During the teenage years it is difficult to listen to the voice of one’s conscience. Often it is drowned out by doubts, the desire to fit in, confusion about who one is, and little visibility about where one is going. Adults advise teens to have the strength of their convictions, but that assumes that they have developed clear convictions to begin with! Self-confidence can indeed propel us forward, as well as protect us from the noisy distraction of other voices in our lives. It can help us to heed the inner voice of our conscience. A lack of confidence not only results in missed opportunities, it may also lead to reckless mistakes.
As one exits childhood, grades and test scores begin to fade in importance. People are more impressed by what you think, how you carry yourself, and how your opinions translate into action. Colleges know this, and look way beyond pure academic performance when choosing candidates, and passing out scholarships. Self-confidence is one of the “secret ingredients” in the success stories of so many of our graduates. They report that its influence ranges the entire gamut of their experiences and decision making processes in high school and beyond.
A young person with self-confidence, first and foremost, holds a belief in their own value in this world. They are not afraid to form and express opinions, to speak in front of others, and to pursue opportunities. We have to remember that young people are treading many roads for the first time, not knowing where their choices may lead them. This can be daunting for sure, but a person with self-confidence overcomes the fear of new situations with the power of deeper certainties in themselves and their nature. Such a person is often described as poised, well-spoken, and self-assured. While their words may carry some weight, others often admire and remark more about their demeanor.
Graduates of Progressive School and their parents point to the following factors in the remarkable development of self-confidence that begins in early childhood, and becomes solidified in middle school:
- being educated in a small nurturing environment
- requirements for presentations in many subjects
- independent studies program
- the drama program
- moral guidelines
A small nurturing environment values each individual. How can we expect a young person to value themselves if they feel like an anonymous face in school? The smallness of the environment also allows for lots of opportunity to take the lead on a variety of initiatives. In a loving atmosphere, risks are viewed more as an adventure than a trap door leading to a pit of despair. Self-confidence also flows freely in a special moral climate–one that teaches that your contribution is a unique gift, one that honors that contribution, and one that demonstrates how that gift is needed in the world. That moral climate also seeks to infuse young people with the understanding that obstacles often provide the greatest learning opportunities, and that struggling to overcome them is the very essence of life, and of vitality.
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