A conversation with my father-in-law this afternoon spurred on this blog post; we were talking about his daughter, my sister-in-law who is 18 and just started year 13 after retaking year 12. She’s really bright, by far the brightest of the siblings (and I’m sure they will agree too), but sometimes doesn’t quite believe in herself. She’s popular, beautiful, athletic, a dramatist and academic, I know, the kind of girl you hated at school, right? But she’s really lovely, I was nervous about meeting her all that time ago because R adores her, but I feel so at ease around her now. R always tells me I should be some kind of life mentor for her, because of the things I’ve been through in the past, and my father-in-law suggested something similar today. I feel honoured by the suggestion but I still don’t feel confident I’m the right person.
So it got me thinking, is learning to believe in yourself ever something people fully grasp?
When I finished school and was thrown in to the scary big wide world I needed to learn to believe in myself, when I applied to uni I needed to believe in myself a bit more and when I was accepted it really pushed me. I went that bit further and when I went to uni I gained more confidence than I’d had in my whole life – as Dolly Parton says, “find out who you are and do it on purpose”. But I think the biggest factor there was that I was away from my friends and family and I had the chance to reinvent myself in to the person that I really wanted to be, rather than the person I was pigeon-holed as and believed I had to be.
I was shy.
I was nervous.
I didn’t feel attractive.
I didn’t feel intelligent.
I was useless at everything I tried.
I was the one of my friends who stood at the back and didn’t say a word.
University changed me, I changed my hair, I changed my attitude, I blossomed. I believed. I know some of my friends back home thought I had changed. But I hadn’t really. I’d just become the person that I’d always wanted to be. The me that was hiding deep inside the shy girl who felt uncomfortable making eye contact.
Suddenly I discovered a whole new world was open to me and it was so much more fun and a much better place to be.
Learning how to believe in yourself is one of the hardest jobs, but if we don’t believe in ourselves, how do we teach our children to have self belief?
Since becoming a parent this is something that’s stuck in my mind, I want Oliver to grow up believing in himself and being the person he wants to be. We encourage him to keep trying when he fails, we talk things through with him that he’s not sure of and don’t push him in to anything that he really doesn’t want to do, but talk about why he doesn’t want to do it and if there’s anything that would help him want to. I hope to keep this going throughout his life, I’d have loved someone to ask me what I wanted and to encourage me in the things that I wanted to do, rather than the things they wanted me to do. It was only once faced with the stark reality of real life that I had the opportunity to think about what I actually enjoyed and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life that the belief in myself started to click, before that I’d felt lost. I found a quote earlier which really resonated with me,
“If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.”
― Frank Zappa
Today I realised that although I believe in myself in some ways, I don’t seem to believe in myself enough to tell my sister-in-law that she should believe in herself.
My only real advice for my sister-in-law? Look deep within and believe in yourself. I wanted to write when I was her age, but I didn’t believe. It obviously never left me; now at (very nearly) 29 I am starting to believe.
Do you believe in yourself? How do you help your children have self belief?
Feel free to share any quotes below, as you can see, I quite like a good quote!
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