Skills, Failures, Learning and Success Builds Confidence in Children and Adults

Confidence is made up from two things that we have control over, each of us individually. The first thing we have control over is our character. It is our choice who we are, what the highest self is, how we act and what we choose to believe about ourselves and others. The stronger our character, the better we are as humans, the better we feel about ourselves as people who have something to contribute to the world.

The second thing that builds confidence is attaining skills, being able to do things with some proficiency. Those skills that we gain will be different for every person, depending on what natural abilities that they were born with, their environment and what they are exposed to as they grow as individuals and what their interests are. That makes each of us unique.

At the same time, all of us can learn new things, and that learning process and gaining proficiency in different area builds confidence. We may not be as good as others in what we can do, but as new skills are learned, it helps us to appreciate that with some effort and practice we can grow in other talents that may not have come to us naturally.

In this quest for new skills though, we can suffer setbacks and have failures, and for some, this is a real hit on their confidence. We must remember that our confidence is strengthened when we overcome those failures. Those are our learning moments.

If we never try something new and give ourselves the opportunity to learn, be willing to have failures and try again it is not possible to strengthen the virtue of confidence. Confidence comes from perseverance under difficult circumstances and having the reward of overcoming those difficulties.

I once had a student who was learning to jump rope and tried for several months to reach the stated goal of 45 seconds of continuous rope jumping. Despite practice and trying over and over he would get to 42 or 43 seconds and then miss. One day in one of his attempts he reached his goal of 45 seconds, and we were all so impressed with his determination. If that were where the story ended, it would have been a victory.

However, in just a couple of weeks he came in and asked me to time his jumping rope, and I did so. Unbelievably on that day, he jumped seven minutes and 26 seconds. He had confidence in his ability to persevere and overcome. His confidence still shows today as he learns new things in class if they do not come easy for him, he has the confidence that they will come with determination and he has just not gotten it yet.

Parents, as you watch your children learn new things there, will be times of failure. This is not the time to step in and do it for them or to save them from the consequences of mistakes. Failures and Consequences are how all of us learn and how we build confidence in our ability to overcome no matter what our age might be.

The can and can’t of success

Success comes to us in every activity, based on the words we choose to tell ourselves. As Henry Ford once said, Whether you think you can or can’t, you are right. In other words, our success comes in our “can and can’t”.

A few years ago I was helping a young student with balance, and it was not coming quickly for him. After several unsuccessful attempts, I asked the group of student to help him “giving him some energy,” clapping in rhythm while he repeated the words, “Yes I Can.” With this little exercise, he accomplished the task and then continued to do so in the future.

Our confidence is affected by our thoughts and words that we tell ourselves and by what we have started to believe from the people that surround us. In recent years a new term has been coined by Carol Dweck and others that sum up the mindset needed to continue to learn and develop new skills. There is the contrast drawn between “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset.”

At a recent convention, I listened to scores of people complaining that they were not good writers and spoke of it regarding not everyone is a writer. In effect they were saying that they could not learn this skill – they were fixed on not being good at writing. When young people hear the adults in the room express this attitude, it rubs off on them, and they are less inclined to add the word “yet” to their thought process.

I may not be good at something, yet, but that does not mean that I cannot learn. Most of the time when a person dismisses a skill as not theirs and they “can’t do it” it says they have not put forth the effort and have no intentions of putting their mind to learning. Confidence is the growth mindset that says, I have not learned this yet – but with practice, I can learn.

Teach our children to have this attitude by the example we set as adults, trying and experiencing new things on a regular basis. The more often we can show our willingness to learn the more we open the minds of our children not to have a fear of failure, but rather the joy of learning with confidence that they can!

Confidence comes from taking risks and trying new things

If you want to get the most out of life and feel like you are living life at it’s highest level you must do things that are challenging. That is not the same as goal setting and reaching your destination. Challenges are activities that take us beyond the boundaries of what we believe we are capable of or of our present abilities. When we get away from the distractions of our mundane life that keep us busy with all the everyday activities and stop procrastinating on the things we do not like to do, our stress levels go down. If you want to put more energy in your life and really get your brain and body moving, choose challenges that get us focused on an effort that really stretches us.


At that point what we need is Confidence. Think about our children who are constantly challenged as they learn new activities, skills, even ways of being with other people. It is the conquering of those challenges that builds their confidence that they will be able to figure other things out also. Even when they do not know how to do something or are afraid of trying something, they will be able to look for and find their confidence to attempt and say YES I can work on this task.


The same is true with adults or anyone. If we want to build more confidence we must stretch ourselves into activities, use our courage to move forward and say with a loud clear voice, “I can do it”.

Teaching confidence and what it looks like to our children

Confidence is a virtue that every parent wants to see in their child. Confidence in themselves with what they can do and a willingness to try things that they are not good at yet, knowing they can learn or figure it out.

As with any virtue, it might also be overdeveloped so that it shows negatively. When your child is over-confident, it may sound or look like bragging. The level of confidence we want to help our kids develop is balanced, recognizing what good inside of themselves and the value of others around them is. They learn to believe in themselves and others.

A great deal of our confidence begins with our physiology. Any person can put themselves in a certain stature simply by standing up straight and tall, eyes on the eyes of the other person, chin up, head held high and with a strong, clear voice. This is a practice you can have with your child, not by shaming them with words of discouragement, rather with role playing and using a question like, “What would confidence look like or sound like?” You can demonstrate it and then go back and forth so that it becomes more natural for even a more modest child to have the look of confidence.

Who can show me the look of confidence?

Gifts of Character: Confidence – The Definition

Each month we will discuss one life skill with all of our students. This month’s skill is Confidence. This life skill will be defined in the following ways for our students.

Young students: I believe in me and you!

Older students: Belief and trust in oneself, others or situation.

We are not your typical after school activity, in fact, we are an education center, working with students on physical self-defense skills while empowering families to bring out the best in our children and ourselves – through the martial arts. We believe every child has 52 gifts in them already. They only need to be taught how to grow and use them in their life. Balanced Life Skills serves parents, teachers, and students to reach that goal.

If you would like to see Joe Van Deuren and Balanced Life Skills at work, TRY CLASSES FOR FREE for 2 weeks.

The opposite of bragging damages confidence too

Add text(1)We may not be the person who is bragging, but we may be affected by the behavior of others.  Bragging is really an attempt to put the other person down.  Just as dangerous to our confidence though is, if we were to diminish our own self.  If we were to look at another person’s skills or abilities and put ourselves down – thinking or saying “I’m no good because…”.

No matter who we are or what skill we are most proud of,  if we open our horizon enough, we will find others who are just as good or many times better than ourselves.  That is not a reason though to diminish our own efforts, skills or abilities.  Accepting who we are, being happy for others who also excel, and taking the challenge to improve ourselves in whatever way we would like to improve is a balanced way of being here in this world.

We get in trouble with ourselves when we ‘have to be better than’ anyone or everyone around us.   We get in trouble with ourselves when we look at other humans or families as a competition.  Our life does not need to be a competition – if it is we will eventually die “without enough”.  You have heard it said that no one gets on their deathbed and wishes they had spent more time at work, or with a bigger car or house.  Most of the time people wish they had more time with family and friends, enjoying the relationships or participating in an activity that they loved.

Life is not a competition for bigger things or even bigger accomplishments.  Life, at least in my point of view is about improving ourselves and those around us to the best of our ability.  Life and leadership is about being aware of and asking others how we can help them.  Life and love is not about getting – it is about giving.

Our confidence is driven by our commitment to our values, knowing that we are living by them, finding and practicing the things we are good at – a commitment to our mission, and being our own best person.  Live your life with confidence, be aware of the areas you might improve in, do the work of compassion and you will respected by others and yourself.