On Self-Belief and Other Related Constructs

Business Power Concept. Strong Businessman

As the term implies, self-belief is a person’s faith or complete trust and confidence  in their  abilities and skills and value  as a human being. Consider it as a combination of self-confidence and self-worth.

Self-belief is an essential component in a person’s pursuit of success and happiness. If you don’t have it, don’t expect to achieve anything  for without self-belief a person will never succeed in any kind of endeavor. But too much of it is not good either. An exaggerated opinion of one’s own qualities and abilities is called self-conceit. The Greeks refer to it as hubris.

Self-belief is a concept not difficult to comprehend  yet not too many really know how having or not having it would affect their lives in general. Some may have chosen to disregard it not fully understanding the possible negative consequences for neglecting it.

If you won’t trust in your own abilities and skills… if you won’t believe that you are valuable, no else would.  If you want others to believe in you, you have to convince them first that you believe in yourself. And even if nobody believes in you but yourself, you are in a strong position in life.

The issue is not what other people say and think about what you can and can’t do and achieve but rather whether or not you believe in your own capabilities and worth as a person. The disbelief of people around you won’t move the needle of your success. It is your self-belief that would. People not believing in you won’t kill your dreams and ambitions, your self-doubt would. 

Self-doubt is by no means just a simple problem. It is a very serious one. A person is in serious trouble when they doubt themselves and when they think they are worthless. The failure of people to develop self-belief stems from them not understanding the nature of self-doubt. In a separate essay – “Self-doubt: The Unknown Sin” –  I discussed the said concept  extensively.

Self-belief   should serve as the starting point of all self-improvement activities.  Any personal growth and development program should start with the elimination  of self-doubt. Imagine self-doubt as old wineskins and all the attitudes, beliefs, and skills you need for self-improvement, altogether, like new wine. You should not pour the new wine to the old wineskins. The Lord Jesus Christ warned –  “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins (Mark 2:22).”

There are several constructs that are construed to be the same or somewhat related to self-belief, namely self-concept, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-image. These concepts have been explored extensively and a vast body of literature has been created for each of them.  There are numerous articles available explaining how similar and different are they from each other. But if you examine the bottom lines of the said constructs, all of them  lead to the notion that people need to develop their faith or complete trust and confidence  in their abilities and skills and also to  value  themselves as human beings.

The primary objective of all activities recommended by experts  for the improvement of  self-concept, self-esteem , self-efficacy , and self-image is the development or strengthening of self-belief. If all ideas related to these constructs are to be synthesized into one single idea, very likely that that the term self-belief would be used.

This article does not intend to deal with specific details about these concepts but only their definitions  to see how they relate to self-belief.

Let’s take a look at self-concept first. As explained by McLeod (2008), self-concept is a general  term used to refer to “how people think about, evaluate, or perceive themselves. To be aware of oneself is to have a concept of oneself.”  Additionally, “self-concept is an overarching idea we have about who we are—physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and in terms of any other aspects that make up who we are (Neill, 2005).”

Your self-concept is a collection of  your beliefs about yourself.To be aware of what beliefs you hold about yourself is instrumental in the development of self-belief. Your self-concept would help you identify what negative perceptions you hold about yourself. Self-belief doesn’t mean ignoring or sweeping under the rag what you consider as your weaknesses  but rather accepting them. But accept them only if after serious introspection you will find them to be true. What comes next after that is you exerting   conscious  efforts to address them. Self-concept enables you to identify what are your problems and deficiencies which need correction. The process of self-improvement includes not just finding and developing your strengths but also identifying your negative attributes and getting rid of them.

What about self-esteem? This concept refers to the extent to which we like, accept or approves of ourselves, or how much we value ourselves (McLeod, 2008).”  Harter (1986) added that “self-esteem is the evaluative and affective dimension of the self-concept, and is considered as equivalent to self-regard, self-estimation, and self-worth.”

Think of self-esteem as a self-appraisal that leads to an honest valuation of yourself. The more positive is your self-appraisal (or the stronger your self-belief is) the higher is your self-esteem.

A low self-esteem – a person’s failure to value themselves as a human being – leads to a variety of problems that can affect a person’s personal and professional pursuits, health, and relationships.

If we go back to the definition of self-belief at the beginning of this article, we can say that half of this construct is self-concept and the other half is self-esteem.  

Next is self-efficacy. Bandura (1994) defines  the term as people’s belief about their capabilities to produce designated  levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives. Self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves, and behave.

The foregoing definition shows the thin line that separates self-belief from self-efficacy. That thin line may not even exist. 

“People with a strong sense of self-efficacy,”  as Bandura explained, “develop a deeper interest in the activities in which they participate, form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities, recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments, and view challenging problems as tasks to be mastered.”

These exactly are what people with a strong self-belief (are and) do – they know what particular skills and capabilities they have, nurture and use them as leverage to achieve success;  they are not afraid to fail and when they do they bounce back; and they face and conquer challenges and difficulties.

Seemingly, self-belief is just another word for self-efficacy.

Now, let’s take a look at self-image. The Meriam-Webster English Dictionary defines the said construct  “as the way you think about yourself and your abilities or appearance.” That, too, is almost exactly how we define self-belief.

According to Dr. Maltz (1993), “Whether we realize it or not, each of us carries a mental blueprint or picture of ourselves. It may be vague  and ill-defined  to our conscious gaze. In fact , it may not be consciously recognizable at all. But it is there, complete down to the last detail. This self-image is our own  conception of the ‘sort of  person I am.’ It has been  built up from our own beliefs about ourselves. But most of these beliefs have been formed from our own past experiences, our successes and our failures, and the way  people have reacted to us.”

Bob Proctor once said that when you stand in front of a mirror you see a reflection of the physical you. But that’s not the real you. You also have a picture of yourself in your mind. That, according to him, is what Dr. Maltz postulated – that people have two images of themselves, the one that’s coming back from the mirror and the other one is their inner image.

The kind of inner image, that self-image  you hold constitute your self-belief. If you have a poor self-image, it  means you don’t have faith in your skills and capabilities and that you have a low self-worth.

 There are a plenty to learn form the literature and studies conducted on self-concept, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-image. Anybody serious in developing a strong self-belief should take a look at them. What I presented in this article about the constructs aforementioned barely scratched the surfaces of each of them.

Let me end with a quote from Alexander Dumas:

“A man who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.”

References:

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Self concept. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/ self-concept.html

Neill, J. (2005). Definitions of various self constructs: Self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-confidence & self-concept. Wilderdom. Retrieved from http://www.wilderdom.com/self/

Harter, S. (1986). Processes underlying the construction, maintenance and enhancement of the self-concept in children. In Suls, J. and Greenwald, A.G. (eds), Psychological Perspectives on the Self. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, vol. 3, pp. 137–181

Maltz, M. (1993). Psycho-Cybernatics. New York: Prentice Hall Press.

What Teachers and Students Expect From One Another

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Teachers do talk about their students. They share among themselves their best and worst experiences in the classroom and compare their students’ performance and behavior. This they do either in meetings or just informally during lunch and coffee breaks.

Students do the same – they also talk about their teachers. When they are not within hearing distance of the educators, they discuss about them. Students tell each other (and their parents) how good or bad their teachers are – how much they like or abhor them.

It’s not only the teachers who could express satisfaction over good performance of students or show discontent for the students’  lack of effort in their studies. The students could do the same. They would show approval for the good effort put up by their teachers and convey disdain when they feel they are being shortchanged.

Both teachers and the students expect each other to perform well when they come to class. They both demand excellence. The teachers assume that their students have studied their lessons and have done their assignments. On the other hand, the students believe that the ones  leading the learning process, their teachers,  are prepared whenever they stand in front of them – that they have a lesson plan and they know how to execute it.

The most foolish assumption that teachers could make is to think that their students wouldn’t notice if they come to class unprepared. Students know if a teacher is not doing his or her job properly. It’s not only the teachers who could distinguish excellence from mediocrity.

Teachers require students to participate in discussions and other class activities. For that, they need to do their part. The teachers should never forget that there is a prerequisite to requiring the students to participate – motivation. Students expect their teachers to make them interested in the subject and to ask questions that make them think. They expect  them to explain clearly and give sufficient examples for them to be ready to participate.

Such are among the pedagogical skills that teachers are expected to manifest if they hope to succeed in making students participate actively in their classes.

Students expect their teachers to be competent. The worst mistake educational managers could do is to not strictly screen applicants or blindly disregard hiring procedures and standards for whatever reasons and end up entrusting to somebody mediocre – to somebody not trained to be a teacher –  the education of students. Knowledge coupled with the required pedagogical skills are what constitute competence among teachers.

Interestingly, competence and their correlates are not the ones that came out on top of the list of what students perceive as qualities of effective teachers. In studies conducted to determine what students consider as the best characteristics of quality teachers, those that relate to personality, not pedagogical skills, were the ones that consistently top the list.

In one of the said studies, among what emerged as the top five qualities of effective teacher as perceived by students, “the ability to develop relationships with their students” received the highest score.1 Of the four remaining, only “engaging students in learning” (ranked 5th) is related to pedagogy. “The ability to develop relationships with their students,” “patient, caring, and kind personality,” and  “knowledge of learners” were ranked, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, respectively.

Students and teachers differ in their perception of the characteristics of effective teachers. In a study that explored student and teacher beliefs on good teaching,2 teachers rated constructs related to their abilities as teacher much higher than those related to their personality.  For the students, it’s the opposite. They gave preference to constructs related to the personality of teachers. Students who participated in the study rated “caring,” “content knowledge,” “safe environment,” “dependable,” “prepared” and a “teacher-student relationship” as most important when describing what makes a good teacher.

Again, emerging on top of the list, as viewed on the perspective of students, is a quality related to the personality of the teacher – “caring.” Note that “content knowledge” and “prepared” are related to pedagogy, the rest to the attitude and behavior of the teachers.

A very interesting topic for research is  who can best answer the question “What  are the qualities of an effective teacher, the students or the teachers?”.

Who is the better judge of what constitutes quality teaching –  the students or the teachers themselves?

Teachers also expect respect from the students. That is something not difficult to elicit from young people like the students who are (supposedly) taught by their parents to respect people in authority. But even if parents were remiss of their duties to inculcate among their children that value, the teachers are always in a position to be accorded respect. The teachers, however, have to understand that respect is a two-way street. Students also expect to be respected. Their being the persons in authority don’t give them the right to embarrass the students either directly or indirectly.

In a study on students’ perceptions of effective teaching in higher education,3 “respectful” and other correlated descriptors were mentioned by students in a number of times significantly more than any of the other characteristics, including “knowledgeable” (which got the second highest mark). Student-respondents said that they appreciate teachers who are compassionate and understanding of the unique and challenging situations that students sometimes experience.

One of the proven ways of ensuring successful learning is for the teacher to ensure that a good rapport between them and their students exist. And the best way to do it is by not only telling the students what they expect from them but by knowing also what the students expect from the teachers.

References:

  1. https://www.pearsoned.com/top-five-qualities-effective-teachers
  2. http://www.smcm.edu/mat/wp-content/uploads/sites/73/2015/06/Bullock-2015.pdf
  3. http://www.mun.ca/educ/faculty/mwatch/laura_treslan_SPETHE_Paper.pdf

Examining South Korea’s Rise to Global Prominence: The Role of Collectivism and Nationalism

The way South Korea handled the COVID-19 pandemic has given the world a blueprint on how to effectively manage the health crisis. When the coronavirus started to wreak  havoc and affected countries desperately sought for ways to battle the deadly contagion, this nation straddling the southern part of the Korean peninsula gave them hope. They were not disappointed. South Korea led the way and generously shared  to the world what they have been doing to successfully contain the pathogen.

It was ironic that the most powerful countries in the world – the US, China, and some European nations – with all their wealth and advance technologies, were rendered helpless by the coronavirus especially during the early stages of the pandemic. That was the time when the world badly needed a leader to lead the fight against the deadly virus. South Korea courageously stepped up to the plate. Suddenly, the global spotlight focused on this nation and its people. Citizens of  different countries from the different continents of the world seeking to restore tranquility back into their lives looked to the direction of the “land of the morning calm.”      

The world is well aware of South Korea’s gradual rise to prominence. News about success spreads fast like a wildfire. It has been drawing more global attention amidst the current pandemic.  This country’s economic success is well-documented. How it rebounded from the severity of the  Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 to become one of the 15 top economies of the world today is by no means a small feat. How it has been dealing successfully  with the coronavirus when the supposedly more powerful and more progressive nations continue to suffer from its onslaught is a fact that is hard to ignore. These achievements, altogether, have seemingly established South Korea as an emerging world leader.

How South Korea catapulted into its current lofty position in the global community is something to marvel at. It made many wonder how this nation survived despite being haunted by the ghosts of a  bitter colonial past,  ravaged by the destructive Korean war, hampered by the political turmoil  of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and pestered almost endlessly  by a belligerent neighbor in North Korea.

Perhaps, as important as learning the way the South Koreans successfully reined the coronavirus is understanding how the people of this nation emerged from the ashes of Japanese colonialism, the Korean war and  the political uncertainties that followed, the Asian economic crisis, and the constant threats from north of the peninsula to become a prominent member of the community of nations that it is now. The essential question that must be answered is – “How did this nation, like the mythical phoenix, rise from the ashes?”

That question needs to be answered so the world will have a better understanding why the South Koreans are succeeding not only in containing the coronavirus but in their  endeavors as a nation in general. Answering that question should not be construed as an effort to extol the virtues of these people  but rather to determine what factors have contributed to their gradual rise to global prominence. The answers being sought would not only divulge their framework for success but also reveal more about their traits which will help other nationalities in fostering a better relationship with them.

            Finding the answers to the said question  would require more than just scrutinizing the political and economic policies implemented by the South Korean government. Not that it is inappropriate to attribute the success of a nation to the statutes and strategies  formulated and executed by its leaders. But focusing on the said areas is like giving credit for the nation’s success only to the elected leaders forgetting about the ones who wrote their names (the leaders’) in the ballot, the ones who granted them the mandate to lead – the citizens.

When South Korea generously shared all the information they gathered and the systems they developed to battle the coronavirus, countries focused only on the protocols, methods, and whatever medical kits and equipment this nation provided. They credited South Korean authorities for a job well done. They forgot about one very important factor that made South Korea’s efforts to curb COVID-19 infections succeed – the cooperation of its citizens.

No matter how effective are the policies and guidelines the South Korean government would implement, they wouldn’t work without the cooperation of the people. No matter how great are the leaders of a country, it would be useless without the support of an unselfish citizenry willing to sacrifice for the collective good. There could be no stronger pillar for nation-building than the combination of good leadership and the collectivist mindset of its citizens.

The willingness of South Koreans to set aside personal motives for the best interest of the many is considered as one of  their  best traits. They are concerned  with the welfare of their community as a whole. Theirs is a collectivist culture that make them think first of the general welfare over and above their personal interests. They put the collective good of their society over their individual rights.

As it has always been, the success of any national endeavor or even just simple community programs hinged on the willingness of the citizens to support their leaders and contribute whatever they could (and should) for the undertakings. Cooperation is very crucial  most especially in dire situations such as during a pandemic. The only thing that was required of the South Koreans when the current health crisis was at its worst in this country was their cooperation. The world was surprised that despite the fact that the country was churning scary numbers of daily infections during the months of March and April (2020), it did not implement a “hard lockdown” the way other countries did. The citizens were asked to just strictly observe social distancing and not venture out of their homes unless it’s very necessary.  Those things  were not difficult for the South Koreans to do.

While citizens and their leaders in the Western world and other parts of the world were fiercely debating the efficiency of wearing face masks, the South Koreans religiously wore them not only to protect themselves but also in consideration of other people who might be infected in the event that they are just asymptomatic or already unknowingly carrying the virus. That’s the kind of mindset they have.

Wearing masks, maintaining personal hygiene, and social distancing are, for South Koreans, simple sacrifices. They made greater sacrifices in the past that would make following those health protocols set by their government pale in comparison and not really a big deal. Following such orders was  nothing when compared to what the South Koreans did in early 1998 when they willingly donated their gold – wedding rings, jewelry, medals and trophies, gold luck keys and what have you – to save their economy that was then in trouble. More significant than the collective weight of the gold they donated and the corresponding monetary value was the willingness  of the citizens of this nation to make personal sacrifices for their country’s sake.

That is more than just being collectivistic. That is another trait the South Koreans have  that helped them gradually rise to global prominence. That’s the other “ism,” aside from “collectivism,” that has propelled their progress and development – “nationalism.”

It is not only the discomfort that wearing face masks creates and the loneliness that social distancing  brings that they are willing to bear for the good of everybody. It is not only their material possession – gold – that they are willing to sacrifice for the sake of their country. Even their own lives and liberty. South Korea is enjoying a vibrant democracy now because of its citizens who bravely resisted for years one military junta after another. They did not cease fighting  until the last vestiges of authoritarian rule were eliminated. Their martyrs sacrificed their lives and limbs to lay the democratic foundations of their society which became a fertile ground that nurtured their economic prosperity.

Undoubtedly, what allowed the South Koreans to overcome the trauma caused by the Japanese occupation and the Korean war was their strong sense of national pride. They did not allow those harrowing experiences to dampen their spirits as a nation and neither would they allow the ongoing COVID-19 crisis to hamper the progress and prosperity which they worked so hard to achieve.

South Korea’s brand of nationalism has been criticized for being more raced-based rather than state-based. But the performance of South Korea in the international arena is a clear indication that whatever doctrine of nationalism they have embraced is working for them as a nation.

Aside from their model of nationalism, critics have something to say also about collectivism in South Korea. They argued that this nation’s collectivistic culture is a hindrance  to  the productivity and creativity of their nationals.

Is that so?

Speaking of productivity – Apple’s competition for the title of top smartphone seller is Samsung. South Korea is one of the world’s leading exporters of, among other things, electrical and electronic machinery, equipment, and gadgets (including smartphones and computers).

What about creativity?

The Korean Wave (Hallyu), lest the world forget, is used in reference to the global popularity of  South Korea’s cultural economy. The country exports not only electrical and electronics products but also  pop culture – music, movies, and TV dramas.

So, how credible are the criticisms hurled against South Korean’s brand of collectivism and nationalism?

Here is the answer: South Korea is currently the 12th largest economy in the world – an indication that their versions of collectivism and nationalism are what exactly the South Koreans need to exorcise  the demons of a bitter colonial past and the bloody Korean war and to overcome the political and economic crises that hit them. Their way of loving their country and putting the welfare of their society over personal interests is probably what led them to economic prosperity and why they are efficient in implementing measures to curb the spread of the  dreaded coronavirus.

It’s hard to argue with success. Therefore, despite all the criticisms, the South Koreans should keep their collectivism and nationalism shine more brightly.  They need to strengthen these traits but at the same time they should  try to evaluate (and correct)  if they have negative effects that may adversely affect them as a nation in the long run and their relationship with the rest of the world.

What should be considered as the two most important items in the list of products the South Koreans are exporting  are not any of their electrical and electronics products… not their music and dramas… not even their much sought-after beauty products – but their brand of collectivism and nationalism. Citizens of any country can have them at no cost at all except that for anybody to acquire such traits they have to learn to be self-less – the way most South Koreans are. It’s about time that the world should realize that there is a  virus deadlier than the COVID-19. Call it selfishness – putting personal interests over the common good.  

References:

  1. Ahn, Diana D., “Individualism and Collectivism in a Korean Population” (2011). Scripps Senior Theses. Paper 107. http://scholarship.claremont.ed u/scripps_theses/107
  2. Kim, Kihwan, “The Korean Financial Crisis: Causes, Response and Lesson s”, The Conference Paper on Lessons from Recent Global Financial Crises, The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and The Bank for International Sett lements, 1999.
  3. Korean Ethnic Nationalism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_ethnic_ nationalism
  4. Korean Wave. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_wave
  5. Pride of the People: South Korea and Korean Nationalism Seow Jing Yin Intern, ISIS Malaysia https:/isis.org.my/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/files
    _IF_2013_IF8_IF8_12.pdf
  6. South Korea – Hofstede Insights, https://www.hofstede-insights.com/coun
    try/south-korea

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