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Self esteem; that undefinable quality.
With it, you move more smoothly through life, achieving your goals with greater ease. Without it, you can get left on the sidelines, never quite plucking up the courage to make your dreams come true.
Believing in yourself sounds like a simple enough task, but most of us know it’s not so easy putting it into practice, especially for children, who are constantly navigating playground politics and social situations, and puberty’s hormone rollercoaster.
Unkind words, comparing themselves unfavourably to others, not feeling supported at school or home – these can all shatter a child’s sense of self worth, and it can take years – decades even – to recover.
Gav Devereux was still at primary school when one of this teachers told him he was ‘a stupid boy who’d never amount to anything’. Those words embedded into his subconscious, and it wasn’t until he was an adult that he realised just how much they’d dented his self esteem.
It took him years to undo the damage.
‘I started to feel better about myself once I began to understand that I did actually have some skills, and that I could fight against my own ingrained negative thoughts and feelings and change my destructive self-beliefs for the better,’ Gav explains.
Then came the realisation – if it worked for him, it could work for others too. He wanted to prevent other children from enduring decades of self doubt too. Working alongside professional psychologists, he created the MINDSCREEN programme, a confidence building course for children.
Firstly, a free online self-esteem test helps to identify the areas where a child’s self worth needs strengthening. The Mindscreen team then prepares a personalised course for the individual, packed full of insightful information and confidence-boosting exercises to carry out at home.
This is more relevant than ever. Our younger generations not just faced with all the usual pressures of adolescence, they also have the worry of world-wide pandemic, the isolation of two lockdowns and the impossible expectations of social media to contend with.
It’s something I see every day in my own girls, now aged 10 and 12; something as small as how many likes a Tik Tok post gets, or how quickly a friend replies to a text message can spiral them into worry and doubt.
Did they say or do something wrong? Was the person not replying because they were mad?
Gav believes the digital revolution, while valuable in so many ways, is also chipping away at our children’s sense of self worth.
‘Young people growing up through this revolution will be very likely to consider it to be the normal way of things,’ Gav explains, ‘but older people have another reference point and are more able to see how this change is impacting society at large, especially the young.
I see growing introspection and comparison of digital lives (the life others present online looks better than mine) leading to feelings of low self-worth. Suspicion, withdrawal and loneliness are also taking their toll.’
Occupational psychologist Chris Parkin agrees, saying a child with a healthy self esteem will often transition more smoothly and successfully into adulthood, because they have confidence in themselves and their abilities.
Without this solid foundation, self doubt could easily hold them back.
‘Children (who have low self esteem) may be nervous, tentative and only confident in situations which they know very well,’ he says. ‘Therefore, they may not ‘grow’ as a person and not become the person with skills and abilities which they could become.
Good self esteem acknowledges that we will meet difficulties and setbacks, along the way, but that with effort and self awareness, we will overcome these difficulties and succeed in what we sensibly attempt,’ he adds.
A healthy self esteem also gives us the confidence to fail. Believing in our own capabilities encourages us to take on new challenges; even when we’re unsuccessful, we don’t give up – instead, we take what we’ve learned and use it to keep moving forward.
As a mum of two young girls, I feel passionate about giving them tools to build their confidence. To me, a strong sense of self worth is vital – not just because it makes them feel better about themselves, but also because it will help them establish how they expect to be treated by other people.
When you value yourself, your skills and your time, you exude a self assurance that others pick up on. You command and demand more respect, because you know you deserve it.
That’s how I want my girls to go out into the world – kind and capable and fierce – which is why I was so excited to try the Mindscreen confidence building course for children.
Firstly, I took the online assessment, answering a total of 36 questions about the girls as honestly as I could (see below for an example).
The results indicated 12-year-old had a high level of self esteem, but there were still areas we could build up further – little chinks in her confidence armour. I spoke with her about the personalised Mindscreen programme, and what she could gain from it, and we decided we’d embark on it together.
We’ll keep you updated on our progress, so watch this space!
• we were gifted the Mindscreen confidence building course for children for the purpose of review