Whenever I speak to young professionals and students, one of the concerns that’s often on their minds is how to develop lasting self-confidence. “How can I believe in myself more and achieve my ambitions?”
It’s hardly a surprise that young people struggle with self-confidence. For many in this part of the world, it can feel as though every life decision is made for them, including which university course and career they should pursue.
On the one hand, it can feel good know that their family is looking out for them. However, what happens when people reach a point where they want to take a bit more control but have no idea how?
That’s why self-confidence is so important – but what does it mean to be self-confident?
It’s all about having belief in yourself and your capabilities; to present yourself well and know that you can make informed decisions that can help you to grow, develop, and achieve your goals.
The trouble is that many people don’t have strong belief in themselves, because they’ve either been sheltered too much or discouraged from questioning the way things are done, pushing boundaries, and stepping outside their comfort zones.
As young people are the future of our country, it is vital that they are given the space and freedom to develop their self-confidence; otherwise, it can lead to problems.
How many stories do we hear about people with good grades and great qualifications stumbling when they start work, because they’re not confident enough to deal with working environments that demand skills such as communication, leadership, problem-solving, and teamwork?
At Leaderonomics, we constantly work to grow leaders. In our youth camps and school programmes, we focus on helping individuals build the skills necessary to believe in themselves.
We believe that attitude is more important than aptitude. Knowledge and skills can be developed at any time, but a person’s attitude is formed from an early age.
By getting that right, we can be well on the way to helping our young people take the reins and steer our nation in a positive direction.
So, how can we help young people develop self-confidence? Here are some effective ways I’ve deployed throughout the years of growing leaders:
1. Ask them: “What do you enjoy doing? What’s most important to you?”
Quite often, we ask young people want they want to be in the future. When they are unable to answer, the temptation is then to step in and make that decision on their behalf. But it’s the wrong question to ask.
Instead, we should focus on what young people like to do now, what brings them meaning in the present, and help them to develop their self-confidence through whatever makes them feel alive.
While their interests might change over time, that’s not so important. What matters is that they’re building a strong sense of self in the present moment, rather than trying to construct a self from a future that’s years away.
2. Encourage them to try – or read – something new on a regular basis
Whatever the age, people who lack confidence generally stick to the same routine and habits, and they are comfortable with whatever views and knowledge they already possess. In short, they don’t stretch themselves.
Trying new things or reading about a subject we’ve never taken an interest in before literally changes our brains as new neural pathways form to help us navigate and make sense of new experiences.
As we experience more of the world around us, the more confident we become in it, and in ourselves when we face new situations and challenges.
3. Guide them to set realistic goals regularly
Small victories can make a huge difference when we take the time to recognise them. Young people often compare themselves to others (and usually unfavourably), despairing over the fact that they’re not as far ahead as their friends or as successful as the person they look up to…yet.
Parents in particular can hold the misconception that criticism drives people to do better. In fact, research studies are quite clear in showing that, when people are encouraged to achieve smaller goals consistently, their self-worth increases. It increases further if that person receives praise and encouragement, rather than criticism.
4. Help them to help others
There are few things more life-affirming than seeing in real time how your skills, abilities and knowledge enhances the life of another person. Deep down, we all have a desire to be of value, to contribute, and to help others overcome challenges and grow.
By putting this into practice, we get a real-time reflection of what we are capable of and how much we can and do contribute to people around us.