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The Full-Time MBA class recently attended a number of workshops and seminars during their February CPD week. Elizabeth Daniella reflects on self-confidence and what that means to her as she undertook CPD sessions, alongside the current semester modules.

It was only the first week of the start of our study last September when we had a visit from graduates of the preceding batch.  A couple of them did a presentation for us and I remembered thinking, “Wow… they look like highly competitive, high-achiever guys.”

Business School: coaching self-confidence 
Not only the West perceives self-expression and self-confidence differently, I daresay confidence as a skill probably more desired and speaks more loudly in the business school than anywhere else in the university building.  Designed to produce effective leaders with problem-solving skill, to secure million dollar projects in their vocation, the MBAs in particular (perceived to) require a certain degree of self-confidence (or at least, an outward display of it).

One of the two guys who did the presentation turned out to be my mentor and his confident persona may not be the only thing that I admire from him.  But, more about my looking up to my mentor and seeing him as a figure that I respect, I’m actually one of those Asian students who are culturally ingrained to think highly of people we consider ‘seniors’; not only that, we tend to feel inferior of them. There was a moment I spent with my Thai classmates looking through in awe the LinkedIn profiles of our seniors and mentors, and how we felt… they all look impressive and ours look otherwise.

In where I come from, people of my gender and my age are taken less seriously — although this is changing. So, in my case, it’s easy to feel rather ‘small’.  Not only that, in our culture modesty is preferred, while various manifestations of self-confidence tend to be avoided as they’re seen to equate pride.

The Career and Personal Development (CPD) session this week had helped me to once again revisit self-confidence, a soft skill I am yet to nurture as part of the MBA study.

As I realized just the wealth of resources I’m surrounded with; academics, alumni, people who are our mentor and guide us with their experience and many years of working life — and, in my case, their confidence.
Yet, the question I’ve been pondering remains, as I strive to improve myself, where do I stand and how can I be confident with my traits and with what I have now Because being confident is a skill, what’s the best way to acquire that.

Read the book too, not just the cover.
Had confidence some numerical skill, perhaps it’d be easier for one to practice it. However, although not easy to recognize, at least here are few things that I think self-confidence is not:

  •  Looks: business and attractiveness
Marissa Mayer: Current President and CEO of Yahoo!

Marissa Mayer: Current President and CEO of Yahoo!


Looks aren’t everything, appearance may mislead.
Being in the marketing line of work, for example, I had ex-bosses who claimed to have ‘certain physical criteria’ in accepting a marketing female personnel.  I remembered feeling rather offended — I prefer to be hired based on my experience or qualification than mere physical appearance. But that just shows how important look is, especially in a client-facing nature of work.  See what they say on good-looking CEOs too.

Or, if you had  the most important woman in your life just like mine (my mom has a Javanese royal title preceding her name – nah, we don’t use that, not in the 21st century, so I tend to make fun of it) who trained you how to dress well, I think it’s just easy for anyone to think that your outward appearance, i.e. some nice dress and jewelry, reflects your self-confidence level.   But I don’t think by looking good means you’re a confident person.

  •  Personality:  extroversion

Secondly, introversion.  Yes, there are myths about us, introverts.  Introversion is not the same with shyness, nor with inferiority.  But because typically introverts do not do ‘small talk’ as conveniently as extroverted people, or introverts take solace by being observant and spend time more with their thoughts, we are often misjudged as inferior.  Not always.

  • Boasting, arrogance

As psychologist Nathaniel Branden described, one doesn’t need to be a trained psychologist to recognize how conceited, arrogance behavior displayed by people who may need to compensate their low self-esteem with such pseudo self-esteem of compensatory defense mechanism. Self-esteem is not manifested in megalomania or narcissism.
Personal reflection: what lies beneath
Interestingly, more confidence is not always a good thing.   “Self-awareness is the new self-confidence” wrote about a new analysis of a survey done to American students on self-esteem.  Examining the links between self-esteem and success in life (often measured as educational achievements, popularity, job opportunities, health, happiness) apparently often finds no clear direction of causation.

However, as I am being aware of what affects (or deteriorates) my self-esteem and work on my lack of it, in a world where life achievements are measured more quantitatively (how much you have in your bank account, how many cars you own, how much you earn) I realize how the practice of integrity and self-control play a preceding significant role.

Modules such as Finance or Corporate Governance had helped me to unlearn the ethics as part of the integrity and self-control practices, while CPD weeks supported me with the soft-skills improvement such as self-confidence. This well-rounded education I hope to continuously take advantage from, towards a healthy self-esteem I want to consciously nurture, not only as an individual, but also as a future effective leader.