What is More Important, Self Confidence or Competence?

In the United States, prior to the 1950’s, the whole educational establishment’s philosophy regarding proper educational principles focused on competence.

What is More Important, Self Confidence or Competence?

Kids must be taught certain internal values which can then be used by these same children to learn what they need to learn and when they need to do it so they can achieve certain results at certain times.

In other words, the whole emphasis of the educational apparatus and infrastructure was to build self sustaining, learning systems that are purely internalized. It didn’t really matter how much of a budget was allocated to the school district. What mattered more was whether these children had a solid grounding on internal principles that are supposed to guide them, empower them, and inform their success prospects for the rest of their lives.

Internal values, like the importance of taking initiative, showing up on time, providing maximum value for whatever task you are assigned, and the unwillingness to blame others for your own failings were part of this value curriculum.

There are many misconceptions regarding the internalist school. One misconception is that it is some sort of programming that has very distinctive internalized parts. What people don’t realize is that the values that are being trained and inculcated in these children are actually quite neutral. In fact, they are quite objective because these values are precisely the types of values most people from all walks of life in many different contexts would agree on.

Generally speaking, it would be a safe bet to say that showing up on time is a good thing. Similarly, doing a job and doing it well is a desirable thing. You would hardly hear anybody who would have an issue with these things.

Well, things changed quite a bit starting in the 1960’s. Starting in the 1960’s, educators started believing that the best way to educate children was to build up their self confidence first. They studied the data and they felt that people, in the 1950’s in particular, beat themselves too much because they held themselves up to really high, almost seemingly impossible standards and this led to a crisis in self confidence.

The educational philosophy starting in the 1960’s focused on helping kids feel good about themselves, which in theory should lead to them being more open-minded about all sorts of intellectual inputs.

The results have been severely criticized. A lot of academics and politicians question the wisdom of such a policy shift because now, children and their parents are insistent on being rewarded by just simply showing up.

Instead of establishing self confidence, the self confidence that kids learned to adopt is actually fairly shallow and based, ultimately, on some form of a sense of entitlement. Not surprisingly, a lot of these kids aren’t very patient. When faced with any kind of difficultly, it’s not unusual for a large percentage of children to simply give up.

Compared to kids who were educated in the old school internal values who would continue to show up, put in work, and do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, until they achieve success, the recent crop of children, and I’m talking about kids educated from the 1960’s onwards, were expecting to be rewarded immediately and could not take much pressure or stress from the external world.

This is why a fairly recent report indicating that competence is more important than self confidence really turned the educational world upside down. It really ended up turning into hamburger all the sacred cows a lot of the members of the educational elite and the establishment had about the proper mix of self confidence or competence.

Now, keep in mind that nowhere in this discussion is it suggested that competence should completely eliminate self confidence and vice versa. Instead, it really boils down to priority and emphasis.

Based on recent studies, it’s probably a better idea to let kids develop competence first so that they can actually feel good about themselves based on something tangible and real. According to this research, this leads to a self sustaining internalized system that eventually leads to kids achieving more with their lives and, most importantly, feeling happier about it.