HOW TO DEVELOP SELF-CONFIDENCE WHEN YOU’RE NOT THE FASTEST, THE SMARTEST, THE PRETTIEST OR THE FUNNIEST
• Program Objectives
This program is designed to help students:
• develop self-confidence;
• build a positive- self-image;
• learn more about their own identities;
• improve their decision-making skills;
• cope with the fear of failure.
Early adolescence is a period of psychological and physical growth and change. While a young person’s physical change is obvious, the psychological changes are more difficult to detect. Adolescents feel a tremendous upsurge of energy, and they want to do things. For this reason, early adolescence is a period of groping. Physical changes cause adolescents to re-evaluate who they are in light of their changing bodies, while emotional growth makes them wonder about their role in their family and peer groups. Eventually, this dual identity crisis spawns a crisis of self-confidence.
How does the crisis of self-confidence manifest itself? First, individuals’ uncertainty about themselves forces them to look to friends for support. Desire for popularity (like that of Carlos in the first part of the program) is a major quest of adolescents, as is the desire for friends’ approval (like that of Tom in Part Three). During the years of change, adolescents feel a growing need for recognition and achievement, yet they are fearful of trying to achieve new goals because they are uncertain about their abilities. This is the dilemma of Linda in the second part of the program. Most adolescents also feel a keen desire to become independent of their parents. At the same time, they recognize that they need their parents’ help in making decisions. Fear of making their own decisions and realization of a continuing dependence on parental guidance, lead adolescents to resent their parents. This resentment, coupled with feelings of frustration by children and parents, leads to arguments such as the one that occurs in Part Three. Finally, since young people are uncertain about their own worth, they tend to idealize others and depend on them to do things that they (adolescents) feel incapable of doing. This situation is reflected in Part Four, as Lori recounts her reliance on her older sister.
Given the nature of adolescents’ uncertainty and their crisis of self-confidence, how can they begin to acquire more confidence in themselves? Part One, “Standing Up for Yourself,” suggests that, if adolescents try to be popular with everyone, they may end up letting others run their lives, and fail to develop the positive feelings about themselves which form the basis of self-confidence. Adolescents must begin doing what they think is right, regardless of whether their choices please others.
Part Two, “Taking Risks,” suggests that, to develop confidence in their abilities, young people must try them out and risk failure. But, as the story points out, the possibility of success is always there to be enjoyed, too. Building up successes is certainly one way to enhance self-confidence.
Part Three, “Being Responsible,” illustrates the concept that self-confidence comes from making decisions on one’s own and taking responsibility for them. Of course, learning how to evaluate alternatives and make proper judgments is a difficult process. Adolescents will make many mistakes along the way; so the important thing for them to realize is that only by making decisions will they learn how to make good ones.
Part Four, “Lori’s Story,” suggests that, by excessive dependence on someone else, adolescents not only put too much pressure on the other person, but also inhibit the development of their own abilities and their own progress toward independence. A feeling of independence is crucial to the development of self-confidence.
In summary, adolescents can develop confidence in themselves by deciding to do what they think is right, by testing their abilities in new areas, by making their own decisions, and by doing things for themselves. In following these guidelines, young people will not only develop self-confidence, but will also take important and necessary steps toward a healthy adult life.
• Summary of Content
In the first part, “Standing Up for Yourself,” Carlos meets Kathy who has just moved into town. While getting to know each other they discover some common ground. In certain situations they both lack self-confidence to make decisions for themselves. Carlos explains how he wouldn’t do a problem at the board in math class because he knew his best friends couldn’t answer it, and he didn’t want to show them up. As a result, the instructor asked him to stay after class.
Kathy, on the other hand, is having difficulty telling her Dad that she wants him to stop pushing her to play tennis. Carlos and Kathy decided to take the advice of Carlos’s mother: “You’ll never feel good about yourself until you stop trying to please everybody else and start doing what you think you ought to.”
In the second part, “Taking Risks,” her Uncle Gid awakens Linda from her daydream. Linda confides to her uncle that her dream is to be an actress. Uncle Gid encourages Linda by explaining that, “Sometimes you have to try a lot of different stuff before you find out what you’re really good at.” He also warns her that there can be a lot of disappointments along the way to success, but it is the only way to gain confidence.
Linda would like to audition for the school play, but she’s afraid everyone will laugh at her. When Uncle Gid offers to be her acting coach, she has a change of heart. After the audition, Linda can’t help hiding her disappointment when she learns that she is given a supporting role instead of the lead. Linda’ uncle reassures her that even though she didn’t get the lead, she did find out she could act.
As part three, “Being Responsible,” opens, Tom is playing in the park with his little brother Noah. They meet two of Tom’s friends who talk Tom into taking a walk with them. When Tom returns to the spot where he left Noah, the little boy has disappeared. Tom finally catches up with Noah, and before taking his brother home, makes him promise not to tell their mother what happened.
Back at home, Noah blurts out the story anyway and Tom and his mother have an argument about his irresponsibility. Tom storms out of the house where he meets his Roger. They are confronted with same friends Tom met earlier. The pair wants Tom to go to a party with them, but he needs to study for an upcoming science test. “What’s more important?” they ask and then start calling him names. Tom stands his ground and after the two have walked off, Roger tells him that he did the right thing. His Dad is always telling him that he should get into the habit of deciding things for himself. He will make some good decisions and some bade decisions, but that’s a part of growing up.
The final part of the program tells “Lori’s Story.” For as along as she can remember, Lori’s best friend was her older sister Susan. They did almost everything together and, in Lori’s mind, Susan always did everything perfectly whether it was schoolwork or flying a kite. But now things are changing. It seems like Susan would rather spend her time with her boyfriend, her school friends or just by herself.
Lori really feels abandoned when, one afternoon, she waits—in vain—for Susan to meet her at the library to help her with and English assignment. Later, Lori over-hears Susan explain to her mother that she is bogged down with college applications and various other things and doesn’t have much time for Lori. She adds her opinion that, “Lori’s got to stop trying to be like me and start trying to be a little more like Lori.” Hearing this, Lori begins to write the assignment on her own determined to prove she can do it. When she reads it in class, the teacher praises her work. Lori admits Susan was right—she has to try things for herself.
• Warm-Up Activities
1. Ask students to define self-confidence. If students are reluctant, talk about concepts such as the ability to make decisions and stand by them; the willingness to try something new and risk failure; and the feeling that you can do things for yourself.
2. Have students differentiate between self-confidence and self-centeredness.
3. Ask students to name people who seem to possess self-confidence and self-centeredness.
4. Have students discuss the way to acquire self-confidence. Talk about the influence of parents, peers and other adults, as well as the feelings that must come from within each individual.
5. To emphasize the importance of the individual in building self-confidence, discuss the significance of self-knowledge. Have students list the things they’re good at; those that they aren’t good at; and those they’d like to be good at.
6. Self-analysis also involves determining what’s important to you. Have students rank the following lists of items in order of their importance to them:
Being good in school.
Pleasing your parents.
Being a good friend.
Excelling in a sport.
Being able to make your own decisions.
Being class officer.
Now, ask students to take their top two choices and explain what they’re doing to achieve them.
• Developing Self-Confidence—Discussion Questions
Standing Up for Yourself (Part One)
1. Would Carlos’s friends have been angry if he had answered Mr. Harrison’s question? At whom would their anger have been directed? If they were angry with Carlos, how long do you think their anger would have lasted? Long enough to break up their friendship?
2. What would you have done in Carlos’s place? If you had pretended to be unable to answer the question, would your fiends have liked you more than before?
3. Carlos told Kathy that he felt caught between Mr. Harrison and his friends. Is there any way that he could have satisfied everyone? Suppose that Carlos had liked a girl in the class, and he thought she would be impressed if he had solved the problem, would he?
4. Why did Kathy think that she might feel better is she told her father she didn’t want to play tennis? Was she deceiving him?
5. If Kathy’s father wanted to send her to an expensive tennis camp so she would improve her game, should she “pretend” that she wanted to go? Or if her father had bought a sweater for her birthday, and she didn’t care for the color, should she “pretend” that she liked it? Would both of these be fair to her father? Is there a difference in hiding one’s true feelings in these two situations? Are Kathy’s real feelings more important in one situation than in the other?
6. Have you ever done something you didn’t want to do just to please someone else? If so, give an example. How did this make you feel?
Taking Risks (Part Two)
1. Do you think other students would have laughed at Linda if she had tried out for the play and performed poorly? Who would be most apt to laugh: a student who auditioned for a part before, or one who hadn’t? Give reasons for your answers.
2. If Linda hadn’t received a part in the play, should she have given up her dreams of acting? Does the answer to this question depend on how much Linda wants to be an actress? Can a person become good at something simply by working hard at it?
3. When you’re trying to decided whether or not to attempt some thing new, you might want to talk your ideas over with someone else. If you do this, is it important to consider the point of view of the person to whom you’re talking? Suppose that, instead of talking to Uncle Gid, Linda had confided her fears about acting to a friend who had always wanted to try out for a play, but had always been afraid to try. Or what if she had consulted a friend who was still bitter because he hadn’t gotten a part in the play last year? After talking with one of these friends, would Linda have been apt to try out for the play?
4. In the conversation with her mother, Susan described the problems that were going on in her life. What were these problems? Why did they force Susan to spend less time with Lori? How were Susan’s problems similar to Lori’s? Different?
5. Was Susan right when she told her mother that Lori had to learn things by doing them herself? Is there any other way to really learn something?
6. Have you ever been compared to your brother or sister? If so, how did this make you feel? Are there any activities that your brother/sister is better at than you? Are there any activities that you are better at than your brother/sister? How do you feel about the differences between you and your sibling?
7. What is friendship? What do you expect from a friend? What do you owe to a friend?
Being Responsible (Part Three)
1. After bringing Noah home, Tome seemed certain that he had been wrong to leave Noah and go off with his friends. How did Tom know that he hadn’t make the right decision? Could Tom have avoided making a bad decision if he had reflected on what the results of his choice might have been before making it, rather than after?
2. Tom’s mother said she would have to earn the right to make his own decision. How could he show her he was ready to take on this responsibility?
3. Tom’s mother told him that she thought his friends were troublemakers, and Tom seemed to find out later that she was right. Does this mean that he made the wrong decision in not listening to his mother in the first place? If he had dropped all his friends at his mother’s advice, would Tom have been able to talk to Roger about making decisions?
4. Tom didn’t seem to have any trouble making the decision not to have a party at his house. Why was this choice easier for him?
5. How do you know if you’ve made a correct decision? Tom was not sure he had made a good decision when he refused to have the party with his friends, but Roger told Tom he had been right. Do you agree with Roger? Why?
6. Recall a difficult decision you had to make recently. What was involved? How did you make it? What was the result of your decision? What did you learn from making the decision?
Lori’s Story (Part Four)
1. Why did Lori depend on Susan so much?
2. How do you think Lori felt when she received good grades on Susan’s work? Compare that to the way she will feel about getting good grades on her own work.
3. Discuss the them of Lori’s paper.
4. Linda was disappointed that she didn’t get the part she wanted in the play, but she tried to feel good about the part she did receive, and began working on it. Can you think of some other ways to cope with failing to achieve exactly what you want?
5. How should you go about find out what things you do well?
6. Suppose you want to play a team sport, but you have no experience with the game. What are the different ways in which you might go about achieving your goal? Would it be a good idea to practice with some other students who know how to play the game? If you did practice and you found out that you weren’t quite tall enough or fast enough to play the game well, should you consider trying out for team manager or similar position to keep you involved with the game until your abilities match your interest?
7. Write a few sentences about a new activity you have tried recently and the results of your effort.