Sometimes when our natural spontaneity and self-expression are criticized by others early in life (rather than being praised), it can result in a bitter lack of self-confidence.
This morning my youngest son pulled out one of his school assignments that he had been holding on to from last year and preceded to show it to me. He likes to keep me in the loop of what he goes through at school, but not for the usual reasons of a typical eight year old. He likes for me to understand that school isn’t just fun, games and finger painting. He likes his family to know just how hard he works (most likely from having “the youngest sibling” syndrome). So, as he began to tell me about his past assignment, I noticed that he was not pleased with his own effort that he had put into this particular project. I must admit that I have this problem with him a lot. He’s an old soul, a grumpy little man if you can imagine, trapped in an eight year old body. He believes in getting respect from others and often questions the status quo.
So he continued on, telling me about the project and went as far as comparing himself to the other children’s work. He said that they had drawn better illustrations than he. As a mother this hurt me a little because I always want my children to feel good about themselves no matter what goals they do or do not accomplish and I want them to feel good about being a good person in general.
Because I knew that my son had not recognized just how great he was in that moment, I decided to ask him a question. I leaned in his direction as I placed my hand on his little back and I asked him, “Did you put you into this masterpiece that you are showing me right now?” He replied, “yes” with a curious look in his eyes. So with a feeling of love and pride for my son, I let him in on a little secret. I told him that he had done everything that he needed to and that he had indeed done great! I explained to him that all he needed to accomplish was his own self-expression and that as long as he was expressing “him” through his work, that he had done a good job. Then I made him pinky swear to me that he would always “be him” and he agreed. He then allowed a huge grin of self-confidence to break through his little cheeks as I gave him a victory hug before sending him off to school.
So the message of this story is that self-confidence comes from the freedom of allowing yourself to be “you” through your own unique self-expression. It goes way beyond competitiveness and comparisons to others. It’s authentic self-expression at its best.