My almost nine-year-old kid came out of the womb with the confidence of a serial killer. She’s not a serial killer, obviously. She’s really lovely and we adore her. But we get a kick out of the fact that her confidence is so much larger than reality.
For example, a couple years ago when she auditioned for a role in a local theatre’s production of Frozen Jr., she knew she would get the role of Elsa—“and probably Anna too”—despite the fact that she was the youngest auditioning and had never been on stage before.
All through the audition, I held my breath in the parking lot, frantically Googling: “What to do when your kid’s spirit is crushed.” When she came out beaming with pride, I tentatively asked: “How’d it go?”
“Even BETTER than I thought! I am a townsperson and a guard. I’m even more important than Elsa because I get to be on stage like, the whole time. I bet the girl who got Elsa is pretty disappointed.” (See? Look at that ability to empathize. Not a total serial killer.)
When I told my family about her audition (and response to her “leading roles”), the only thing they were surprised by was the fact that I thought for one second she would come out of those auditions with anything less than complete confidence.
Which is why I was so surprised when I was brushing her hair before school recently and she said, “I hate my ears. They are way too big for my head.”
Now, this was not only surprising because it was the first time she had expressed anything other than laughably high confidence, but also because she has very, very tiny ears.
Over the following weeks, we started hearing . . .
“I am the only person in my school who has to wear glasses!”
“I need braces now. My teeth are so crooked.”
“No one cares about me! You only care about (four-year-old brother).”
“My school shoes are so dirty and old. I canNOT wear them to school ever again.”
I panic-texted my sister (who happens to know a lot about child development). She reassured me that this is totally normal for my eight-and-a-half-year old. Around this age, kids start to develop their sense of empathy by noticing—and comparing themselves to—others for the first time. Good news on the serial killer front. Bad news on the confidence front.
For the first time, my daughter was looking outside herself and starting to realize the world doesn’t revolve around perfect, wonderful, talented, brilliant her. That has to be a scary realization.
I know the negative thoughts that can take over a middle schooler’s brain. I know the crippling self-loathing that can fill a high schooler’s every waking moment. I was desperate to pull those thought weeds out at the root before they were too tangled with her self-image. But no matter how much I showed her how small her ears were, or pointed out other bespectacled kids at her school, nothing seemed to change her dwindling opinion of herself.
So, I changed tactics. Instead of individually weeding out the negative thoughts quickly filling her brain, I tried planting positive, never-changing, confidence-building truths in the hopes that the truths would grow bigger and louder than the lies. I found these truths—from the children’s devotional Press Play—to be helpful:
1. You can be confident because God loves you.
I do everything I know to do to make sure my daughter knows she is loved and important in this family. But, for some reason, it’s sometimes easier for her to believe in God’s consistent, never-changing, overflowing love for her. Maybe because He loves perfectly and I . . . well, lose it on her when she spills nail polish on the rug.
2. God’s plan is the best plan.
Worry is confidence’s worst enemy. And it has taken over our bedtimes. “What if I fail my test tomorrow?” “What if there’s a tornado?” “What if grandpa gets sick?” “What if you die?” “What if I die??”
No, I don’t answer those questions with, “Well, sweetie, God’s plan is the best plan! Nighty-night!” But I do remind her that we have a God who knows a LOT more about this world than we ever will. A God who loves us more than we could imagine. A God who has a plan, is in complete control, and will walk with us through any of that with love and gentleness.
3. God can use you no matter what.
Kid or grown up. Big ears or small ears. Glasses or contacts. Crooked teeth or straight. God can and wants to use us all! Even cooler, God wants to use us just as we are. He made my daughter exactly how she is on purpose. But when she focuses her energy on being like everyone else instead of being the person God made her to be, she may never find out how God wants to work through uniquely gifted, beautiful her!
4. God can do the impossible.
This one can be tricky. Because it inevitably comes with the question: “Then why doesn’t He?” But before you go down the path of reading multiple theological tomes on the topic of theodicy or “the problem of evil,” pause and think about how many ways—big and small—God has done the impossible in your life. When we believe we serve a big God, a God of the impossible, it’s a lot easier to trust God’s got it.
5. Trust that God is always with you.
My daughter is going to (has already) face some situations that make her feel as big as her teeny tiny ears. She is going to feel scared, insignificant, and helpless sometimes. So, I remind her that she is never alone. In every situation—facing down a bully (her own or another’s), trying a new skill, making new friends—God is with her. The same God who made her on purpose, loves her to infinity. The same God who has good plans and can do the impossible. That very same God is with her, filling her with confidence, in all situations.
6. Stay focused on Jesus.
Just like Peter on the water, when we focus on Jesus, our confidence soars. But there are a lot of things out there distracting us. Scary things. Things that make us question why we ever thought we could do this (school, friendship, sports) in the first place. So, my daughter and I start our days with a little prayer reminding ourselves to focus on Jesus, to face the day with the confidence of Peter stepping out of the boat.
7. Use what God has given you to stand strong.
When you know what God thinks of you, when you know what the Bible says about life, when you believe you have God’s love pumping through your veins, you are unstoppable in the best of ways. That’s the kind of confidence I want for my daughter. I want her to have the confidence that allows her to make friends easily, advocate for others without hesitation, and be unashamed to be fully herself. The good news is, God has already given her everything she needs to do just that!
8. God loves you no matter what.
Nothing chips away at our confidence more than when we make mistakes. Big or small, mistakes make us stop and question ourselves. Mistakes make us want to give up and never try again. But when we know and believe this final, most-important-of-all truth, we can have the confidence it takes to show true grit. The kind of grit and perseverance it takes to show your crooked-toothed smiling face in school day after day.
These eight truths have not choked out the weeds of insecurity and comparison yet. They never will completely. But I am hoping they will be anchors for my daughter to hold on to as she goes into her middle and high school years. I am hoping they are the beginning of some deep-rooted confidence that she carries throughout her life. Confidence built not on her looks, her abilities, or her friends, but on seeing herself the way God sees her.
Introduce these eight truths to your kid by checking out our new book, Press Play – a Kid’s Devotional to Build Confidence that Lasts at pressplaybook.com.