What is self-confidence?

Self-confidence tends to mean that a child is confident in relation to particular areas of their life. A child may feel very confident in their creative abilities, but less confident in talking to adults. Another child may be confident in terms of their sporting capabilities, but have little confidence in academic terms. Or perhaps a child will be confident in their home environment, around their own family, but less confident in a school environment.

What is the relationship between self-esteem and self-confidence?

A child may have a fundamentally good sense of self-esteem, but certain experiences have shaken their confidence. For instance, let’s imagine that Callum has had a loving and stable upbringing, with a high degree of praise and support and has a good level of self-esteem during his pre-school and early school years. Callum develops problems with learning at school, due to dyslexia, which is not picked up for over a year during which time Callum’s school performance is affected adversely. Callum’s confidence in his academic ability is affected, and it takes some time before he becomes more confident again, but throughout his issues – although there was some impact on his sense of self – Callum’s self-esteem remained high.

Maria, on the other hand, was overweight from a toddler onwards. She was bullied from the age of five when she first attended school. Maria put all her energies into academic achievements as she had a natural academic ability, and was not good at sports. By the time Maria is a teenager, she is one of the highest achieving children in the school and is preparing to sit exams which will enable her to attend a top university. But although Maria is confident in her academic abilities, she has very low self-esteem due to her early experience of bullying which embedded a belief in herself that she isn’t likeable, and isn’t as good as other people.

Clearly, then, it’s possible to have high levels of confidence in some areas, whilst having low self-esteem. And it’s also possible for a child’s confidence to be severely shaken in some areas, whilst they manage to retain good self-esteem.

It is, of course, possible for confidence issues in a particular area to challenge a child’s sense of belief in themselves and to affect their self-esteem. A child who enters school as a happy, confident child who has had a stable, supportive upbringing may soon feel that they are flawed, and that they are not deserving of self love and appreciation, if they are singled out and bullied, or if they repeatedly fail at tasks which other children find easy. Although self- esteem and self-confidence are essentially different, low confidence in certain areas and low self-esteem often go hand in hand.

Just as low confidence in certain areas can lead to low self-esteem, high confidence in some areas can increase self-esteem – and this is one area that we can work with as therapists. If a child is having a hard time, it’s easy for them to forget the things they are good at and enjoy. The may take it for granted that they are good at sports, because they have become caught up in their current situation of feeling bad about their lack of academic abilities. As a therapist, you can focus on those things they are good at, and work with this to increase their sense of self-esteem.

Challenging distorted thinking

Children with self esteem issues may have very distorted – and unhelpful – thoughts about themselves. They may have become so used to responding to certain situations which are uncomfortable and difficult with deep rooted beliefs, including:

  • I don’t deserve love
  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m useless
  • I can’t do anything well
  • I’m not likable

A CBT approach combined with hypnosis can be used to identify and work with distorted thinking, and to help the child reframe their thoughts and experience – in a very real way, under hypnosis – the outcome of their new, healthier thoughts. Working with the child, you can then identify a strategy for ‘homework’ – including placing themselves in situations which may have caused discomfort in the past.

You will work together with the parents to ensure the commitment of all parties in carrying out ‘homework’ and to make sure the child has the support and understanding of the parent in how to begin to implement any necessary changes.