Successful young adults are asked – ‘In your experience, what builds confidence?’: A thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This study used an ethnographic approach to explore the perceptions, interpretations and meanings young adults gave to the concepts of ‘confidence’ and ‘building confidence’. Giving young adults viewpoints a central positioning reflected the researcher’s perception of adolescents as active contributors not only to their own wellbeing, but also to the development of healthier communities and societies as a whole.
The research participants were Year 13 students in their last week of attendance at a co-educational state high school within a provincial New Zealand community. In support of the literature this study found that ‘confidence’ per se was not a concept explored often, but rather it was an assumed component of broader concepts like self-esteem. The young adults involved in this study shared the belief that confidence existed, involved emotion, was an enabler, and was generally attributed as being a desirable thing to have. As an outcome of their reflections an emergent definition of confidence was proposed, namely that ‘confidence is knowing who you are, having pride in who you are (inside and out), and being able to portray who you are to others’.
The young adults in this research project revealed a multitude of interconnected strategies for building self-confidence, and for supporting the building of confidence in others. As the researcher I was privileged to hear these insights first hand and recognized the potential value in this for schools. This has led to a recommendation that high schools routinely undertake exit interviews with their Year 13 students.