I am faced with patients who are thoughtful, caring, intelligent, attractive, and with many other positive characteristics. The challenge is that they don’t see it in themselves. The picture they paint and express is so counter to who I see before me. I’m aware about the disparity between who I’m seeing and how they are seeing themselves. I ponder about how this comes about and what could be done to facilitate more positive self-confidence and self-compassion.
As we all know we are impacted by our genetics/biology and our environment. What we commonly refer to as nature vs nurture. Both are responsible for having an influence in how we see and react to ourselves, others, and the rest of the world.
I speak often about out chatty minds and what messages our thoughts innately send to us and impact on or feelings and behavior. How we interpret, process and problem-solve depends on us. There are strategies we can put in place to facilitate who we want to be and how we prefer to see ourselves.
There are fundamental ways that we can proactively instill confidence boosting strategies to be more in line with our best selves and who we prefer to be. These are strategies that we can also utilize and teach to our children to feel positive about themselves and boost their self-confidence and self-compassion.
Confidence Boosting Strategies To Implement:
- Role modeling is critical. If you want yourself and your child to be confident, independent and courageous, model those behaviors/actions. For example, if you are always reluctant to start new things and put yourself out there and take risk, your child will observe this and mimic these cautious/hesitant behaviors. Express to them that inherent in starting something new there is risk and it’s a wonderful way to build confidence and be open to new experiences. This will build your confidence and theirs.
- Understand yours and your child’s core values. It’s a guide to action and will be a roadmap to facilitating behavior and living a meaningful life. Values are unconditional and don’t have any contingencies. They are emblematic of who you and your children are at your foundation. For example, if parenting is a core value, even after your child enraged you by their inappropriate and disrespectful behavior, if they fall, you’ll still check on them and are helpful if they hurt themselves, even if you don’t “feel” like it. At the end of each day, you can take an inventory of your values and assess whether you took direct action on leaning in or away from them. If you leaned into them, you can acknowledge your effort and success, and if you leaned out, you can make plans on how you’ll attempt to do things differently so that you can proactively work toward increasing self-confidence. Take a quiz to examine your core values and see a list of them.
- The key is to “build” confidence. Confidence doesn’t just appear, it needs to be worked on, built upon and maintained throughout. This entails acknowledging and communicating to yourself and to your child what you and he/she is capable of, noting all progress along the way and noting that when effort is made you and he/she can overcome obstacles successfully.
- Know yours and your child’s temperament and challenges. Understand what may be courageous and exerting independence to one child may not be so in another. Understand the parameters of yours and their challenges. Tune into achievements for everyone on yours and their individual level. For example, if your child is generally socially reserved, when they approach another child to befriend them, make it a point to acknowledge and reinforce their behavior. Whatever personal challenge you’re confronting and working on, give yourself accolades for leaning into the challenge and acknowledge your willingness to take action, despite how challenging it is. This will reinforce confidence and the desire to move forward.
- Be open to giving and receiving support. Be open to letting your children and others know how proud you are of them and expressing how you are always there to support them. Be accepting of support when someone is graciously offering it to you whether you may need it now or sometime in the future. Convey to children that being aware that support is needed, asking for it and receiving it is a sign of personal strength. I hear more often than not people perceiving asking for and accepting help as a personal weakness as opposed to a strength. I always attempt to dispel that perception. In addition, give direct feedback on what you are proud about. Rather than saying, “you did good” try “when you opened the door for the woman who was holding her baby, you were thoughtful and kind; your actions were really helpful, and she was able to enter the building more easily.” By being direct and offering details, you are connecting specific actions that facilitate empowering, confidence building characteristics that they can independently strive for. When applying this for yourself, be specific on what you value about your personal actions and what you strive to be more like and do more of.
- Be aware of the subliminal messages that you are sending to yourself and to your child. If you are always cautioning them to take risk — you may also be communicating that he/she is unable to handle things, that they cannot make decisions on their own, and that they are generally not capable or trustworthy to do so. These messages, whether implicit (i.e., through non-verbal cues such as with sighs, grimaces, etc.) or explicit (expressed verbally, etc.) can negatively impact on a child’s confidence level and their ability to successfully take risk and assert their independence. If you personally think and feel that way about yourself, it will directly impact on the action you take. The less you put yourself out there to dispel that “truth” the more you reinforce the belief and solidify that thought and feeling. It’s a vicious cycle and one that perpetuates a “self-fulfilling prophesy.” You are what you think becomes more and more a reality.
- Consider how you communicate. When your child is not “living up to his/her potential”, is hypersensitive or anxious, is avoidant, etc., be sure not to communicate negative belittling messages that convey your disapproval, frustration, or disappointment in who they are. Avoid statements like “you are a baby,” “what is wrong with you” or “you’re lazy.” Recognize that their lack of self-confidence may be a barrier thwarting their progress. These messages propagate shame and may further negatively impact on their self-confidence and their ability to observe themselves compassionately. These characteristics are essential is meaningful change is to come about.
- Strive to facilitate an internal sense of pride as opposed to external acceptance. Many of us take action based on what other people may expect of us or how we perceive that they may think or feel about us. When you engage in self-talk or communicate to your child, make it a point to deflect back to yourself or your child. For example, if your child says, “Rebecca won’t like what I’m doing and will be angry with me.” Start out with, “It sounds like you are really concerned about what Rebecca thinks and feels which I can understand and would be natural to be concerned about, what do you think about what you are doing and how does it make you feel?” Hone in on whether your child is acting in accordance with his/her values and convey that it is formative and might inevitably impact another person and that they can do their best to be considerate of it. Apply the same skills with your own self talk which naturally leads us to be caught up in the other, rather than the self. It’s easy to quickly respond and get caught up in the concern about the other person but inevitably it takes away from what the internal conflict really is and goes directly into problem solving mode instead of understanding what you or your child feel on a deeper more meaningful level.
- Amend tasks so that they’re achievable. For children, give tasks that are manageable and age appropriate. For example, if two of your children are at the park and your older child climbs the monkey bars and your younger one attempts to but cannot because he/she is too young. Avoid saying, “no you can’t because you are too little, please get off.” Try communicating something like, “Good for you for trying to climb that! Let’s go over here to the slide which is a little smaller and more doable for a three-year-old. Let me watch. I know you could do it!” The more you and your child do, the greater the chance that you and he/she will feel personally proud and strengthen the idea that the positive effort leads to positive results.
- Gain an understanding about your child’s fears and your own. To encourage more risk taking and follow through, address self-sabotaging feelings such as “I won’t be able to do it”, “I won’t be good at it”, “They won’t like me”, etc. Talking through and directly working on fears enforces a person’s capability and capacity. Sticking it through and sustaining momentum typically becomes a major obstacle that can be paid attention to, attended to and continually worked on.
We are naturally defended because of wanting to see ourselves in a positive light. We feel threatened and disappointed when we perceive or experience ourselves unfavorably or perceive others viewing us that way. Seeing ourselves in all of our true glory often doesn’t come easily or naturally for most of us. Most of us have to impose balanced thinking so that we could truly appreciate all of our parts, the ones we celebrate and the ones we would prefer not having.
No one has the ability to make us feel anyway about anything. Feelings typically get induced if we are carrying those similar feelings ourselves, not necessarily because of something someone said or did. It stems directly from our self-confidence and the way in which we view ourselves from the inside out.
I think about the patients I mentioned earlier on. If only they saw what I saw. By expanding their vision more broadly and helping them to appreciate all their parts, I hope to give them that chance. You could only imagine the elatedness for both of us when it truly clicks.
Beauty fades, integrity, values, and connection lives on. As a parent, you are highly influential in your children’s lives. You can incrementally work on initiating greater confidence in yourself and in your children. It’s one of the most incredible gifts you can ever give them.