Every parent wants their child to be confident. We might remember our own shyness or recall the painful self-doubt we experienced as teenagers, but regardless of how you felt growing up, most parents hope their own children will feel good about themselves. Low self-esteem is a common expression used with teenagers, likely because the adolescent years are a time of tremendous change which naturally brings about self-doubt. No one is born with confidence, rather it’s something that is developed over time. There are ways for your teens and tweens to build confidence and feel good about themselves, which will set them up for a successful adulthood.
Determine the Causes of Doubt
Sometimes a lack of self-confidence stems merely from a lack of experience. No one feels confident doing something for the first time. Tell your teen a time when you tried something new and felt full of doubt, but now having practiced, you feel confident. Remind them that they will likely not feel confident about taking the SAT test or acting in a stage play if they’ve never done it before, but that these feelings change as they experience more things in their life. Sometimes, self-doubt can stem from feelings of insecurity. Sometimes we have bad feelings about ourselves and this impacts our confidence levels. Both of these feelings are normal and common, but our goal is to move past them.
Identify and Evaluate Strengths and Weaknesses
Encourage your teen to take a difficult first step in building their confidence by developing a realistic understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s hard to look inside yourself to discover where and why you feel vulnerable, but it’s essential to slaying your fears.
Suggest that your teen develop a list of their strengths and weaknesses. For their strengths, tell them to consider what makes them feel good about themselves – are they artistic, do they make people laugh, are they good at remembering names, do they have a knack for navigation? For their weaknesses, advise them to think about the things that make them feel bad about themselves – are they overweight, do they have a bad habit, is there a family secret, do they have guilt over something they have done? This can be a painful process, but remind your teen that sometimes you have to root out the bad things to find the gem inside.
Once the teen has identified their strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to act. First, encourage them to review their weaknesses and determine what they can do to change them. If they have a bad habit, help them research ways to break it online. If they are overweight, find ways to include exercise in their schedule. Develop a healthy way to combat the problem. Tell your teen that, generally, when you have an understanding of your problem and an action plan, the fear and self-doubt decline. As they make progress towards their goal, confidence continues to increase.
But don’t let your teen stop with their weaknesses. Encourage them to explore and celebrate their strengths! We tend to gloss over our own talents or natural abilities simply because we don’t think they’re special enough or we take them for granted. But now, help your teen envision how their strengths will help them in the future. Their traits will be essential on the job and in the community – show them how. Once they can envision how their traits can fit into the big picture, they will feel better about themselves and more confident to jump into a situation that will use their strengths.
There is also a great deal of research that suggests we can build our confidence with simple actions, such as smiling more, complimenting others, exercising, getting enough sleep, and taking time to plan. For more ideas on how to build confidence, visit our previous blog Building Confidence In Teens.