Self Confidence and Body Language

In The Blog by Dr James Wellborn

Self confidence is an important quality to cultivate in your kid. It is associated with better grades, more satisfying personal relationships, better decision making, greater self-control and general assertiveness. (It can also keep your kid from being mugged.) Self confidence is derived from skills and competencies, experiences, treatment by others and the nature and frequency of successes and failures. But, self-confidence is also affected by something as simple as how your kid carries themselves as they go about their daily lives. If a kid behaves more self-confidently, they feel more self-confident. Here are some direct instructions parents can give their kids to help them fake it til they can make it.

To start with, have your kid stand tall and straight with their shoulders back. This is particularly important for teenage girls. It is not unusual for girls to draw their shoulders inward as a way of avoiding dealing with the sexualization of their bodies. They will need help balancing being confident in their bodies while simultaneously learning to deal with inappropriate, awkward or aggressive sexual reactions they get from some people.

Self-confident people stand and walk with their hands out and to the side of the body. Some intriguing research has provided evidence that placing your hands on your hips results in greater assertiveness and decisiveness in business situations. This is sometimes referred to as the super hero stance.  Before your kid is about to engage in an activity where self-confidence is required, have them stand like a super hero with their head held high, their eyes focused on the horizon and their hands on their hips. (The fluttering cape can be left to the imagination, unless one happens to be at hand). It can feel kind of silly but will make a difference in their attitude and behavior.

Finally, your kid needs to be aware of how they actually walk. Self-confident people walk with a purposeful stride. They take solid steps with their head up, looking where they are going and making direct eye contact with people they encounter.

With a little time and some direct instruction, you can help your teen appear more self-confident which will actually help them feel more self-confident (which will make them appear more self-confident which will . . . You get the point.). You are the perfect person for them to practice on. One thing though. It is probably better to address this in private. There are few things more humiliating than a parenting announcing “Sean! Stand up straight while you’re talking to that girl!”

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