FWP: Best Self-Confidence Advice You’ve Ever Gotten
PROBLEM: My 11-year-old niece has self-confidence problems. I want to do something to help her, but I’m not sure what. Did any of you ever struggle self-confidence? What was the best piece of advice about self-esteem you ever received?
SB: It’s a great time for you to influence your niece’s self-esteem during the preteen years before the teens make things worse. Honestly, I would talk to her directly and tell her how all of us feel that way. Try sharing some examples from your own life about self-doubt and how you overcame those feelings.
The best advice I can think of is really helping her to understand that she’s so much more than what she looks like. What she thinks and what she can do with her amazing body are the things to be valued and worked on; all of that other appearance stuff will just change year-to-year anyway, so she shouldn’t worry too much about it. Show her some amazing female role models like Serena Williams to help her keep it real. These are tough but important conversations to have. Good luck!
LG: Eleven can be a rough age for a girl! And I’ve got no expertise, but loads of lived experience FWIW. The best self-confidence advice I got came from my mum, who always told me to, “Walk with a purpose.” I later mentally added “even if you don’t feel like you have one,” because we all struggle with feeling like the real, valuable, purposeful thing. Sometimes, you have to fake it — and it’s been my experience that the making it follows.
(But for more legit, expert-based advice, I’d suggest checking out these two articles on the site around helping preteens with body image issues and general self-esteem.) All the best to your niece! She’s got a good start, with such a supportive auntie.
MM: It’s been a long time since I was 11, but I can still remember that preteen phase where you suddenly go from a carefree, young child to actively caring about others’ opinions of you. I remember my mom telling me something on the lines of, n”Everyone is as busy worrying about what other people think of them as you are. So don’t!” And that helped me shake off the self-doubt a great deal.
It’s a rough phase from the preteen years to the other end of adolescence, when teens gain a stronger sense of self, and I think the best thing adults can do for self-esteem during that time is provide a steady supply of love and support — which it looks like you’re already doing!
KB: Yikes, there’s a part of me that feels like self-confidence is pretty determined by the time a kid is 11, and I’m not really sure what you might change. But assuming your niece is malleable, and open to you weighing in on her life, I think the best way to build self-esteem in kids is to be around, be interested, and just accept them and support them unconditionally. There’s nothing like a no-judgment zone to make a kid feel empowered.
Beyond that, it may just be a matter of growing up and learning to accept herself… which, we all know, can take decades, or never at all. (We all have the middle aged friends preening on social media to prove it!)
RT: I think the best thing you can do for a preteen’s self-confidence is to compliment them often and surround them with good vibes only. I am hoping that the positivity oozing from you will cancel out the negativity she hears from anyone else. “It’s just a phase,” “They are jealous of you,” and “Don’t focus on the flaws,” are common phrases that helped me through my troubled teens. So… reinforce on!