Confidence is defined as being sure of yourself and your abilities, in a realistic way. The development of confidence is extremely important for youth, as it helps prepare for life experiences. It helps us move forward, and pick ourselves up and try again when we fail. Specifically for students, confidence is important for academic motivation, social relationships, and overall student mental health. During this time period, it is easy for students to develop low confidence due to social comparisons, school work, and societal standards. Although there are many environments and factors that affect students, schools have one of the largest roles in building and supporting students’ confidence. By embracing a growth mindset, setting realistic expectations, avoiding comparison, and providing constructive feedback, teachers and school staff can help students develop the confidence to best succeed with their current and future goals.
Why Confidence Matters
Confidence is related to many things, including self-esteem, resilience, self-compassion, and academic achievement. Confidence enables teens to join in on activities, like school clubs and sports, as well as feel comfortable raising their hand in class and asking questions. Studies show a huge link between confidence and academic performance, as confident students are more willing to challenge themselves and dive deeper into learning. In general, confidence has been rated as the number one predictor of academic achievement. Further than just academics, confidence helps build strong peer relationships and a sense of belonging. Furthering the development of healthy strong relationships, confidence enables one to make decisions themselves, rather than based on the influence of peers. The ability to set these boundaries and say no is hugely beneficial not only for the relationship, but for well-being.
Higher confidence in general has been shown to improve student mental health overall. There have been links between low confidence and depression and anxiety, as well as low self worth. Higher confidence has been shown to lead to a more positive outlook on life, as one is able to accept themselves who they are. People with higher confidence are also more likely to reach out for help when struggling, having more resilience when faced with stress. Greater confidence helps individuals move out of their comfort zone, enabling one to become the best version of themselves.
Confidence in the Classroom
With teens spending the majority of their time in schools, teachers play a huge role in instilling confidence in their students. It is important for teachers to be educated on different approaches they can take to helping students develop and maintain confidence. Small changes and efforts can make huge differences in how a student views themselves and their abilities. Some strategies teachers can use in helping students with confidence include:
Acknowledging accomplishments: Teachers should make a point in acknowledging students accomplishments, as well as praising them both individually and in front of their peers. Even just a small comment on something good the student has done can make a huge difference. Students work hard, and should be acknowledged for their achievements and areas of growth.
Avoid comparing students: Each student has different abilities and strengths. Rather than allowing comparisons of weaknesses and strengths of different students, help students understand what works best for them in terms of learning. Certain students will struggle in different areas, so rather than treating the classroom as a whole, helping students reach their potential in individual ways can help boost their confidence. This could involve meeting with students individually to assess different learning styles, or providing information in the classroom in various ways.
Encourage positive attitudes in the classroom: Oftentimes, when students receive a poor grade, they spiral down thoughts of low self worth, decreasing confidence. Help students keep a positive outlook on their academics by viewing setbacks as opportunities for growth. Offer help for future exams or assignments through constructive feedback. Additionally, offering students coping skills to deal with poor grades rather than leaving them alone to focus on their failures can help combat low confident feelings.
Encourage Extracurricular Activities
When students find passions and interests that they are good at and that bring them fulfillment, their confidence can be boosted. Encouraging students to engage in clubs, sports, music, art, etc can help them explore and find things they are interested in! When students are passionate about something, they are more likely to be motivated and increase in self esteem, overall leading to personal growth and development. Whether it’s encouraging students to try out for a sport they're never tried, or enroll in an art elective they’ve never explored, when students start to find their strengths and things that excite them, they will believe in themselves more.
The Role of School Counselors
School counselors have a role in helping create a supportive learning environment, even beyond academics. Individual meetings with students as a school counselor can consist of helping with interpersonal conflicts, bullying, and social cliques that are all underlying causes of low confidence. Counselors are also trained to help students find their interests and strengths through different courses offered in school, as well as extracurriculars. Beyond individual meetings, school counselors can help foster healthy relationships within a group setting. School counselors can organize bonding activities in classrooms as well as help students learn about boundaries and healthy relationships. Students overall should feel safe and comfortable coming to their school counselor about specific issues relating to academic, social, or mental well-being.
Neolth is a digital stress and mental health support program for students and educators. We’re on a mission to help you stress less, build resilience, and become a part of our compassionate community. Our app helps you when you’re feeling overwhelmed with self-guided content, personalized for your mental health journey. Neolth has a growing community of Student Ambassadors from 170 schools and works with schools to improve access to mental health support for their students and teachers alike. You can learn more at neolth.com or sign up today at cloud.neolth.com.
About the Author:
Ali Green (she/her) is the Lead Editorial Intern at Neolth, and a rising undergraduate senior at Emory University. As a student studying psychology, she found a huge passion for mental health. Upon discovering Neolth and then becoming accepted as an editorial intern, she became super excited to be able to bring awareness, education, and resources to students worldwide. She believes that it is important to create more accessible education and support around mental health issues to reduce stigmas and increase understanding. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, graphic design, and reading.