1. What is self-confidence?

The Oxford Dictionary defines self-confidence as:
“A feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgement”1

On top of the dictionary definition, the following are several replies from two groups of Expats who I consulted for their perception of self-confidence. For information on these groups, please consult the blog archive for the article on “Third Cultural Professionals (TCPs): Part of the Expat World”.

Third Cultural Kids (TCK’s)
“Not to be afraid of being yourself”
“To be happy with yourself, to be able to be proud of who you are”
“To know that you can do things, but also not to be overconfident: to know your limits”

Third Cultural Professionals (TCP’s)
“To accept yourself as you are and to be confident in your ability to do things”
“To believe in your own ability and trust in yourself to achieve your goals
“Self-confidence is your belief in your abilities, power and willpower to achieve whatever you want

Different theories exist on self-confidence such as whether it is innate or nurtured and whether it is a trait or a skill.

Trait: “a characteristic feature or quality distinguishing a particular person or thing”2
Skill: “a skill is a type of work or activity which requires special training and knowledge3
“skill is the knowledge and ability that enables you to do something well3


2. Developing self-confidence

Self-confidence for some takes practice, for others it seems natural. For those lacking in self-confidence, it can be developed with experience, practice and acquiring new knowledge. The more one is confronted with a situation/an action/a task/an environment, the more one develops confidence in one's abilities, skills and judgement. Confidence is a state of mind: thinking positively about our skills and abilities.

Accompanying Partners/Expats find themselves confronted by new situations: new country, different culture, possibly another language/way of communicating, different work environment, creating a new circle of friends, different administration. The list is long! They discover by experience and are confronted with (at least in the first year) new situations to deal with.

Accompanying Partners/Expats are sometimes alone to find out things/navigate in an unknown environment. The Accompanying Partner is often the person who supports the family/other partner in the discoveries of the new country/culture.

At times, the only person available is themselves. Often, the only option they have is to “get things done” with energy, positivism and a smile. 

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there”
Theodore Roosevelt

3. Self-confidence in the workplace

People with self-confidence in the workplace tend to inspire others around them. Self-confident people seem happier and positive in their abilities, they are at ease in communicating with others.
However, there is a fine line between self-confidence and giving the impression of being arrogant or pretentious. It is important in the workplace to balance and measure the fine line between confidence and arrogance. On the other hand, if you show no signs of believing in your abilities or are afraid to share your point of view, it can be perceived as “lacking in self-confidence”.

4. Conclusion

The Oxford Dictionary's definition of self-confidence and the perception of both TCK's and TCP's are in coherence. 
As a TCP, the Accompanying Partner/Expat has no doubt learned to be more self-confident due to new experiences encountered. Building on self-confidence, one learns to be more positive and aware of one's abilities, skills and judgement. Being self-confident without being arrogant, is a life and professional skill which is highly appreciable in both daily life and in a work context.

The following are some steps concerning self-confidence in either a professional or personal context:
  1.       Suround yourself with people who encourage you to excel and learn new things.
  2.       Self-confidence does not mean that you must pretend to be someone you are not.
  3.       Be more assertive, without coming across as arrogant.
  4.      Market yourself positively. If you are confident, people will want to work with you/be around you. In a work environment, it can reassure on the positive outcome of a project or a person's leadership.
  5.      Job Interviews: Prepare them in advance (think of the type of questions that could be asked and practice/role play the interview and questions in advance). This will help to build confidence and to be more at ease on the day.
  6.     Learn from experiences. Remember, mistakes happen. Failure does not have to lower self-confidence. It can be a positive learning experience.

In a following article, an Expat will explain how they gained in self-confidence from their period abroad.

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