building confidence and taking risks

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

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If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I recently coordinated a book club for Moms with daughters in middle school and high school.  The goal was to bring a group of women together to read some books on raising tween/teen girls.  We could share our triumphs and our struggles and prepare ourselves for these years as they often come with unique challenges. This month we read The Confidence Code and our daughters read The Confidence Code for Girls.  I cannot recommend these books highly enough and honestly the information is relevant whether you are raising boys or girls. Today, I am going to share two main things I learned from the book that can help you build confidence in your children and yourself.

Having studied psychology, I thought I knew a lot about confidence but this book got me to think about it in a different way.  Confidence is a complex and muddy construct.  It is not the same as self esteem or self image, although they are related.  Confidence is part genetics, part nurturing and environment, part hormones (testosterone makes us take more risks) and part choice.  Yes, that is right, we can choose to become more confident.

The book is laden with interesting interviews, examples and research and I found all of it fascinating but two parts have stayed with me the most.  One is about risk taking and the second is about decision making.

The authors conclude that part of building confidence is the ability to take risks.  I think I am a rather confident person.  I make decisions easily and I don't question my decisions (another key component of confidence).  But I rarely take risks.  If there is a choice between safety and risk, I choose safety EVERY TIME.  If I find something I like at a restaurant, I order that same thing every time.  I don't push myself outside of my comfort zone at all. And I have kind of rationalized this as "I like what I like." But this book reminded me that I need to take more risks in my life.

"Nothing builds confidence like taking action, especially when the action involves risk and failure.  Risk keeps you on life's edge.  It keeps you growing, improving and gaining confidence.  By contrast, living in a zone where you're assured of the outcome can turn flat and dreary quickly.  Action separates the timid from the bold."  

From The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, pg 141

The authors found that by taking small repeated risks, we build up confidence.  And by offering our children "graduated exposure to risk"  we are giving them opportunities to succeed and to learn from  small failures.  They state, "Confidence, at least the part that is not in our genes requires hard work, substantial risk, determined persistence and sometimes bitter failure (Kay and Shipman, pg 123)."  I realized that I am not doing myself nor my kids any favors by living my life risk free.  I do an okay job of letting my kids take appropriate graduated risks but I will admit it is not my initial instinct.  My instinct is to protect them fiercely.  However, my end goal is to raise strong, independent confident people.  So, I have been able to push them to take risks and deal with my own anxiety about it. However, I am less likely to do the same for myself.

One of my children is a fabulous risk taker.  In fact, in 66 days, on his 18th birthday, he is going to jump out of a plane and skydive! While I am having heart palpitations simply writing that, I am SO PROUD of him.  He is looking fear in the face and doing something that scares him.  He forces himself to do scary things every day and he is inspiring me to face some of my own fears and take some risks too.  All of my kids are better risk takers than I am.   And I am proud of all of them. Kate is applying to be a student ambassador at her brand new school this week even though she doesn't know anyone else doing it.  Will is trying so many new things this year and looking for internships all over the country and traveling abroad this January. But I have not been a good role model for them as far as this goes.  I am a huge encourager but I would like to model bolder, more risk-taking behavior.  So, I am taking their lead and I am going to try to push myself to take graduated risks every week.  Honestly, making the video on IG when I have a cold and writing this post after a two year hiatus even felt risky for me.  But I am also making an appointment with yet another professional to help with my fear of flying.  I plan to ask my kids weekly what brave things they are doing and how they are pushing themselves.  And I plan to show them that Mom is taking risks too.

The second area that we can help our kids become more confident in is decision making.  The ability to make decisions and feel good about our decisions (even if they don't work out) is key to confidence. How does this translate into parenting? We need to empower our kids with more decision making opportunities.  I see so many parents making every single decision for their kids. I think they do it for ease and to save time but let me tell you that when they get to high school or college, there are huge decisions they need to make on their own.  We need to let them practice with small decisions while they are young.  We need to communicate and remind them when they have made good decisions.  And when they make a bad one (and we all do), we need to help them reframe it to see what that decision taught them for next time.

There are so many other fabulous nuggets of wisdom in this book but I wanted to share just a few today.  I encourage you to take more risks in your life and support your kids in doing so too. Let me know in the comments one risk that you'd like to take.


Note: The Confidence Code is for adults and The Confidence Code for Girls is best suited for middle school girls.



Disclosure:  Some of the links on my website are affiliate links. Many links on this blog are not.  I like to share with you where I get the things I love.  I have done this long before affiliate links existed. This means that if you purchase an item from an affiliate link here, I may receive a small commission.  I only link to products/companies that I like and use.  I have never been compensated for blog posts.

14 comments:

  1. You are back!!! And that makes me so happy!!!!Hugs!!!
    Robin

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    1. Thank you Robin. One of the other things that blocks confidence is perfectionism. My blog layout is out of date and a mess but I was not going to let any of that had me back. I am happy to be back too.

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  2. I loved the book... I wish I had read it when I was younger!

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    1. Yes. the one for girls is GREAT. I think we can all work on this until old age. I was more confident when I was younger but I also took more risks then.

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  3. yeah, you are back!! your blog was one of the first one I read after our adoption which was just a couple months before yours. I've learned a lot from you and your parenting style and of course, kate's bday parties, hehe! so happy you are back doing what you love and continue to inspire us on this corner of the internet. i will be checking these books soon as very soon we will have two teenagers in the house!

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    1. Thank you so much. Your words are so kind and encouraging.

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  4. So happy to see your post pop up! I started reading your blog ages ago - I never commented, but loved seeing your sweet family grow and evolve. Welcome back :)

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  5. So happy to read your update! I would be interested in hearing about any adoption "issues" that come up. Is Kate interested in finding birth family, 23andme, any issues at school pertaining to adoption; for instance comments or teasing...

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    1. I am not sure I will do a whole post about this (maybe I will ) mostly because there is not much to tell. Kate is really securely adjusted. She does want to do 23 and me which I am fine with and would be interested in cousins/relatives in the US. As of now, she has no desire to look for birth family in China. That could change though. She knows it could be messy and emotional and might not end happy but that we would support her and follow her lead. You can never have too many people to love. She hasn't been teased and speaks proudly and confidently about her adoption. We live in a very diverse city and her school is only 14 % Caucasian so she doesn't stand out at all and I think that is one reason she's not teased.

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  6. One risk I'd like to take is doing something different to my hair. I go to the same girl for years, same haircut, same style afterwards...�� Thank you for being such a great inspiration. Love to read blogs that teach me to be a better mom...my biggest and most important role. Look forward to reading and learning from your experience and expertise on family matters. ❤️

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    1. You are so kind to say that! You should go for it with your hair. The thing I am telling myself is that even if it turn out a little bad (like you don't like your are hair) at least you tried and you can always go back. Go for it!!!! Also, I have 3 new posts coming this week, so keep checking back!

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Thank you for your kindness.