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Why CONFIDENCE is the most important thing we should teach – Part 1

I'd like to start by inviting you to think back to a time when you felt unconfident. Don't be shy (pun intended); we've all been there.

What was the situation? Why were you feeling unconfident? Was there a rational reason or was it an unavoidable feeling? What thoughts were going through your mind?

For me, in those unconfident moments, I'm thinking:

"I can't do this."

"What's the point in trying?"

"I'm not good enough."

"Everyone else is better than me."

Luckily I have been able to train my rational mind to overcome these thoughts in most situations, and I don’t think my unconfident moments hold me back too much. Still, this is something that definitely happened in my adult life, and I do find myself thinking:

“What if I’d been able to overcome these thoughts throughout my adolescence too?”

“What would the Sarah with limitless confidence in herself have been able to achieve at 14 years old?”

“And where would I be today as a result?”

Confidence underlies our motivation. Confidence allows us to feel that our life has a purpose and direction. Confidence determines our ability to cope with the challenges that life throws at us.

For some, lacking confidence can stop them from making the choices that move them forward to bigger and better things. In short, lacking confidence stops you from fulfilling your potential.

For young people going through the changes that they experience in adolescence, confidence is an even bigger factor in their decision making. The absence of confidence stops them from trying to achieve at school. It stops them from taking up opportunities where they would develop further and learn more about the world. And it can also stop them from making 'right' decisions - whether that's giving in to negative peer pressure, or simply choosing healthy food choices.

In my time as a teacher I saw so many issues, deep-seated entrenched educational issues, that fundamentally stemmed from a lack of confidence. I'm talking about: disengagement, low aspirations - for the future and for themselves, underachievement, bullying, self-harm, low attendance… many and most of the things on a teacher's mind. In fact, in some research conducted by Policy First in 2012, 83% of teachers cited lack of confidence as a barrier to achievement, making the most significant barrier – above bad behaviour, exam stress, lack of teacher time and even lack of motivation.

I think we all know that confidence is important. So why aren't we all focusing on it more?

Our conversations about young people are that "Danny needs some extra tuition with his English" and "I think if we arranged for Sandy to visit a workplace she'd begin to think more seriously about her future". (Yes, I'm a self-confessed lover of Grease.)

Now I'm not denying these things work - and that confidence can be built through them - but imagine what would happen if we made CONFIDENCE the primary focus.

"Danny needs a boost in confidence".

"Sandy would be better equipped to think about her future if we built up her confidence".

Let's focus on the core root of the issue first - the outcomes are bound to be many times more successful.

So given how important confidence is, how fundamental it is, why don't we do this already?

Why don't we have confidence 'lessons'?

Why do we consider confidence a by-product rather than something we should focus on in and of itself?

Read my thoughts on this in Part 2... coming soon!

For more information on Yes Futures, and to find out how we could support your students, please email

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