By Heather Barrow
I have many personality flaws but a lack of confidence is not one of them. Growing up I was teased like everyone else, targeted for my unusually skinny legs that bow backwards (see picture) so much I have to ‘bend’ my knees to make them look straight. I wasn’t bothered by it and embraced the nickname ‘sticks’ by showing them I could also turn my ‘sticks’ and feet backwards because I’m double-jointed. As an adult, I am blessed with a great deal of supporters, but also know there is a smaller group of people out there anxious to see me fail. Some of my ‘friends’ may even be in the latter group. They are the people that privately judge HRH, my family, home, finances, parenting and me. In the business world, I am judged for being aggressive, assertive, and confident, which most people are alarmed to encounter when working with a woman running a non-profit organization.
How do I keep my confidence high in a world full of negativity? It’s simple; I genuinely don’t care what other people think about me (with the exception of my family and a handful of my closest friends). I may be surprised if I hear someone doesn’t like me, or annoyed if they said something hurtful, but I don’t for a minute believe it is because I am not a good person. In my mind, it says more about the other person than me. I make decisions based on my moral compass and prioritize my time spent with people who add and multiply to my life (Grammyism #3). I apologize when I make mistakes and the people who matter forgive me. Everything else is just background noise and doesn’t play any role in my life. I attribute my high confidence as one of the biggest factors throughout my life that has helped me overcome whatever challenge I am facing. I want to make sure my children, especially my daughter, are raised with the same confidence, and your children too. Here are my top five tips for raising a confident child:
1. Lead by example – If you are critical of your own appearance, parenting, accomplishments and relationships, then your kids will learn to mirror that criticism about themselves. Celebrate your hard-earned accomplishments and talents and your children will follow suit. When someone pays you a compliment, especially in front of your child, accept it with a simple ‘thank you’ instead of finding a way to brush it off. If you don’t believe how great you are, how are you going to convince anyone else they are great, especially your children? When Claire had to cut out words to describe herself from a magazine for a school project, the only trouble she had was running out of space. You can tell this kid is pretty impressed with herself when she uses words like unstoppable, best and skyscraper to describe herself.
2. Build people up – Building yourself up by knocking others down does not accomplish anything, especially building your own confidence. Confident people help bring out the confidence in others because that is best for everyone. From school to home to work, if every person is their most confident self, the environment will be optimal for whatever you are trying to accomplish. I’ll be honest: this is a challenge in our house. As I type this, Hill is telling Claire she has stinky breath and Claire is responding that Hill stinks in general. I tell each of them to build the other one up dozens of times everyday. I am waiting for it to stick at home and am hopeful it is overflowing with relationships outside of home as well.
3. They’re just jealous – Those of you who know my sister Amber have heard this sentence before. When someone said or did something nasty to me growing up, she could not fathom how what they said could possibly be taken seriously. Her explanation was (and still is) “they’re just jealous”. In her mind (and mine too) we refuse to let what other people say about us define who we are. Do I really believe everyone who says something hurtful is jealous? No but this term is our way to ignore the haters. Find your own term for your children to help them understand this concept. If you need help speaking their language, there are several lines in Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off that will work.
4. Turn flaws into assets – We all have what other people perceive as flaws, but I challenge you to think of them differently. Are your child’s ‘flaws’ really assets? In Kindergarten my daughter struggled with speaking out in class. She could not contain herself when she had something to share. Most of the time it was the answer to a question, which was not fun when you are another child in the class. This is not a celebrated trait in school, teachers require order and want to give everyone in class an opportunity to speak. In Claire’s class that year, the kids who were rewarded the most with the coveted “message of the day”, were the ones who were able to sit quietly through an entire day. Claire excelled in many other areas (like scaling the rock-wall) but sitting quietly for the entire day was not possible for her. I vividly remember my own Kindergarten chalkboard and my name was always up there with at leastone checkmark for talking. I took this opportunity to tell Claire that some of the things that get her in trouble now will be the very same things that will be celebrated as an adult. There is no workplace in America that frowns on an assertive and excited employe. In fact, those are the ones who get promoted! The same is true for successful entrepreneurs. They are not the people who sit quietly in the back and wait their turn. The result in my house is already paying off with both kids constantly pitching new business ideas!
5. Master public speaking – Get your children speaking in front of other people as early as possible. My children are fortunate enough to have a strong public speaking emphasis at their school that starts in PK. They don’t know it’s not normal to get up and speak in front of people on a regular basis. If your school doesn’t have the same priorities, there are many other places you can send them (some through scholarship), like Patel Conservatory camps, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc. Also, don’t underestimate the usefulness of a home audience, which is free and readily available. I did not speak in front of others until a college public speaking class, and I was petrified the first time. I have had many opportunities to speak in front of both small and large crowds since then, but there is always the underlying butterflies that accompany the speaking engagement. What I always tell myself (and my children) is that everyone has the exact same feeling in the pit of his or her stomach about speaking in public. Great public speakers label the feeling as excitement, while the mediocre ones call it nerves.
Is there such a thing as too much confidence? Possibly, but whose measurement standard should we use? For me, there may be a fine line between people’s perception of confidence versus arrogance, but I will take that minimal risk to ensure that I am raising two confident children that will one day be extremely successful adults.