Before the end of last year, my school organized its annual charity event: a talent show where the proceeds are donated to homeless people. It’s incredible to see how talented and confident everyone is, while contributing to a wider issue. It inspired me to think about confidence more and the role it plays in my own life.
I would describe myself as a fairly confident person – I’m able to stand up and deliver a short speech to a small group of people. However, when I’m talking to someone I don’t know, I find I start to get worried. Did I say the right thing? What if they think I’m strange? Why are they looking at me like that? Upon reflection I realized that I wasn’t as confident as I thought I was.
Determined to make a change I tried to figure out what was preventing me from feeling and acting self-assured. After speaking with friends, we all agreed that a lack of confidence is quite common among teenagers. I’ve attempted to understand why this is the case and what we can do to improve it.
Something that stood out to me was the fact that everyone felt differently about confidence. On the one hand, public speaking doesn’t strike me as daunting but small talk and general conversations do, whereas many of my friends felt the opposite. What one person finds challenging may be simple for another.
According to an article by parents.au.reachout.com, a lack of self-esteem and confidence can lead to relationship troubles, low motivation and feeling sad and/or anxious. Clearly, this is an important issue that can affect many aspects of life as a teenager and beyond.
So, what causes low self-esteem?
Bullying appears to be an obvious answer. Being made fun of or belittled constantly works to chip away at a person’s image of themselves. Sometimes this isn’t always obvious – the perpetrators may be friends or even family members, who are “just joking” or trying to give you some “tough love”. Yet, the effects of negative talk still persist despite their justifications. But not everyone gets bullied, what about the rest of us?
Think back to a time when someone made a comment that just stuck. I remember being told that I couldn’t sing, after joining a choir when I was younger and for years, I felt super conscious about it. I would get flustered whenever people started singing and I always sat out karaoke. Maybe someone said something critical of you – it could have been a small thing – and it's had a long-lasting effect on how you perceive yourself.
Similarly, you may have had a bad experience – perhaps you got stage fright when you took part in a school play and forgot your lines. Now, you are terrified of speaking in front of large groups of people. Or maybe you said the wrong answer when a teacher picked on you in class and now you think you’re terrible at maths.
In many ways a lack of confidence is a defense mechanism. It reminds us of bad experiences, preventing us from repeating certain scenarios. This may have been helpful when emotional responses were paramount for survival. But today a lack of confidence can be counterproductive, we need to be confident in order to get things done and feel good about ourselves.
After all this talk about the effect low self esteem and confidence levels have on us, I’m sure you want to find out what we can do to counter this. Below are a few suggestions that could help you when it comes to being more assured and assertive.
1. Positive affirmations
Whereas negative self-talk eats away at our confidence, positive self-talk does the opposite - it has the power to help us build ourselves up and feel more at ease with our abilities.
A lack of confidence is often linked with a lack of experience. This is because entering new environments feeling anxious and self-aware previously enhanced survival prospects. Nowadays, these feelings can hinder our progress. By practicing a skill you’ll feel more secure and comfortable about it.
3. Exit your comfort zone
Although I mentioned practice above, sometimes what we need is to enter new environments and challenge ourselves. Exiting your comfort zone is a great way to build up confidence as it forces you to adopt certain skills and mindsets. Think about it – in an unfamiliar situation you may have to put feelings of concern and apprehension aside, in order to focus on the task at hand. This could be as simple as fighting a fear – maybe going on a scary ride if you’re afraid of heights – or trying out a new food.
Confidence, as you’ve seen above, is a vital skill that everyone needs to utilize, however a variety of issues can cause us to have a lack of it. By following my guidelines or your own personal goals, you can actively take steps towards boosting your confidence and self esteem; a perfect way to start the year.
Tiffany Igharoro is a student in Y11 preparing to take her GCSE's next year. One of her favourite pastimes is writing as it helps her organise her thoughts creatively and dynamically. She has won awards and prizes for poetry, academic and scientific writing and short stories. Recently, she won a nationwide historical essay competition that opened her eyes to the importance of how things are told, and the impact ordinary people have on the world. She is studying art GCSE and believes there is something incredible about finding links between drama, art and maths.
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