What do we want for our children? For their current selves and their future selves? Happiness, family, success, fulfillment - the achievement of their goals. We want them to have the confidence to go out into the world and pursue their dreams.
Of course, one cannot bestow self-confidence upon someone. We must build it ourselves. Our view of ourselves, especially when we are young, swings from self-conscious, when we are unsure of ourselves and what others will think of us, to self-confident, when we know what to do and that we can do it. This pendulum swings back and forth for our whole lives as we jump into new situations - the first day of school when we are small, taking up conversational Italian class as an adult, performing on stage, meeting a new group of people - and as we gain experience we build trust in ourselves and our abilities.
One of the best ways to increase confidence is to turn our attention outward, away from our insecurities, and instead to become more aware of others and how we affect them. By overcoming self-consciousness and moving past fear of embarrassment or of making mistakes, we create opportunities to use our power in the world, and thus, we empower ourselves. This message of being aware of others and striving to have a positive impact permeates the children’s time at Cotillion. It is at the core of everything they do, and when Cotillion is over, we hope these ideas will spill over into everyday life. Each of us can lead by example. We can show others how we believe things ought to be done by doing them that way ourselves. Oftentimes it seems most people don’t realize how powerful this simple practice can be.
We can be helpful - by opening a door, or giving directions, or offering our seat to someone who needs it (or to whom we wish to show respect). We can be kind and pay attention instead of walking past and ignoring. We can be patient and polite instead of behaving as if everyone else is just a bit player in our own reality show. Turning our focus outward and being aware of how weaffect others is what makes inner confidence come to life. Suddenly, everything is different. People respond to us in much more positive ways. Instead of two people tolerating each other out of necessity, say, during grocery checkout - one on a cell phone and the other scanning items - you have two human beings truly giving attention to one another - and exponentially improving each other’s day in the process. It’s amazing how a smile, eye contact and a few kind words can transform a bored, glum person into an attentive, friendly one. It’s almost as if your positive energy breathes new life into them. And then you reap the benefit of their positive response in return, along with the knowledge that you did that. You made it happen instead of waiting for it to happen to you.
By helping our children turn their focus outward we help them build their own unique identity in the world. We define ourselves not only through our talents and dreams, but through our choices and actions and how they affect others. As children practice overcoming their very natural feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity, they will come to know their own inner strength. Whether outgoing or introverted, bold or demure, we can all be confident leaders in our own way. •GMS