Girls know that confidence is the key to taking actions that will support them in life. A confident teen or young adult will seize opportunities, bounce back from setbacks, and resist falling victim to peer and societal pressure. And yet, they are not always sure how to achieve this sense of confidence. During the teen and young adult years, confidence is fragile. There are many factors that challenge a girl’s confidence. These parenting practices will counter those confidence thieves. Each parenting action will help build confidence.
Blast the beauty standards.
One of the confidence thieves is unrealistic standards of beauty, that’s why it’s critical to talk a lot about beauty standards. Remind her that 90% of what she sees on her screen is a marketing strategy and designed to make her feel bad about herself so she will buy a product, subscribe to an influencer, or take a certain action for someone else’s profit. Teach her to be a wise consumer and not be taken advantage of.
Define her own standard of beauty.
Encourage her to really think about what makes a person beautiful. Most girls can relate to experiences of getting to know someone who was perceived as ‘perfect’ on the outside, only to find their personality was sour and that completely changed their external beauty. Find examples of beautiful people and talk about how their kindness, empathy, and helpful outreach to others are what really shines. Explore how beauty changes over time.
Be real about external beauty.
I do not, nor do I encourage parents, to tell their daughters that looks don’t matter. They do and it is OK to want to look your best. The key is to balance looking good with feeling good and being good! Looks should not be the only factor of confidence.
Bring balance to academics.
The increasingly high academic standards trigger insecurity and can rob your daughter of confidence. It is unlikely that academic standards and college criteria will change, so show your daughter how to cultivate balance and prioritize self-care. Find ways to send the message that while grades matter, they are not everything and there are many different roads to success. When she earns a high grade, rather than focus on the grade itself, focuses on her inner qualities that led to the high score. This will help her stop overidentifying with grades and connect with the strengths, abilities, and choices that help her achieve desirable outcomes.
Teach her how to use competition and comparison to her benefit.
Almost all girls compete and compare and when they do, they usually feel “less than.” Competition and comparison are yet another confidence thief. Counter this by highlighting the ways in which competition and comparison work for and against her.
Help her see that when she starts feeling depleted, self-critical, worthless, or less than, competing and comparing are taking a toll. You can say, “I notice you’re feeling really down. Does this have something to do with comparing yourself? Is there another way you can approach this?”
Take note of the flip side: some competition can spark motivation.
Help her transform her desire to “be the best” to the desire to “do her best.” Ask questions like, “What is the difference between being the best and doing your best?” Teach her the mantra, My best is all I can do!
Change comparison into inspiration.
This is something I love to teach the girls I coach. The very essence of comparing is noticing something different in someone else. Usually what happens for girls, is they focus on a disempowering thought- that person has it all, while I have nothing. Questions like, “What is it about that person that you really admire? Is there something you can do to bring that quality into your life?” will help her turn it around. She will begin to identify actions she can take to cultivate a certain quality in her own life.
Turn comparison into complements.
It feels so good to receive a compliment and it’s equally rewarding to give one. Using the first question above, you can help your daughter identify a compliment she can give someone else. If she admires a person’s hair or style, she can tell them. You can also encourage her to find something in herself to complement.
Confident people have confident thoughts.
Self-talk has power and your daughter needs to learn healthy, positive ways to talk to herself about herself. When she is feeling less than, ask her, “What are you thinking about yourself right now? Is that helping you feel more confident or stealing your confidence? What is a more confident thought?” You can also find examples of people she perceives as confident and ask, What do you think they tell themselves about themselves?
Anyone can develop confidence. Through positive mindsets, empowering actions, and support, confidence can become a core strength. These parenting practices are an effective start to helping your teen or young adult cultivate confidence. For more confidence-boosting tips, download my free ebook, What Your Teen Needs But Isn’t Asking, or schedule a free discovery session to learn more about how coaching will build confidence that lasts!