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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 31/05/2005

When the Centre was launched a few months ago I was asked on to John Beattie’s Saturday morning programme for Radio Scotland and during the discussion he insisted in calling me ‘Scotland’s Confidence Tzar’. Since my book came out I’m often aware that people are watching me and registering my personal level of confidence. On a couple of occasions I’ve been mildly rebuked for saying anything self-critical. “Of course you’re not disorganised” scolded one woman as I scattered the contents of my handbag looking for keys, muttering under my breath. “You are a perfectly organised, confident woman”. But I’m not and no amount of affirmations to the contrary is going to make me one. “Don’t draw attention to your weaknesses” is another piece of advice I’ve been given by well-meaning friends. But I’m not budging on this. Organisation is not my strong point. Take one look at my desk, or my car, and you’ll soon agree. But my version of confidence is not about being good at everything – that isn’t possible. And it certainly isn’t about pretending you’re good at everything as that just leads to defensiveness and a fear of making mistakes. My version of confidence is about being comfortable with the fact that as an individual you have strengths and weaknesses. In fact strengths and weaknesses are inextricably linked – by devoting time and attention to something you don’t put time and attention into something else. So for me disorganisation is the downside of what I see as some of my biggest strengths – flexibility, resourcefulness and an ability to keep several things going at the same time. Without these skills I don’t think I’d ever have managed to get the Centre off the ground. Sure I have the capacity to use organisational skills up to a point but I have to slow down and in this mode I’m not as confident as when I’m being spontaneous and flexible. This is why my preference is to work closely with someone who is a born organiser – like Lynn, my new PA in the Centre, who effortlessly keeps things organised and under control.

So let’s not see confidence as an all or nothing quality. Let’s not make the mistake of believing that a person can only be confident if they feel confident all the time and concentrate instead on creating an atmosphere where people can play to their strengths and be confident enough to admit to weaknesses.

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