Let’s go big with this one. It’s not about building confidence in individuals, it’s about building the confidence of an entire nation.
I am English, brought up close to the heart of Manchester city centre. Not a privileged upbringing by any stretch of the imagination – we had a back yard, no garden and my mum was a single parent in the 1970’s before it was the norm.
There’s an openness to Mancunians. As a breed of people, we’ll talk to anyone, about anything and express our opinions in most cases without much thought to the consequences.
Business, selling and entrepreneurship are rife in Manchester. It starts with the scallys who put cars up on bricks and steal the tyres to sell down the pub and builds upwards from there. The influence of the Jewish, Pakistani and Chinese communities can be experienced throughout the city in its restaurants, businesses and shops.
There is a “hutzpah” as the Jews would say. A willingness to stick your neck out, take a chance and see what happens.
My own great grandparents were Jewish immigrants in Manchester who came to establish the family cloth business in the city and whilst they were at it, established the first synagogue there too.
When I moved to Edinburgh twenty years ago, I noticed a distinct lack of cultural mix. There was also a distinct lack of hutzpah. No oomph, no kick, no brass neck.
The confidence of a nation or a city or an individual comes from the belief they have in themselves or itself. Societies gain this confidence by being bashed, being the odd one out and by being on the margins. People fight back when they’re pushed down and they fight back with passion, verve and unwavering determination.
Consider our newest neighbours – the Poles. In the main, they arrived with nothing and had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Across the city of Edinburgh we’ve seen new businesses spring up owned by our Polish cousins. The second and third generation of Italian immigrants run the cafés, ice cream parlours and chip shops we love so much in Scotland and I have lost count of the number of Turkish people there are in the city offering outstanding tailoring services.
The confidence that these people have, stems from having nothing and building something out of nothing. Us soft, molly coddled westerners have forgotten what it’s like to be the underdog, the outsider, the person who has to fight tooth and nail for every inch of success they gain.
Some of Scotland’s best entrepreneurs are the ones who left school without a single qualification, who are dyslexic and were dismissed by the education system or who were the ones that didn’t quite fit the status quo.
We reward the wrong kind of behaviour in our schools. We quash energy, describing it as disruptive, we belittle vivid imaginations, calling them unrealistic and we ask our children to comply rather than constantly question. Now, we absolutely need boundaries within which to work at school and at our workplaces and these need to be reinforced for the sake of a safe society, but let’s broaden them out and test them.
Whilst we do that, we also need people to champion the kids who are different, who question the status quo and who demonstrate true independent thinking. That’s how we’ll build a confident city and a confident nation.
It’s not about spoon feeding, it’s about sparking imaginations, taking people outside of their usual rat runs, accepting that a part of experimentation is failure and that to fail is good because it means we’re learning.
Every single person has the ability to do something special, whether it’s making sure the streets are clean or whether it’s carrying out brain surgery and our parents as well as our educators must work to find what it is that kids can do and encourage that.
Educators across the nation have a moral and civic duty to encourage, nurture, develop, listen to and mould our future generations so that young people come out of the system with the confidence to give stuff a go and pick themselves up if it doesn’t work out. The definition of success needs to be broadened out so that society values contribution to society as much as it values the size of your pay packet.
Confidence is a mind-set. It’s an attitude that is within us all, every one of us can help build that confidence in everyone we meet in our daily lives, whether it’s acknowledging great service or thanking a professional for their help. Let’s look outwards at what we can do for others, no matter how small it seems every single word that builds confidence in other people is a word well said so choose your words carefully and find ways to give others the confidence boost we all need.