we are the village :: the five foundations of children’s self-esteem

3rd March 2018

Zora, being spectacular, by her fiercely loving Mama, Rida for #mycourageousselfie

Do you remember ever feeling like this?

I have so many memories of New Zealand sunshine and riding my red Raleigh 20 down to the beach. Roller skating featured heavily. And getting off the bus one stop early to spend hours at the library after school.

My work is about helping grown-ups make sense of their self-doubt. It’s a fascinating journey into memory and meaning-making, as we try to recover some sense of the feeling that Zora so wonderfully shows us.

Self-belief cultivated in childhood is compounded in adulthood.

All the research I have inhaled over the last five years, suggests that the crucial years are between five and 15, when children learn to assess their abilities and form expectations of themselves.

But because it’s so subjective, there is no sure method of assessing self-esteem.

It’s not simply high or low; in childhood, self-esteem undergoes daily shifts in shape and intensity, influenced by the emotional safety of the situation, the task and the support of others.

One child may declare herself confident in maths, but freeze when the teacher invites her to work on a new type of question. Some children want to the next YouTube star (yes this is an actual career option now) but could be tentative about sharing their ideas with others.

If asked directly whether they think they can do something, or whether they ‘like themselves’, children may speak with a confidence that is not really felt: they learn quickly that they shouldn’t be down on themselves with adults they care about.

And a child who gives away little personal information may be reserved – but she may also feel she has nothing of interest to say.

We do know that nothing tears down self-belief as much as a sense of powerlessness.

I believe it’s our job to empower the children and young people in our lives, in whatever small and big ways we can. And to do it imperfectly, messily, humanly.

We just have to listen to what the kids say, accept their own statements about how they feel and what they think.

We can help them find safe ways of expressing the full range of their emotions.

We can ease anxiety about their capabilities by getting specific about their concerns, acknowledging them, sharing our own worries and coming up with creative solutions together.

We can be generous with our encouragement when they demonstrate the characteristics and traits that each family values.

These are the five foundations of self-esteem.

Not all of us are cut out to be parents. And not all parents enjoy every aspect of raising tiny humans.

Sometimes we need to rope in siblings, teachers, aunties, pets, after-school clubs, grandparents, neighbours and other parents at the school gate.

Also: movies and tele that shares the stories and messages we want our kids to hear (nb: sending a solemn ‘you’ve got this’ to all the parents who are currently rocking in a corner as the snow falls, and the kids are singing loudly to the 49375th viewing of Frozen).

Get involved! #mycourageousselfieproject

On my to-do list this year, was to create a social enterprise project to support organisations that work with children and young people to build self-belief. And I’m delighted to say, it’s here!

If you pop over to Courage & Spice, you’ll find we now have a store. There are five original t-shirt designs available for you to purchase. The tees are:

  • Made from 100% organic cotton.
  • Use vegetable dyes and recyclable packaging.
  • Made in the UK and shipped worldwide.
  • Available in a range of sizes and styles for Grown-ups and Kids.
  • All priced at less than £20.

100% of profits will be shared between the Self-esteem Team in the UK,
and the Graeme Dingle Foundation back home in New Zealand.
When your tee arrives, join the #mycourageousselfie project!

Post a pic of you in your tee on Instagram with a note to your younger self in the captions. What did little you long to hear? Include a note of reassurance, encouragement or advice. Don’t forget to tag your pic with the hashtag: #mycourageousselfie so we can all benefit from your words.

If it takes a village to raise a child, we are the village.

Let’s make the world a kinder place, one tee at a time. Check out the Store now >>>



Hello, I'm Sas Petherick. I'm a self-doubt researcher, coach and podcaster who helps thinking humans transcend self-doubt. If you'd like to receive these posts in your inbox please subscribe here (with bonus info and first notice of opportunities to work with me). PS: I totallyInstagram - join me there?


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