I was really quiet as a child. Looking back now I can see that I was more of an observer than a participant. I liked to watch what was going on around me and write it down in my diary or put it into a story. I was far happier with my head in a book than spending time with people. At school, I did have friends, but I preferred to have a small group of really good friends and one best friend rather than to hang around with large groups of people. I remember people describing me as shy so I started to tell people that too until I grew older and realised that actually I'm an introvert.
Being quiet didn't hold me back. Yes, I would get nerves before speaking to an audience (I still do!) but I'd do it anyway. I love life and trying new things and being quiet was never going to stop me. I couldn't wait to go to college when most of my friends stayed on in sixth form as I was craving more independence. I only felt excitement for moving country to go to university- no nerves at all. It was one of the best times of my life. Coming home, I felt confident in my new career as a teacher.
I put my quiet confidence down to my family, first my parents and sisters and now additionally, Dave and my children. Whatever I do in life, however awful or embarrassing it is, I have them to come home to and they will still love me.
This is the confidence I want to instil in my own children. I want them to have the confidence to go out and do whatever they want to do and to know that I will always love them and be there for them. It's important that they learn to love themselves.
As part of the Families Online #LoveYourselfProject, I asked the kids what they loved about themselves. Occasionally in the car we play a couple of sibling "circle time" games- such as pass the smile, pass the hug or pass the compliment in which they say something positive about their sibling. I haven't asked them what they love about themselves for a long time so I was interested to hear their answers.
Danny said that he loved his hands as they enable him to play computer games.
Interestingly, Rebecca chose hands too as she likes to write.
Caitlyn chose her feet as she likes to walk and play.
These were short answers for a quick video but can easily be expanded on. I could ask Danny what else does he need to play computer games? He would possibly answer his eyes to see, his brain to think and so on and I can remind him how amazing he is that he can do all these things.
I think it's important to realise that even the most confident of kids (and adults of course!) may have a "crisis of confidence" at some time in their life and to be there to build them back up when they do. Keep talking to each other and see this as an opportunity to make a plan together for them to achieve their goal. We all need to remember that we don't have to be perfect at anything. It is normal to make mistakes, but more important to learn from them.
In terms of having a positive body image, we talk a lot about how everyone is different and the same in other ways. My kids have all at one time or another had their confidence knocked by a child in school. Children have said "Yuck!" to Danny when they see his scar (from his heart surgeries) and they have made fun of Rebecca's mole on her face and the fact that her eye turns.
Unfortunately, when they're not in my care, I can't tell other children not to say these things to my kids.
However, I can tell Danny that his scar is a mark of his bravery and a symbol of the life saving surgeries that he has survived. I can tell him how much I love that scar and all it symbolises. I can tell him how proud I am of the scar I bore to give birth to three of my children. I can tell him to always be kind to other people and their differences.
I can tell Rebecca that her mole is not a wart but is indeed a beauty spot and she is beautiful inside and out. I can tell her how lucky she is to have healthy eyes that enable her to see and a pair of glasses that correct her "lazy eye". I can tell her how I love her and every unique part of her. I can tell her to look for the positives in other people and to always be kind.
I think a lot of confidence comes from being kind to others but also being kind to ourselves.
Here is the video that I made asking the kids what they love about themselves:
Take a look at the article on Families Online as it links to useful advice on raising a child who loves their body and how to boost your little one’s self-esteem. There is also a great video of other children telling us what they love about themselves.
How you can join in the #LoveYourselfProject