I often tell people that one of the best things my parents did for me while growing up was to allow me to fail.
I often get a few questionable looks on that one, but it’s true. It’s through failure that we build confidence to actually do the big things and reach our life goals.
According to the authors of “The Confidence Code — For Girls”:
“Confidence hinges on action. It’s the quality that literally turns our thoughts into action, taking them from random mental impulses to actual deeds. And that process, which usually involves some struggle and failure as well, is what creates more confidence. When girls try NEW things, hard things, their confidence grows. If they play it safe and only do the things that they are good at doing, they won’t grow in confidence.
It’s impossible to build confidence staying in a comfort zone, only doing what you are already good at doing.”
One of the best ways that I’ve found to help teens learn to take risks is through movement-based activities. These come naturally in sports, but I actually prefer using more outdoor activities to bring an experiential element to the practice. A simple hike up a challenging (but not too hard) trail to a location that brings a sense of awe to the climax. Trying out some rock climbing or paddle boarding. Even getting on a bike and riding to grab some ice cream.
The combination of moving your body through a new task, especially in the adolescent years when teens are having to relearn movement patterns, something else that often holds them back in their confidence — the gangly years, helps to connect that feeling of “I did it” to the action and flooding the body with the endorphins that encourage them to try again.
There’s a great commercial that came out a few years ago. It begins by asking some teens to demonstrate what “running like a girl” looks like. We see them doing these weak and silly gestures that make girls look pretty lame. Then it cuts to the same questions asked to a group of younger girls — under 10 or so. These girls are fierce and confident. They demonstrate power in their examples of how girls run and move. They are 100% confident that “like a girl” means that you can do big and hard things.
Lack of confidence is learned.
Our girls come into this world ready to do big things and fully empowered, but are taught to stay small and be good. I’m not saying that we’re encouraging them now to be wild without values, but to rather be free to share their voice, try new things, and fail knowing that they will rise again and that the adults who love them will be there to help them back up instead of fully protecting them from the fall.