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Unlocking Teen Confidence (and Why It Matters for Success and Happiness)

Confidence isn’t just a feel-good quality in adolescence – it’s the foundational block for success in school, life, and beyond. But how do we unlock that potential in our teens? 

Confidence can be acquired and improved over time, at any age. This article defines and explains the importance of confidence, and offers evidence-based strategies to increase it in youth.

What is the definition of confidence? 

Confidence exists when an individual has a realistic sense of and security in their own capabilities. They believe that they have the ability to face challenges, act on their own behalf, and succeed. 

Adolescents often struggle with confidence. Developmentally, tweens and teens are focused on exploring their identity – who they are, and what they have to offer to the world. Adolescents are also primed for external validation; they’re experiencing heightened awareness and sensitivity to social cues. 

They want to fit into their environment, whether it’s peers at school, friends, teammates or community members. This identity search paired with social pressure can make confidence hard to come by for the average teen. 

Why is confidence important for teens?

Adolescents who are confident are more likely to perform better at school, and later in life, experience higher job satisfaction. 

They are also more likely to demonstrate positive emotions like happiness and excitement. They are often more motivated, energized, and prepared to achieve their goals. 

Teens who lack a sense of self-esteem are more likely to experience poor health, social issues, poor coping skills, and struggle with mental well-being, e.g.: anxiety, depression, and poor self-image. 

Know yourself: 

Confidence requires self-knowledge. It is essential to understanding who you are, who you are not, your strengths, your opportunities for improvement, values, and beliefs. Knowing this information will allow you better understand your capabilities and gauge your capacity for growth. 

Accept yourself: 

It is one thing to know who you are, it’s a whole other thing to accept who you are. Self-acceptance promotes positive self-esteem. Self-acceptance doesn’t mean that you are perfect or settling. It means that you have a realistic sense of who you are, what you want, what you need, and who you can be. 

Take action:

Confidence requires action. You gain confidence by choosing to harness your self-esteem and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Self-esteem gives you the faith to step into a space of growth even if it is uncomfortable or challenging. When you meet the challenge and succeed, your confidence grows from that experience. 

How can we help youth develop confidence?

Preparation: 

Planning and preparation can help youth understand what it will take to face a challenge successfully. It is important for them to understand what it will take to reach whatever they have set out for themselves. Adults can engage teens in that process by asking them questions and helping them evaluate and plan the steps required to achieve a certain goal. 

Practice:

Adults can encourage adolescents to seek opportunities for growth, whether it be in the classroom, socially, in sports, arts or performance, or in their community. Practice makes progress. The more practice a teen has putting themselves in challenging situations that they can grow from, the easier it will become. That ease begets a positive feedback loop; more confidence equals more willingness to take on new challenges. 

Support: 

Positive social support can bolster a teen’s confidence in themselves and their ability to be successful. When an adult can be a constant source of support for an adolescent – through successes and failures — teens learn failures don’t define them or make them less worthy.  

Can life coaching help youth with their confidence?

Yes! Life coaching can absolutely help adolescents develop confidence.

The life coach can partner with the teen to expand their self-awareness around values, morals, beliefs, strengths, self-perception, and more. Together, the teen and the life coach can set goals around growing confidence and create action plans to make that happen. 

A life coach serves as a positive, non-judgmental source of social support as well as an accountability partner who can help the teen stay on track with their goals. 

Want to learn more about building confidence in teens? Check out our accredited youth well-being and resilience coach training programs

Author: Cameron O’Brien, ACC

Change the lives of youth. Starting today.