03/12/2014 11:45 am ET Updated May 12, 2014

Self Confidence: Worth More Than a Gold Medal

Success is relative. For proof of this one need only consider sports as a societal microcosm. In the recent 2014 Winter Olympics, for example, the line between success and failure was often determined by a difference of as little as a few seconds, or even hundreds of seconds. At the same time, countless recreational athletes manage to find a sense of success by simply participating in their favorite sport, no matter the level. However, both groups are motivated by a sense of self-confidence: a "can do" attitude that inspires them to strive for accomplishments they see as possible.

Since its founding in 2011, Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI) has worked to provide young people with the resources and support they require to achieve economic citizenship; that is to say, to enable them to earn adequate incomes, responsibly manage their personal finances, and engage in advocacy for their needs and those of their communities. That's why we advocate for a combination of financial education and social education. While financial education helps impart key skills, such as how to use a savings account, make a budget, or get involved in entrepreneurship, social education aims to imbue young people with confidence in themselves and their futures.

The importance of this approach was identified as a result of the Childline India Foundation and Child Helpline International programs, which serve as points of contact for young people in need. After receiving millions of calls in India and across the globe, meta-analysis pointed to low self-confidence as a primary stressor in the lives of these at-risk children and youth. Many were simply unable to believe that life could become better for them -- an attitude that runs the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

While watching the Olympics, one might be struck by the fact that these athletes have spent so much time training for something that, for most of their lives, must have seemed like only a distant hope at best. During those years, they watched as peer after peer dropped out through round after round of selection. What inspires someone to dedicate so much to preparing for something that only a few will achieve? The answer, of course, is self-confidence. These athletes believed in themselves enough to press on, even in the face of uncertainty.

Demographics show that it's easier to achieve economic citizenship than earn a place at the Olympics. Yet for many in poverty, entrepreneurship and a gold medal seem equally unreachable. Changing these attitudes requires empowering young people with the "can do" attitude that's so important in the sporting world. Financial education provides concrete skills, but the self-confidence that results from social education enables those skills to become something that a child or youth can feel safe relying on. By obtaining confidence in their ability to make a future for themselves, they simultaneously create room for personal. To us, that's worth more than any gold medal.