Do you ever wish you were more confident? Do you watch other kids standing in front of the class, and presenting their work, and wish you be that self-confident kid?
We often talk about self-confidence and self-esteem in tweens. These two are linked, but slightly different. Self-esteem is about how you feel about yourself, how you value your abilities and yourself. Self-confidence is about how you feel about your abilities, about trusting yourself to do something.
You could have a high self-esteem generally, but have low self-confidence in a particular area, e.g. doing maths, or standing in front of the classroom and presenting a book report.
We often split people into ‘confident’ and ‘not confident’, but we can all learn to be more confident. It just takes a bit of practice. Here are our top tips for increasing self-confidence and self-esteem!
You are waiting to be called up to present your work to the class, and your stomach is tied in knots. Take a deep breath, to fill your lungs with oxygen. This will help you feel more awake. Make an effort to unclench your fists – give your hands a little shake. Try to speak really slowly. It will feel odd to you, but when we are nervous, we often speed up our speech.
TAKE A RISK
It is scary to go outside our comfort zone, to try something new, but when you do this you feel like a giant afterwards. This doesn’t have to be something in school; it can be climbing a tree, or going on a roller-coaster, jumping off the diving board … anything at all. When you know you have done something that you were worried about, it will give you confidence in your abilities to do other things you haven’t tried yet!
This sounds like an odd thing to say – why would you want to embrace, or welcome failure? But we ALL make mistakes, and we all fail at something. In the history of everything that works, there has been a time when it didn’t work. Maybe your parents have a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Did you know that the inventor, Richard Dyson failed 5126 times before he got it right?
I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure. I’ve always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they’ve had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative.
CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY
Do your friends make you feel bad about yourself? How do they react when you do something new? If they respond by making fun of you, or telling you that you did it badly, then it may be time to find new friends. People who always react negatively will always bring you down. This doesn’t mean that you should ditch anyone who isn’t confident – you can be a shy person without being mean. If your best friend lacks confidence too, then work together to boost each other.
The tween years are really important for starting to do things on your own. Walking to school alone, or with friends rather than with your parents (assuming it is safe to do so!), taking responsibility for a family pet, tidying your room without being asked – the more you do yourself, the more confident you will get in your ability to manage things alone.
Think about what you want to achieve, and then thing about how you can go about getting there. Break down scary tasks into smaller parts, and work your way forward. If you want to jump off the top diving board, start on the lowest one and work your way up. Keep jumping off that middle board until you feel really confident about doing it, then you can try for the top.
The security of having prepared well for a task or test gives you confidence. If you have a piano exam coming up, put away your iPod, ignore YouTube and put down your book for a while. Practice, practice, practice! You won’t feel nearly as nervous about that book presentation in front of the class, if you’ve worked out exactly what you want to say.
A great way to practice what you are going to say, is to line up your soft toys or a family pet, and present your report to them. They won’t snigger if you stumble over your words, and you will be rewarded with a cuddle afterwards!
Another method is to set up your iPod or video camera, and film yourself. You don’t have to show to anyone, but it gives you a feeling of presenting to someone, and you can check if you really are speaking too fast!
ASK FOR HELP
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, from a teacher, a friend or a family member. Once you’ve practiced alone, ask someone to listen to you, and give you tips. Keep an open mind when they give their feedback. You don’t HAVE to take their advice, but don’t dismiss it out of hand.
It isn’t a failure to ask for help with something, it shows that you know your limits and are willing to push beyond them.
IMAGINE HOW OTHER SEE YOU
We are often much more critical of ourselves, than other people are. When you walk across the school yard, it is easy to think that everyone is staring at you, and judging you, but maybe they are looking at you and thinking “I like her school bag”, or “Hmm, his jacket is really cool. Wonder where he got it”. When I was about 17 years old, I noticed that a girl was staring at me and started to feel really self-conscious and awkward. She smiled and asked me where I got my hair cut, cause she thought it looked really great.
SEE THE POSITIVE IN OTHERS
The follow-on from that last point, is to be positive about other people. We pretty much expect our friends to say, “You were great”, when we’ve done something, but when someone we don’t know so well does the same, then it feels fantastic. YOU can influence the way your school class reacts to others, by being complimentary. It often just takes one person to start, and others join in.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
It is really hard to be confident and outgoing when you are tired! Tweens should be getting about 10 hours sleep a night, so if you have to be up by 7am to get ready for school, lights out should be at 9pm!
If you have trouble getting to sleep follow these tips: Switch off all electronic gadgets at least an hour before bedtime, read a book, and chill out a bit.
Take care of your body. There is nothing wrong with occasional sweets and fizzy drinks, but make sure you are eating enough vegetables and fruit, and don’t drink coke in the hour or so before bed. Why not try a soothing cup of chamomile tea with honey instead?
Get enough fresh air, and a bit of exercise. Try walking to school instead of asking your parents to drive you, or going out for a game of football after school.
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
This is the BEST advice ever. Most people aren’t naturally confident. Even the best actors get stage fright before they perform in front of audiences – Adele, Justin Timberlake, Carrie Underwood, Rhianna and Katy Perry have all admitted being nervous before performing.
One way to get past that, is to just pretend that you are confident.
If you look confident, then people will assume you are. Straighten your shoulders, uncurl your back and stand up straight. Remember we said to breathe and unclench those fists? Do that too.
Now you are standing tall – don’t you feel more confident already? You certainly look it!
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