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Self-esteem: "I can't do it yet"

By Lisa Lusti, Middle/High School Counselor

Oscar Wilde wrote "Loving oneself is the beginning of a love story that will last a lifetime." Having good self-esteem is learning to know one's limits and strengths and to accept oneself as one is.

It is also about feeling worthy of being loved and feeling safe enough to use one's abilities to face life's challenges. It means understanding that you have value, even if not everything you do is perfect.

Yet it is common to hear parents or children questioning their ability to succeed. Every child can go through obstacles and will experience worries in his or her life: fear of doing wrong, stress, feeling different. And self-esteem is a value that can change over time. So, what strategies can be undertaken to preserve and boost it?

Here are a few areas that can help children express themselves fully, better accept themselves and do what is important to them.

First of all, protecting children without overprotecting them, by encouraging them to live their own experiences, means accepting not being able to control everything. This allows us to transmit two fundamental ideas to our children:

  • You can go and explore the world around you.
  • You are capable of it.

Believing in children so that they can believe in themselves means letting them take risks, solve problems and occasionally let them fend for himself.

Sometimes we think that failures and difficulties can harm children. However, obstacles, which are part of life, represent a great opportunity to strengthen their self-esteem and self-confidence. This will help them stay positive and see opportunities in difficulties.

When a child thinks they have failed, it is important to express our unconditional love through positive comments, kind looks or by emphasising the newly acquired skills.

This will help them develop a sense of security. After all, even if they fail: every problem has a solution! Everyone makes mistakes, we have to put things into perspective!

We can also accompany the child in the process they are going through or will have to overcome, rather than focusing on the expected result. What do they feel capable of? Can they recognise their previous successes? As parents, we can encourage them to keep a success diary to be filled in every week, or list with them everything they can do, for example.

Children can also be taught not to stop halfway through and go all the way, encouraging them to take on life's challenges while building their self-confidence.

And when we hear them say 'I can't do it', we may add 'yet': they can't do it yet, but they will manage.

Self-esteem is nurtured and developed on a daily basis through a positive and caring view of oneself.