Experts say that a girl's self-esteem peaks at the age of 8 years old. Having worked closely with young girls for years now, and having a daughter of my own, I have been on a mission to change that. My desire is to help girls of all ages grow in confidence. And, although deeply rooted confidence grows and blooms over time, there are a few things that we can teach our girls that can help boost their confidence immediately. And the best part is, they can learn to develop these strategies on their own...even when you're not around!
As parents, sometimes the hardest thing to do is watch our child go through a circumstance or situation that seems to totally annihilate their self-esteem. While it is inevitable that every person will have moments in their life when they suffer from a lack of confidence, here are five life hacks that can help boost your child’s confidence in an instant.
1. Encourage her to change her posture. Simply put, our posture is a reflection of the way we’re feeling. This is one of the first non-verbal cues we learn as children. If you see a person with shoulders hunched and head hung low, you interpret their mood as sad or depressed. If they are scowling, with arms folded in front of them, you know they’re angry. If you see a person jumping up and down and clapping or cheering, you know they’re excited.
Well, one of the best ways for our mind to interpret that we are confident is to instruct our body to display that confidence. Head up, shoulders back, breathe deeply. Try it with your child (along with some of the other postures above) and see if it doesn’t immediately help shift her mindset just a bit to one of confidence and calm!
2. Teach her how to make eye contact and SMILE! This is closely related to changing our posture, but the benefits reach beyond ourselves to others…and come back again. When we make eye contact with someone, it is a silent message that we see them and that we have the confidence to be seen. Add a smile to that, and we offer a kindness that people often want to return. And who doesn’t want to be seen and blessed with a smile any day of the week?
3. Encourage her to think the best of people. We never needed the movie Mean Girls to inform us of the fact that people can be just that…mean. This is another lesson that most of us learned when we were young, and as a result, we learned to close our hearts and protect ourselves from hurt by always being prepared for the worst. The problem with this is that constant wariness of others and the desire to protect ourselves keeps us in a state of fear and insecurity because we see everyone as a threat. When we feel threatened, our instinct is to run or hide in a corner. No confidence there. But thinking the best of others releases us from those fears and allows us to face fearful situations with a deeper level of confidence.
4. Teach her to have compassion. Remind her that she’s human and so is everyone around her! When we have compassion, we receive compassion, if not from others, then at least from ourselves. Think about it, when we are harsh, critical and judgmental, who are we hurting? We think we might be directing it toward others, but we always reap the consequences. Why? Because who is the one person that lives in our head and can see every harsh, critical judgment that we think? Why, ourselves, of course!
Here’s an example: If your child watched a teacher yell and scream at another child in the class every single day for making a mistake, then she would be scared to make any mistakes herself, right? Well, the same thing happens when she’s critical and unforgiving toward others. There’s a piece of her watching that is so fearful to have that anger turned toward her. She may never drum up the courage to try something new if she thinks she’s going to be harshly criticized for making a mistake. So, help her practice compassion. Other people will reap the benefits, and so will she.
5. Encourage her to think beautiful thoughts. One of my favorite breakthroughs ever was when I realized that I am beautiful when I think beautiful thoughts. For me, it’s this simple: I love flower gardens. To me, there aren’t many things that are more beautiful. So, when I want to feel confident and beautiful, I picture the inside of my head as a lovely garden, and I allow myself to pick the most beautiful thought. I don’t reach for weeds or cacti (although some people love cacti, and if you do, go for it!). Instead, I go for the most vibrant, colorful bloom of a thought that I can find, and I carry it with me throughout my day. And honestly, it makes all of the above hacks so much easier when I’m carrying the secret of a beautiful thought in the garden of my mind! Have this conversation with your daughter: If she could make the inside of her mind so beautiful, what would she create? A beach? A craft room? A playground? An art gallery? Ask her what thoughts would make her space more beautiful and what thoughts might mess it up, destroy it, or make it a scary place to be. Then help her create beautiful thoughts for when the circumstances or people around her have her doubting herself or the world.
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