5 Ways to Build Confidence in Teen Girls
Be confident. Love yourself. Believe in yourself. We constantly hear these phrases as if our confidence is something that will develop with a click of a button. What many people forget to mention when they tell you to “be confident” and “love yourself” is that self-love is a journey. Building your confidence is a process that develops over time. You’ll have days where you look and feel great. You’ll have days where you don’t feel the best and that is normal. You won’t wake up tomorrow morning after reading this blog post and immediately become confident. But there are daily habits you can practice that will help you build confidence.
The Confidence Gap
If you're between the ages of 9 - 14, you might notice you don't feel as confident as when you were younger. You probably used to believe you can do anything and be anyone you wanted to be. So when did that change? The authors of The Confidence Code, Claire Shipman, and Katty Kay partnered with Ypulse to conduct a survey that found that girls' confidence dropped 30% between the ages of 9 - 14. This is called the confidence gap.
You also might be wondering, what causes this drop in confidence? One of the biggest causes of the confidence gap is a result of the changes girls experience during puberty. While there are all these changes to our bodies, there are also changes to our brains. For example, for girls, our emotional intelligence increases, which makes us more observant and cautious.
As a young girl, it might feel as if you have to compete with a lot of people. Between school, friends, social media, and celebrities, we feel pressured to look our best, achieve the highest grades, and get the most likes on our photos. As we scroll down our social media feeds, we see the accomplishments, talents, and beauty of others which fuels our insecurities.
Shipman and Kay also revealed in female brains we have something called the anterior cingulate gyrus, aka the worrywart center. This area is more developed in the female brains, which means we focus more on the outcomes and consequences of our choices. Since we worry about the results of our actions, we are motivated to make safer choices rather than risky ones.
So how can we work on building back our confidence? How can we learn to become confident in ourselves and our decisions? We’ve gathered 5 important habits and practices that you can incorporate into your daily lives to start your confidence and self-love journey.
1. Avoid Comparison
Social media can cause you to fall into the trap of comparing your life and physical appearance to your peers and other girls your age. But life isn't a competition. You shouldn't be comparing your achievements, your appearance, or your life to anyone. Everyone is on different journeys, with their own goals, tools, and obstacles. When you start to compare yourself, you forget that you are on a different chapter in your life story than someone else. I know it can be difficult seeing other people who are living your dream or look the way you'd love to look. Use them as a source of motivation and inspiration rather than a tool for comparison. Follow accounts and people who inspire you, motivate you to be yourself, and encourage you to achieve your goals. Now when you scroll through social media, you spend more time consuming content that reminds you why you're great instead of making you feel insecure about yourself.
2. Challenge Negative Thoughts
During our pre-teen years, we may start using phrases such as "I can't", "I'm a failure", or "I'm not good enough." When building your confidence, try replacing these thoughts with positive affirmations. How you speak to yourself can have a huge impact on your confidence and self-esteem. Think about how you would talk to someone in your life that you admire. You wouldn't tell them they're a failure or they can't do something. You would support them, remind them why they’re great, and encourage them to follow their dreams. If you make a mistake, don't blame yourself, tell yourself "you're a failure" or give up. Forgive yourself and tell yourself, "I will try again tomorrow." Challenging your negative thoughts by practicing positive self talk is a significant step in building your confidence. When you have a negative thought, ask yourself: is this situation as bad as I think it is? Is there another way I could look at this? Will thinking this way help me feel good or achieve my goals?
3. Take Action and Allow Yourself to Fail
Shipman and Kay have also concluded that action, struggle, failure, and trying new things are all important when building your confidence. Think about someone who you believe is confident. How would they speak to themselves? If they didn't believe in themselves or try new things, how would they build their confidence to reach their goals? When we start to do things that are outside of our comfort zones and take more risks, we build confidence from our accomplishments. For example, if our girl Zendaya never auditioned for Disney’s Shake It Up, she might not have built the confidence to audition for her role in Spiderman! Participating in Dancing With The Stars gave her the confidence to do her own stunts in The Greatest Showman. When you keep trying new things, you continue to improve your skills and develop your confidence to achieve more. When we fail it doesn’t mean that we can’t do something or that we should give up. If we’ve failed at something, that is an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and apply what we learned to our next challenge. Failure helps us understand our strengths and weaknesses and develops our confidence to achieve the things we are great at.
4. Set Goals
Setting goals for ourselves is another great habit that can help strengthen our self-confidence. When we track and accomplish our goals, we become confident in our abilities and set more challenging goals for ourselves. If you set a goal to study for an hour every day after school and you track your progress, you’ll recognize your ability to achieve that goal. Once you’ve accomplished this goal, you're motivated to set more study goals and improve your study skills. Sometimes you will have setbacks that will delay your progress or you might lose your progress and that's okay. What's important is understanding that you've done it once and you can do it again.
5. Help Others
Have you ever done something kind for someone else and it made you feel happy and warm inside? Doing something nice for others, giving back to your community, and volunteering can all have a positive impact on your self-esteem. Research has shown that when we help others, there are changes that happen in our brains that make us happy. When helping others, not only are you distracted from your problems and insecurities, but you also start to think differently about your problems. When you volunteer to help others, you also start to see the world through a different lens. There are many ways you can do something kind for someone, like helping out a neighbour who can't leave their home, offering to teach something you are skilled at or volunteering in your community.
As you embark on your confidence journey, you are going to encounter several obstacles, challenges, opponents, and setbacks. Your growth will not be determined by how confident you are compared to others but by how you define your own progress. What’s important to remember is that you’re taking a step each day towards becoming the most confident version of yourself. No matter where you are in your confidence journey, be kind to yourself and celebrate how far you’ve come!