It is also frustratingly elusive.
Carol Craig is best-known for her sharp critique of Scottish culture in The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, which became a wide-ranging review of the shaping of the national character.
So much has changed since the first edition of her book, nearly a decade ago, that she has rewritten both the introduction and conclusion in response to the changing political climate, which has also caused her to re-assess her own views.
"When I wrote the first edition, the SNP were nowhere in the polls and there was no sense that independence was round the corner," she says. "The atmosphere in the run-up was that any problem would be solved by devolution.
"I had bought into the idea that we were going to show the world and I was disappointed by the high level of criticism of the Scottish Parliament. I felt there was an opportunity for some analysis on the issue of how critical the Scots are."
She suggests there was a characteristic lack of balance; an inability to accept flaws as inevitable. The need for balance is something of a touchstone for Craig.
"When the SNP won the 2007 election, I felt the atmosphere in Scotland did change. A number of things were going on. The SNP team, as now, were much more presentable and credible as a government and we were much happier to be represented by them.
"There was much less of a Scottish cringe. The SNP also changed tactics and became much more positive and had a much more upbeat, can-do approach. I think people responded to that and it gave more of a collective confidence."
Yet, Craig notes, the positive benefits of this wellspring of confidence have not translated into change at the individual level, citing as an example that there has been no rise in the rate of entrepreneurship.
Her background is politics (she lectured on the subject at Edinburgh University then joined the current affairs section at the BBC) but on moving to work in personal development, where she specialises in assertiveness training, she found it liberating that "people have the power to make big changes on their own without waiting for elections". This has become a passion.
So with the referendum offering the biggest political change of all, how does she assess the appetite for independence? And particularly women's attitude towards it?
Recent opinion polls indicate women are less likely than men to vote for independence. The assumption is this is because they are naturally more risk-averse. Craig tends to agree, pointing out our values of family and community are cultural rather than political and cultural values are resistant to change.
"In international studies, women come out as being more interested in security. I would not be surprised if they were less keen on independence because it is a bit of a leap in the dark and they are less likely to make that because they will be anxious about what it means for the family budget and their children's future.
"If the SNP run a campaign about constitutional change rather than about the detail of policy, women are going to be less attracted."
With her history of identifying with feminism and pushing positive change at a personal level, will she vote for independence?
She's undecided, for reasons beyond political differences in Scotland. "I think we are in the beginning of a big transition. Life as we know it in western societies is not sustainable and we have a huge crisis, not just economically but in terms of the environment. There are major issues about public health and where work is going to come from.
"I am more concerned about how we make a shift of the whole basis of how we live. Over the next decade there has to be growing discussion about this and Scotland as a small, well-networked and potentially wealthy country is well-placed to play a part, but if we become independent, I think Scotland will be tied up in constitutional issues ranging from the DVLA to the EU for years.
"Much of that will be quite arid and it will be a lot of upheaval for something that will not be that different. However, I am not ruling out voting yes. It will depend, as it will for a lot of people, on what happens in the next two years. If the UK were to invade another country, for example, I might decide I wanted independence."
However, she is preoccupied by other aspects of life that she sees as far more significant in the long term.
"It is very worrying that no-one is addressing the fact we are not going to get back to a growth economy; it is quite difficult to persuade people that actually we are in a new world now because there is no leadership for that. One of the tragedies for the nationalist movement is that this has come along with the worst possible timing, when, because of the financial situation, it is not a great time for a country to go it alone."
That returns to the nagging issue of confidence. While Scots are now prepared to look at themselves afresh as a nation, Craig, founder of the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing, is nevertheless anxious about a distorted view of confidence taking hold, particularly in our schools, where it can be seriously counterproductive.
"The temptation is for teachers and parents to tell children their work is fantastic when it is not. What you do then is undermine standards. There is a feeling that you have to make allowances for children coming from different backgrounds, but a lack of confidence in children is more about parents than it is about schools.
"They would be better trying to teach people skills. Confidence comes from previous success. The other thing that worries me about schools is because of the emphasis on the confident individual, teachers define confidence as having a set of social skills. But in children that is often more about personality, so when they are simply quiet they are then labelled as low in self esteem."
This might have been the fate of one of her own children who, nevertheless, demonstrated confidence with a solo tour of South America on leaving school.
She's exasperated by the idea of schools being needed to develop a child's full potential. "It is your lifetime job to develop your full potential, not the schools' job," she counters.
Craig's extensive hinterland (she wrote her PhD thesis on Simone de Beauvoir's wide-ranging The Second Sex), together with her work in self-development, makes her strength that of a generalist, she says: "What I am trying to do is include people."
She has gone further than most writers to ensure this by having her 91-year-old mother, whose formal education ended at 14, as her first reader. If she didn't understand something, it was taken out.
Yet providing challenging ideas for the general reader is germane to the notion of an intellectual basis to Scottish culture. "While we are in danger of losing that, I don't think we have lost it yet. There is an increasing materialism but the same thing is happening everywhere. Commentators in America are arguing that people there are in danger of losing touch with their print-based culture. I don't think we are quite there yet".
That faith is demonstrated by her latest project. The Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing has commissioned Postcards from Scotland, a series of small books on topics from changes we must make to improve public health to the one Craig is working on, about how materialism dominates our lives.
But she is not despondent, and is heartened by the backlash, particularly in older women, to the commerical sexualisation of society.
She says she would never have imagined the freedom of feminism would be co-opted into the sex-sells culture. "What we didn't factor in was the way capitalism would subvert it. While the counter-culture movement thought they were changing the world, Reagan and Thatcher really were changing the world".
Carol Craig is appearing in the Edinburgh Book Festival at Peppers Theatre on August 12 at 11am to discuss How A 'True Scot' Should Behave and at 5pm will consider The Value of Wellbeing, Rethinking Our Public Services with Herald columnist Iain MacWhirter. Tickets cost from £8 www.edbookfest.co.uk