A simple way to build her confidence

"Always remember you are braver then you believe; stronger then you seem and smarter then you think."

Wise words from Winnie the Pooh!  I feel like this quote is so appropriate for teen girls.  A lack of confidence is common at this age.  It is so much about what they believe about themselves.  It's probably the universal problem I address in therapy.

It can be heart-breaking to watch your teen daughter struggle through these turbulent years.  Middle School can sometimes be the roughest, especially when she is trying to figure out this new world of emotions, social norms, boys, academics and activities.

It seems like some girls have an innate ability to take risks, try new things, meet new people all with ease.  Their sense of confidence is strong.  Makes you wonder if she was born with it.  Truth is science folks aren't totally sure but they do know it can be taught and grow at any point in your life.

At it's core, a lack of confidence is about her internal beliefs regarding her self and her abilities.  How she sees herself matters.  The more negative she sees herself and the world, the greater lack of confidence she will have.  So is there anything you can do to help?  Yes!

Building Mastery

There is a skill that you might not think is a skill but it is... Building Mastery.  Building Mastery gives her a sense of effectiveness and control in her life which will increase her confidence.  In essence it's about accomplishing even small things in every day life.  It's learning something new or getting better at something that has been challenging.  It's rebuilding relationships that have been strained or solving problems with success.

I can remember when I was in my undergrad and we were studying human development.  My professor was discussing the value and benefit of doing chores around the home and how important it is for kids to contribute in this way.  She explained that it's not about the task.  It's about the child learning new things and accomplishing the task and how that in itself increases their self-confidence.  It totally changed the way I viewed chores.  Now, kids don't get that and will balk at chores but it is a critical life skill you are teaching and believe it or not they will learn to be believe they are more competent.

3 Guidelines

In Building Mastery there are 3 guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Do one thing everyday - pick one thing and accomplish it.  This is intentional.  She needs to make a decision each morning and choose something that will communicate success.
  • Plan for success, not failure - the activity or task needs to be difficult, but possible.  When she sets her expectations too high she sets herself up for failure and if it's too easy, she knows it and it's ineffective.  For example, writing a 10 page paper starting at 8pm the night before sets her up for failure.
  • Gradually increase the difficulty over time - most goals can be broken down into smaller achievable tasks or one can learn the basics of something and then move onto advanced skills.  For example, if she is learning to bake she may start with a box mix and then move onto something from scratch.  If she wants to learn to play the guitar, she will have to break all the steps down and master each step.

It's simple but hard.  If she is struggling with depression, this is one of the top skills she can learn to move out of the depression.  I've seen girls learn to drive and really increase their confidence in themselves.  They have even told me directly that learning something new and becoming good at it has changed them.  Don't underestimate the effectiveness of this skill.

You can help her by coming up with a list of things she would like to try.  Your role is to encourage and help her set-up for success.  They need to be realistic, moderately difficult and a variety.  Sometimes you may have to point it out to her because she doesn't always make the connection.  It's OK to remind her of what she has accomplished.  This is especially true if she is already in a low-self worth state of mind.  She isn't necessarily going to feel the effects overnight.  This is a gradual change that increases with time and consistency.

Setting the one goal or task accomplishment or learning something new can be as simple as choosing to complete a homework task that is hard.  It doesn't have to be grand.  It has to be doable and consistent. It can be a chore off her list or something fun like making a new recipe.  It's good to have a mix.  Anything in life that is worth it takes work.  A sense of accomplishment is a great feeling and one that will improve her mood.