Self-Confidence: Nature or Nurture?

Self-Confidence: Nature or Nurture?

Woman Looking at Reflection

As a headhunter, I have been shown a glimpse into lots of peoples lives and aspirations and it has made me think about self confidence. Is it something we are born with? Or is it something we develop as adults?

I remember learning these principles in Physical Education at A Level, looking around my class and analysing my surroundings. My class was split into two very obvious groups those who were in the “A- Team” and those who were the “B team”. The majority of those in the “A-Team” had vast amounts of self confidence and self worth, however there were a few exceptions.

There was one individual, i remember very well being an excellent Hockey player, the moves she could come up with were extraordinary, yet she didn’t believe she was any special. When asked ” You play hockey are you any good?” she would always say ” I can get by”. At first I thought it was her being humble and not bragging about her abilities. However, the more i got to know her, she generally had no idea how good she was. I mean playing for England was a bit of an indicator to her excellence and she just said it was just “luck”.

So i asked myself, Is self-confidence something that you’re born with or is it taught and developed? It’s the classic nature vs. nurture question. While current wisdom has been for some time that it’s mostly nurture, there’s some surprising new research that indicates we may genetically predisposed to be self- confident.

So made me think smart children on balance do well in school. That may seem obvious, but there are a lot of exceptions to that rule. Some children with high IQs don’t ever become academic superstars, while less gifted children often shine. But why is this?


Human brain illustrated with millions of small nerves

Psychologists have focused on things like self-esteem and self-confidence—how good children think they are—to explain these outcomes. And the assumption has always been that such psychological traits are shaped mostly by parenting—by parents’ beliefs and expectations and modelling.

Researchers like Albert Bandura have argued that the initial efficacy experiences are centred in the family. But as the growing child’s social world rapidly expands, peers become increasingly important in children’s developing self-knowledge of their capabilities. So, until now, an individual’s self-confidence was seen to be based on upbringing and other environmental factors.

Behavioural geneticist, Corina Greven of King’s College in London and her colleague, Robert Plomin of the Institute of Psychiatry, argue that self-confidence is more than a state of mind—but rather is a genetic predisposition. Their research, published in Psychological Science, is a rigorous analysis of the heritability of self-confidence and its relationship to IQ and performance.

Additional Studies


They studied more than 3700 pairs of twins, both identical and fraternal twins, from age seven to age ten. Comparing genetically identical twins to non-identical siblings allows scientists to sort out the relative contributions of genes and the environment.

Contrary to accepted wisdom, the researchers found that children’s self-confidence is heavily influenced by heredity—at least as much as IQ is. Indeed, as-yet-unidentified self-confidence genes appear to influence school performance independent of IQ genes, with shared environment having only a negligible influence.


The fact that self-confidence is heritable does not mean it is unchanging, of course. Siblings share a lot of influences living in basically the same home and community, but there are always worldly influences pulling them apart. A genetic legacy of self-confidence merely opens up many possible futures.

Greven and Plomin also found that children with a greater belief in their own abilities often performed better at school, even if they were actually less intelligent. They also concluded that same held true for athletes, with ability playing a lesser role than confidence.

Confidence at work??

I have found through the years  going into peoples lives as a headhunter you develop a strong emotional intelligence and pick up on behaviour. If the individual will take the new role? Will this individual ring me back? It doesn’t sound like they can speak? Predictable behaviour of the individual?

You get a real insight into peoples own “masks”. Everyone has their own masks, some as a “work perspective” others to conceive that they don’t feel confident in the role that they have just been given. 

  SP Garrett-7 

I think the advice i could give to someone that brings a mask to work is like confidence your surroundings helps you feel confident in yourself, is it nature or nurture? Who knows? But all I can say is turn up to work being the superhero you are, as you are the only one capable of changing your situation. Be the mini superhero that you know you are and go into work and show them your “powers” your excellence and skills.


Do you go into work feeling confident? Do you enjoy your job? Are you looking for a move?

Turn to Right International to help you further your career.Let us put you on the path to super stardom.



Abigail Pike



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