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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. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. 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 13/10/2007 | 3 Comments

‘The thing about sport is that it is a metaphor for life - it really lets us see what is going on culturally.’ This is what my 20 year old son told me on the phone in the glorious aftermath of Scotland’s victory over Ukraine at Hampden. My other son, not usually keen to discuss confidence matters, was likewise insistent that Scotland’s success on the pitch could start to change the mood in the country. “When you see what these players are capable of now that they’ve come to believe in themselves more, it does increase your own self-belief.’

I was fortunate enough to be at Hampden for the game and it was extraordinary to see the agenda the Centre is working on suddenly supersized and made tangible.

Waiting to go into the stadium I stopped to chat to an upbeat PR guy. There is no way he’s a dour Scot who goes round talking about doom and gloom. But here he was saying he really thought Scotland was going to lose. “I just feel pessimistic. I don’t think we can do it’, he said. I asked why he thought that and he couldn’t explain other than muttering something about how we were fated to lose. Now I can well understand why there is a fear in Scotland about becoming super-confident. Just think about how the Scots embarrassed themselves all those years ago in Argentina. But let’s look at the facts here: Scotland has beaten World Cup finalists France twice in the last year. Scotland also has 21 points from the games they have played so far – across the seven groups only two countries – Germany and Croatia have done better.

It is worth remembering that pessimistic views can be held not just in the face of bad events, but good events. This is the type of pessimism that hold that success is a fluke, a miracle, magic. In short, something that inevitably won’t last. This is exactly the type of thinking that has been common in the commentaries on Scotland’s last few wins, and evident in my friend’s attitude when he assured me Scotland was likely to be beat.

At our Mindset event in June we had the Scottish rugby player Gregor Townsend on our panel. Chatting to him afterwards he said that the pessimistic atmosphere in Scotland really has a big impact on players. He was meaning the general public view communicated in phone ins etc as well as the negativity of the media itself. He said that when you were on the pitch playing a match and things went wrong all the dire predictions would then start ringing in your ears. Good managers can coach their team to become not just more skilled, but also more confident. But it must be more difficult if the prevailing culture is working against this confidence – not nurturing it.

I’m no expert on football but even I could see today at the game that once Scotland was winning three goals to one, and there was little time left for the Ukrainians to snatch victory from them, their play changed. They became much less defensive. They started to enjoy themselves and showed much more flair and skill.

The Centre’s definition of confidence is self-efficacy plus optimism. Self-efficacy is really just a fancy way to describe self-belief. The point about self-belief is that it is very specific – it is about believing you are capable of achieving a very specific goal. The best way to build self-belief, and hence confidence, is obvious - succeed at what you aim to do. It is also best founded not on wishful thinking or the belief in innate talent but on hard work, effort, training and learning. The importance of this list is that they are all under our control. We can’t choose to be innately talented but we can choose to work and train hard and put every thing we’ve got into activities.

These two wins against France have been enormously helpful in encouraging the Scottish team to build their self-belief. It is a lesson many Scots need to learn about life, not just about football.
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Uncle Sam
Joined: 04/09/2007

Comment Posted: 24/10/2007 17:38

I love this post. Did you see my comments under Scottish confidence? Prescient or lucky? Who knows- but I do love this topic. I would love to hear more from you about this and get your thoughts on my earlier comments.
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Joined: 19/10/2007

Comment Posted: 21/11/2007 21:34

Lately we were discussing the issue "what is the diffence between us" at the university with the students. When I was at their age, I was discussing who is valuable, who is superior, who is inferior.....I was in my twenties.....the professor I was discussing this topic with said to me that "when we pass away the worms under the soil are going to eat all of us....they are not going to say this individual is valuable or rich or this and that and I should not eat them." I have students from Africa, China, Europe.....What is the diffence between a black and a white or a chineese. When we are created, the Lord is creating us with love. We are so valuable for him. I think we are forgetting this fact and we are trying to categorize each other......titles....money, fame are means for us to forget the fact that we are all valuable, we are all lovable, we all deserve respect and happiness......we are here for an evolution.....for maturation.......for giving a hand.......for thinking, for producing, for constructing not destructing actually. But life is so full, we all need to rush......we have no time for our inner voice........inner voices are so human, so humble, so giving......I met some people, they were not comfortable with the softness in themselves......I have got various characteristics, I have got love, anger, pain, acceptance, rejection, humiliation, narrow-mindedness, broad-mindedness......all of them are me......and I should be proud of myself ........this acceptance will lead to maturation and development and change......I should ask myself: "when I do this or say this, do I feel comfortable?".......my uniqueness as we all are.......will add something to humanity....I am not perfect.....I need to learn many things from many events and many people........

As Virginia Satir says , "I am Me. In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. I can love me and be friendly with all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know -- but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and ways to find out more about me. However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me. If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought, and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded. I am me, and I am Okay."

Leyla Fetihi
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