourselves to feel better about our accomplishments, even if they aren’t as positive as we wanted them to be? One way suggested by Dr. Joseph is to change the tone of self-talk, and praising positive behavior we want to enforce. These are key ideas and strategies that we at the TECHniques Center try to employ daily. A quick walk back to the break room at the Center will have you passing by our two brag walls for students and tutors to post and receive positive messages of encouragement and praise. Celebrating even the smallest things can really change the internal talk and self-confidence of anyone, tutors, students, and professionals alike. Positive thoughts yield positive actions.

Dry erase board with many notes of positive affirmation
Our tutors love to brag on their students!

At the start of each semester I like to write down a few things that I “did right” academically the last semester in order to help restart the positive self-talk for new courses and experiences. I do a similar thing with my peers I tutor as well. Emphasizing the small battles won along the way and supporting positive thoughts allows for a positive feedback loop that can help strengthen a person’s self-confidence; a skill that is worth training.


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