Building Confidence In Children (and in Yourself) 5 Seconds at a Time
“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” – Mark Twain
Most humans completely undervalue themselves and what they have accomplished in their lives. Why? The answer is because, generally speaking, we are taught to look at where we are lacking and fix it. We are not taught by parents, society, teachers to look at where we are whole, complete and beautiful- and celebrate it! Building confidence in children (and in yourself) is all about celebration!
Just reflect for a moment on all the challenges you have personally faced in your life. These obstacles represent hundreds of subtle (and not so subtle) transformations. In three years from now, the person you become will be living in a totally new paradigm than the person you are today. Yet ninety percent of all your accomplishments will never be seen or heard by others. Even icons like Einstein have revelations that were never recorded and will therefore never be known to humanity. The important thing is that you begin to notice and celebrate all of your tiny wins and breakthrough moments each day. In the wise words of Lao Tzu, “Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”
As parents, we have the opportunity to model a human who values their worth and what they have to contribute. Seeing the good in your child and telling them what you see may come easily, whereas seeing your own good and offering appreciation for it may take more practice. Yet building confidence in children and trust in yourself is something you can do easily by implementing one simple practice.
What is this practice you ask? Building confidence in children is as easy as acknowledging their good through the specific effort they are making while engaged in an activity. Celebrate simple actions aligned with integrity. Whenever it feels authentic or genuine, verbalize the positive behavior you see in your family and yourself.
Take generalized statements like ‘good job’ out of your vocabulary and instead get specific and personal. Instead of high-fiving your kid for acing their spelling test, say ‘You worked so hard studying for that exam!’ Highlight the courageous quality of self they are bringing to whatever they are doing. Columbia University researchers Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck found that children who were praised for their intelligence, as compared to their effort, became overly focused on results. Building confidence in children starts with emphasizing the specific effort they are making and reinforcing the good in it.
It’s the quality of our attitude and the presence that we bring to whatever shows up in our lives that shapes our character.
Many of us have heard of acknowledging the strength of character and effort we observe in our children, yet what about ourselves? Why not expose your own inner challenges and triumphs when appropriate? This may look like pointing out a snapshot from your day where you suddenly felt angry or frustrated and instead of reacting, you remembered to take five deep breaths, and so felt calmer and clearer. You might have the goal of making healthier choices and so you take a walk or eat a vibrant green salad for lunch instead of having pizza at the office and therefore have tons more energy. You might feel distracted by work and have a hard time focusing on being fully present with your child so you decide to leave your phone in the car while playing at the park in order to give them your full attention and really enjoy having fun together. These are all simple yet powerful reasons to celebrate and it only takes five seconds! Including your child by outwardly acknowledging your positive choices will teach them to look for the inherent good inside their own efforts.
WATCH OUT: Know that as you commit to giving yourself positive new energy, negative core beliefs will come into the light. If you find this practice difficult, keep going, it will get easier! As you offer yourself space to notice your good and the good in your loved ones, any unconscious beliefs around unworthiness and receiving the sweetness of each moment will float up to meet the surface of your attention. If and when this happens, celebrate it! It’s actually a sign that you’re doing it right. All negativity comes into conscious awareness simply to be seen and received by you for what it is – an innocent misperception. ‘Ooops! I thought I was unworthy of fulfillment, connection, and love! – glad I don’t have to believe that anymore!’
Unfortunately, most humans become aware of a negative pattern and then use it to punish themselves. This further ingrains the very behavior they are trying to change and causes hopelessness and depression. My mentor, Don Miguel Ruiz often said, ‘When an animal makes a mistake, it pays for it once. When a human makes a mistake, they pay for it a thousand times.’ Building confidence in children means they don’t have to pay for their mistakes twice. Having had their specific efforts reinforced, they are able to quickly refocus their attention and move forward.
For way too long I punished myself for too many things. I punished myself for pushing away one of the greatest loves of my life at nineteen because he was not vegan, for not calling my Aunt when her husband died, for not feeding my soul by focusing on the things that make me come alive the most like dancing and writing. But you know what?! I have made, and I continue to make, peace with the past. Today I bought a card and am writing a letter to my Aunt (yes- even though it’s been 2 years since the death of her husband). Over the years I have spoken several times with and apologized to ‘the almost father of my children’ (lol!) for shutting the door, and we are now allies and friends. I’ve reclaimed my schedule and am writing on a regular day and time each week at the library and dancing like a crazy woman.
Taking action in these ways came after years of punishing myself. It wasn’t until I saw my own innocence that I was able to forgive the pain I had caused others, especially myself. Looking in the mirror and seeing the eyes of love starring back at me, cleared the weeds of past grievances for a new era of aligned, empowered right action to blossom forth. I realized that every mistake I had ever made came from innocence. It came from the state of consciousness that I was in at the time, and it was completely impersonal.
For you, it doesn’t have to take years! Stop, look in the mirror, and see the truth. Let the prisoner free. Forgive your past and remember that you too are innocent. Can you imagine your child taking on one of the self-limiting beliefs you have struggled with? It just doesn’t seem right, does it? A mind that is imprisoned by past mistakes and old ways of seeing life is dead, while a mind that is current is alive and free to magnetically attract new, joyous horizons.
Recognize that your child’s brain is in ‘download mode’ for the first eight years of life. Therefore, everything you say, do and, most importantly, what you are being, gets transcribed and forms the basis of their subconscious minds… for their entire lives! Yes, it’s a huge responsibility…AND you were made for this!
You want to build healthy self-esteem and confidence in your child?
You want your child to have a strong foundation to rise from in this world?
You are the most fertile soil your child has to grow roots in this world. Pull out the weeds of your self-imposed glass ceiling. Water the soil of your soul. Be courageously you and choose to stand on the stable rock of your integrity, and your children will cultivate a mindset which looks for acceptance and validation within their own experience instead of seeking it from the outside world. Let your children see the courage it takes to be vulnerable and honest and to go for what you want the most. Celebrate the effort and presence you are bringing to it all – one humble moment at a time.
For more on building confidence in children and modeling a healthy mind check out Awakening From Your Loss of Innocence – a blog post that includes a guided meditation you can download and use at your convenience.