A good martial arts teacher had an educated understanding of self-confidence and what is required to nurture it.

If a teacher treats students with respect, avoids ridicule and other belittling remarks deals with everyone fairly and justly, and projects a strong, benevolent conviction about every student’s potential, then that teacher is supporting both self-esteem and the process of learning and mastering challenges. For such a teacher, self-confidence is tied to reality, not to faking reality.

In contrast, however, if a teacher tries to nurture self-confidence by empty praise that bears no relationship to the students’ actual accomplishments – dropping all objective standards – allowing young people to believe that the only passport to self-confidence they need is the recognition that they are “unique” – then self-confidence is undermined and so is achievement.

We help people to grow by holding rational expectations up to them, not by expecting nothing of them; the latter is a message of contempt.

Self-confidence demands a high reality-orientation; it is grounded in reverent respect for facts and truth. Excessive and inappropriate self-absorption is symptomatic of poor self-confidence, not high self-confidence. If there is something we are confident about, we do not obsess about it – we get on with living.

ISN’T SELF-CONFIDENCE  THE CONSEQUENCE OF APPROVAL FROM SIGNIFICANT OTHERS?

No. If we live semi-consciously, non-self-responsibly, and without integrity, it will not matter who loves us – we will not love ourselves. When people betray their mind and judgment (“sell their souls”) to win the approval of their “significant others,” they may win that approval but their self-esteem suffers.

What shall it profit us to win the approval of the whole world and lose our own?

It is commonly held that among young people the approval of “significant others” does profoundly affect self-confidence, and to some extent, this is doubtless true – but one has to wonder about the reality of self-esteem that is so precarious that it crashes easily if that approval is withdrawn.


John Graden
John Graden

John Graden is widely credited with leading the martial arts school business into the modern age. He is the founder of the first successful professional association and trade journal. MA Success editor John Corcoran first called him a “visionary” in 1995. Martial Arts World magazine dubbed him, The Teacher of Teachers. Mr. Graden’s leadership was recognized in many mainstream media outlets including a cover story on the Wall Street Journal, documentaries on A&E Network, and as a guest on the Dr. Oz Show and many others.