If we mostly have positive self-esteem we are
likely to approach things thinking we are a good person who deserves love and
support and can achieve great things in our life. However, if we are mostly with
low or negative self-esteem we will generally think we are not good at things,
don’t deserve love or support, and that situations will not work out great for
These days there are lots of pressures on
children and young people which is having a negative impact on their
self-esteem and confidence. Issues related to social media, bullying and
cyberbullying, body-image, early sexualisation, academic expectations, student
debt, family problems, mental and physical abuse, gang culture and global
anxiety are just a few of the complex and difficult things that many young
people are trying to cope with.
Most children will have lows in self-esteem as they navigate through different stages or challenges in their lives and many are able to bounce back and continue, but not every child of course has the capacity to do this. I can clearly remember when I started school at the age of 5. I was a shy child and found mixing with other children quite challenging. I felt I wasn't as good as them and was always wary of new situations that I had no control over. So, it isn't surprising that during the first few weeks of being in this strange environment and having to relate to 20 other children in my class, I developed a stutter. For the most part, the school supported me and organised regular speech classes to remedy this impediment. But at the same time they forced me to write with my right hand, even though I was more confident in using my left hand. This was way back in the 1960's when being left-handed was viewed as being abnormal and of course many left handers like myself were made to feel that way.
So my point really is that it is critical that we support our young people when new situations and changes occur such as: starting a new school, moving house and during disruptions in family life. These and many other factors can all affect a child’s confidence. The good news is that with on-going support from parents and other adults, especially teachers and coaches, they usually get through this. I certainly coped much better at school, and with life in general, when I had supportive teachers/adults around me.
It is also important to note that some children have low self-esteem from a very early age. This may be partly down to their personalities or they may have had an unsettled time as a baby or toddler. Other children develop low self-esteem following a difficult time such as divorce, bereavement or being bullied or abused, and can’t bounce back. Teenagers with low self-esteem can find it very hard to cope with pressures from school (think league tables, exams etc), peers and society. It is these children and young people with low self-esteem who we should monitor very closely as they are more at risk of developing depression, anxiety, self-harming and other mental health problems as they grow up. As adults they will often find the ups and downs of life in general harder to cope with.
According to the charity, Young Minds Uk, resilience is the key to raising self-esteem which allows us to deal with the ups and downs of life. They suggest that there are different factors that determine whether a young person is able to cope well, or not so well, when times are tough. Being able to ‘bounce back’ is more likely when a child:
- Has had secure early attachments
- Has a clear sense of identity
- Communicates well with others
- Can set goals and try to meet them
- Understands how to go about solving problems
- Is able to think and act independently
- Is able to manage sometimes negative thoughts and feelings, and move on from them
- Is loved and valued by family and friends
If you believe your child has low self-esteem do seek out the 'Young Minds check list of things you can do to make a difference' at www.youngminds.org.uk.
Looking back to my own childhood and early adulthood what really helped my own esteem and confidence was the way people such as teachers, trainers and work colleagues behaved and reacted to my own behaviours and emotional states, e.g. a senior school teacher took me under her wing when she realised I was struggling to make friends and introduced me to a few peers who she knew wouldn't take advantage of my shyness. When helping her out to take a pile of books across the classroom instead of saying "be careful, don't drop them" which is the way other teachers would talk to us, she simply said "Please could you hand out these books". She had the confidence in me that I would perform that task well, and therefore I did perform it well. In my first job my boss would shout at me if I didn't get a particular task correct. I was a jibbering wreck during that early learning period. He just didn't see that shouting reduced me to tears and made me make even more mistakes. Thankfully a colleague, who was a sensitive mother to her own children, took to me to one side, patiently showed me the task which I subsequently performed brilliantly.
The minds of our children are rather like clay and we can shape their development in the same way that we sculpt that material. If we can show our love, understanding and support to those children who don't initially show positivity in how they deal with their lives, we will help shape their minds and subsequently their lives, in the most positive way possible.
In my work as an Integrative Counsellor I use various techniques such as hypnosis and mindfulness to help adults overcome issues with confidence and low self esteem.
If you, or you know someone else who is
struggling with these issues please do get in touch on tel. 910 665 601 or send
an email to email@example.com