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Postcards from Scotland

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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 09/05/2005

When I’m giving talks about Scotland and confidence I often make it clear that I’m not holding America up as an example of what we should become. It is not that I consider myself anti-American – indeed some of my best friends are American – but it is just that, like many Scots I’m no great fan of aspects of American culture. But the other day I was asked to come up with something from my past which seemed to have made an impact on me and helped shaped me into the person I have become. And pondering this gave me an insight into how I had indeed been influenced, for the better I think, by American attitudes. When I was a postgraduate student at Edinburgh University in the 1970s there were two Americans who I spent time with and who, in different ways, had an impact on my life. One is Fran Wasoff, who is now a lecturer in Social Policy at Edinburgh Uni. Fran and I have now been friends for almost thirty years. The other was my thesis supervisor, Henry Drucker. Henry was a politics lecturer. He too was American. Fran and Henry both had attitudes to life which were completely different from anything I had been exposed to in my Scottish working-class upbringing. Their attitudes were essentially ‘can do’. If an opportunity came up – such as a job or a chance to go on the radio and talk about politics – I tended to shy away from it. I didn’t have enough experience, there were better candidates etc etc. But quite separately from one another they would give me much more positive messages. “Put in for it anyway, and let them decide if you can do the job.” Or “you don’t have to be able to do everything in the job description on day 1.” Under their influence my horizons opened. I felt less fearful of failure. I gave myself a chance to break new ground. Thanks to them at a formative period in my life I developed what we now call ‘self-belief’.

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