Building confidence in adolescent girlsMarch 10, 2021
By Youth First Staff
Growing up can be challenging. Some stages in our lives are notoriously more difficult than others.
Most of us remember our various “awkward” phases that took place throughout our time in elementary and middle school. During those years, even the smallest failure could feel like defeat.
Although all of us experience the struggles of discovering who we are as we grow up, the negative impacts of social pressure during adolescence are significantly higher in girls. Between the ages of 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels fall by 30%.
At 14, when girls’ confidence is statistically at its lowest, boys’ confidence is 27% higher. How can we spot the signs of this confidence plunge in our daughters and what can we do to bolster their self-esteem?
This drop in self-esteem may look like fear of trying new things, reluctance to speak up in class or ask questions, people-pleasing, overthinking, or constant comparison. The good news is that confidence can be taught and encouraged if given the right atmosphere to grow during these tough years.
The single most effective way to build confidence is by taking risks. Comfort zones inhibit growth. Bravery is like a muscle, the more you use it, the easier it is to be unafraid to express yourself.
Encourage your daughter to take risks and normalize failures. If girls start taking positive risks during adolescence, they will be better prepared to overcome failure and will have the ability to move on when things don’t go perfectly in adulthood.
Resist the urge to jump in and save your daughter from failure. It is essential for her to learn to move through tough times, bounce back, and become more resilient. Teach your daughter to become her own coach and learn from her mistakes. Positive affirmations like “I’ve got this” and “I’ve gotten through hard times like this before” are helpful.
Rumination is the tendency to repetitively think and worry about all the details of a negative situation. Teaching your daughter to identify these toxic mindsets and create a new, more realistic and positive patterns of thinking can be helpful. For example, if she is thinking “Everyone hates me” because she didn’t get invited to a party, you can challenge that thought and create a new more realistic thought in its place.
Lastly, set an example. Let your daughter know when you are nervous about a new challenge. Talk about your past failures. Let your daughter know that messing up isn’t the end of the world. If we are obsessing about being perfect, our daughters will pick up on that unhealthy standard.
Youth First Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families, provides 64 Master's level social workers to 92 schools in 11 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First's school social work and after school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.
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