Dear Your Teen:
My daughter is on a competitive dance team and didn’t get picked to compete in one of the competitions. Now she wants to quit dancing! Should I let her quit or encourage her to stick it out?
Stick it out! This question is really about the lessons we learn from failure and how to build confidence in teens. One of my favorite quotes ties in with this question.
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” — Vince Lombardi.
As a parent, you have to help her get back up. Why? It builds self-perseverance.
So, what’s self-perseverance?
Confidence, self-esteem and approval are all tied very closely. Combined, I call this the triangle of self-perseverance. They are interwoven and when out of balance, we can’t be the best version of ourselves. Like a science project that successfully shows cause-and-effect when elements are evenly poured, so too happens with the proper mixture of confidence, self-esteem and approval. Keeping the triangle of self-perseverance in balance is not easy for teens or adults.
Confidence is that undefinable ability or feeling we have that tells us that we can do it. That we are smart enough or strong enough to take something on, win or lose. It provides us with a sense of self where we are comfortable to try something and not fear failure, but look upon it as a growth opportunity. This builds resilience in all of us which in turn squashes fear and cultivates self-esteem.
Self-esteem is how much you like who you are and how much you accept and respect yourself. Healthy self-esteem can serve much like a shield of armor against the challenges of the world. Self-esteem will change throughout your life, so the key to positive self-esteem is to stay confident in who you are and to surround yourself with good people who give you a healthy dose of reality as well as approval.
Approval or acceptance comes in many forms from interactions with parents, teachers, coaches to friends and colleagues. However, ultimate approval comes from a place deep within that says, “I’m ok with me. I accept me for who I am.” Getting to that place can be tough for many teens as well as adults. During the critical teen years youth look to their peers more than anyone else for approval. Teens also need to see this approval reinforced at home and school by caring adults in their lives. This is how the delicate balancing act of confidence, self-esteem and approval come together.
To raise confident kids, we must reinforce their success and failures; give them room to grow and build autonomy. Through this process, confidence will ultimately blossom. Then we must encourage them to take on challenges big or small and praise them for their successes as well understand their defeats. This is where their self-esteem will be tested. Remember, valuable life lessons come from failure. As Robert F. Kennedy said, ”Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.”
Encourage your daughter to keep going, teach her perseverance and resilience will follow. Ultimately, she will get beyond this loss and grow stronger from it. She will learn to trust in herself and look inward for approval. Through this symmetry, self-perseverance will ultimately be found.
Dr. Carol Langlois is a therapist and author. She hosts the blog Girl Talk w/ Dr Carol.