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The Wisdom of Self-Doubt

In Children, Education, Family, Inner Work, Parenting, Realtionship, Relationship with Self, Schools on December 20, 2011 at 12:30 am

Maria V. Chatila

Guest blog by Maria V. Chatila, ILM, ACC, ORSCC

Maria V. Chatila is presently living in Dubai with her husband and three children. She works as an Education & Relationship Life Coach. She is dedicated to helping schools, families, couples and individuals to build personal and family awareness’ while creating empowering relationships. Maria has given talks to large groups of parents at schools as well as smaller groups of parents at their homes.

I dedicate this article to all parents and children in the hope that it may motivate and inspire you to achieve your full potential.

Anyone who knows me will agree that I am unable to wear the mask of pretender very well. Most often, I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Not only do I hang my emotions out for the world to see, I also assume that others will follow suit. Fortunately, I am mistaken. However, for the sake of this article, I will blast open one particular emotion that I tend to find very interesting and very wise. The emotion of the month is what I would like to call ‘Self-Doubt’.

According to the Collins dictionary, Self-Doubt is a lack of confidence in yourself and your abilities (Collins, 2003)

The Invasion of the Gremlins

As I sit here writing this article, I find myself reminiscing over my school years and the self-doubt that I experienced all of those years ago. The interesting thing about my memories is that my fears back then now seem so young and ridiculous. But, if I remember correctly, to the much younger Maria, those fears were very real and very scary. All these years later, the funny thing is that the essence of my younger self-doubt still exists.
My inquisitive nature leads me to use my curiosity and find the wisdom that lies behind the self-doubt that we may be feeling and use it to serve my audience of readers.
This is the time of the year when children and their parents may be feeling both very excited and very anxious about the upcoming end to the academic year. Most families have plans of enjoying a summer of carefree attitudes that means they could enjoy the freedom and flexibility that summer has to offer. The school schedule these days is about juggling the social and academic obligations and with this comes the knot in your stomach that for most people means SELF-DOUBT. Parents on the one hand are constantly wondering, ‘am I doing it right?’ Children, on the other hand, are wondering, ‘will my parents be proud of me?’

Last summer, I interviewed children of various age groups about how they felt about returning to school in September. The youngest of my interviewees Aya, was only 4 1/2 and she was ever so excited to begin school because this would be her first time attending the Big Girl school. She looked forward to a lovely new teacher who would surely love her and she especially was excited to play on the school playground. Apparently, says Aya, only clever big girls could play on the special playground so she was going to be a clever big girl this year! I was very impressed with Aya because it seemed that until this point, she really did not have any self-doubt. This made me really curious because, if most children were as confident as Aya commencing their careers as students then when did Self-Doubt begin to kick in?

Later on, I met Nicholas. He was 5 years old and he was preparing to attend Year 1 at his primary school. Overall, he had no real fears about recommencing school. However, he did say that he was a little bit nervous about meeting his new teacher. He claimed that until he could ‘see’ her face, he would be nervous. I asked him what he would be looking out for in her face and he said that he was nervous that she may not be nice and he would be able to tell this by looking at her eyes. He would be disappointed if she had ‘big circle eyes when she looked at him’ because this would be bad.

Michael, 7 years old, was getting ready to attend Year 3 and he was most definitely excited. However, he also claimed to feel really nervous too. Michael stated that his fears were mostly about the new teacher and his friends. He stated that meeting a new teacher makes him nervous because new teachers have new rules and new work that he will have to do. He was also nervous about his friends because he stated that if there were new people at school, he would have to make new friends.

Selena, also 7 years old, had a somewhat different stance to Michael’s. She was very nervous about not being able to make new friends which would lead her to be left by her lonesome during break-times to walk alone on the playground. Selena also claimed to be nervous about making mistakes with her class work that would then cause her to getting poor grades and this would eventually be the reason that she would be seen as a disappointment to her parents and they may even become angry with her. As she spoke, I could almost feel her fear.

Finally, I interviewed Dania who was 12 years old. As she spoke, I could feel the weight of the world on her shoulders. Dania discussed how she always has a feeling of self-doubt heavily on the first day of school. ‘Too much is unknown’, she said. She worries that this may be the year that everything goes wrong and she fails at tests and disappoints her parents, her teachers and herself. Dania worries that she may not have a bright future if this academic year is not successful and that she may not be able to accomplish the great things that she dreams of. Mostly, she says, ‘I feel afraid that I may not be noticed or chosen at school to do things that help me to stand out in front of my peers’. She worries that the teachers may not be fair and that she may not be accepted by her peers. Not fitting in amongst your peers is very challenging, says Dania. Some children get bullied if they don’t fit in and this can be scary for children, she says.

As I sat listening to the answers that were being offered to me by these young children, I remained astounded by how much has not changed since my younger years. Although technology has hit an all time high for creating amazing gadgets, our children are still suffering from the same issues of self-doubt as we did in our younger days!

With Age Comes Wisdom

‘Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it’ Louise Priscoll
Interestingly, my last interviewee was a mid 30s mother of two children who remembers feeling self-doubt as a young child, but most especially at this time of the year when she was younger. To Melanie, the self-doubt reminded her of the ‘inner 5 year old child that lacks confidence, perseverance and drive’. I could not agree with her more. I too remember that my self-doubt really kicked in at the age of 5. Most countries across the globe begin to welcome children into school by the age of 5 and I do believe that although school is a place where children learn to build their characters and learn to mix with other children; I also believe and agree with Melanie’s statement; ‘as parents, we must become aware of our children’s feelings’.

Recently, the news printed a story about a young 13 year-old boy who tried to end his life because of his self doubt. Are parents, teachers and the community really aware of our children’s feelings of self-doubt that continue frightening them into doing things that seem like their only hope for escape?

A Coach’s Perspective….

In my working experience and in my personal experience, Self-Doubt is very common and I have still to meet an individual who has never experienced a lack of belief or a fear of failure. All those years ago and if I am very honest, not too long ago I still believed that my self-doubt existed to harm me. However, it is now my belief that ‘Self-Doubt’ enters our lives to give us some wisdom. The question is, are we ready to ‘see’ the wisdom in our fear of failure? It is a fact that teachers and caretakers have a huge impact on our children. Most teachers have more quantity time with children than some of the parents do. Therefore, it is important that parents and teachers work together to find the wisdom in the Self-Doubt that is causing havoc on our children’s lives.

Some of my tips are:

First and foremost, normalize the self-doubt. Most children are on a sole train called ‘EGO’ and they are not aware of the fact that many of the other children are also feeling scared, nervous and afraid of not being a success at school. As my evidence shows, all of the children that have previously been in school have already developed self-doubt. Sit down with your students and your children and share
your own memories of self-doubt as a child. In fact, share some of your most recent memories of self-doubt as an adult. Normalizing a lack of confidence will help your children feel comfortable with their own feelings.

Secondly, use the child’s fears openly and brainstorm as a family or as a class around the possible wisdom that is available to the child because of their self-doubt. At first, there will be no apparent wisdom just sadness and helplessness. Keep asking and soon enough the child will begin to say something positive about their learning’s because of the existence of their self-doubt.

Finally, once the wisdom has been made consciously aware, ask your child to take more actions that will continue to let them grow. Remember, ‘It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters’ (Epictetus) Sit down as often as your family or class feel is necessary and discuss the actions that were taken and give your child the feedback that they need. Praise them for whatever action they took and encourage them to keep moving forward.

Final Thoughts

I believe that it is our role as parents and teachers to help each and every child achieve their full potential. I stand strong and ask that you do too. At the end of our time here, I would like to believe that as a community we were able to light a fire within our children and help them to shine brightly for the next generation to see. What have you done today to help your child see the wisdom in their self-doubt?

For more information about Maria and her work, please visit her website, www.bpacoach.com or contact Maria directly through her email maria@bpacoach.com

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The Parents’ Drinking Problem, Guest Post by Pearl Mattenson

In couples, Family, Parenting, Realtionship on December 1, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Pearl Mattenson, PCC, ORSCC

He comes home from a long weekend at a friend’s house. He is a senior in high school. At 17, he is able to drive his dad’s car, which he had borrowed for the weekend. Walking in the door, he gives his mom a hug and helps her out with a project.  They catch up on the events of the past few days. His mom asks,

“So was there drinking going on?”

“Yeah”

“Did you drink?”

“No”

Several hours later the mom happens upon her son’s Facebook page left open on her computer. She learns he had been drinking beer. She learns he threw up.

——————

I am so tempted to end this story here and ask: How would you handle this?

But I will share with you what his parents did. Some of these things happened immediately. Other reactions happened in the days following the revelation as they considered their response and reached out to others for advice.

  • They calmly sat him down and asked for a full accounting of the truth, “The whole truth this time.” They asked him what he was thinking when he made the choice to drink. “These were my best friends. I had never drunk beer before. I thought they wouldn’t let me get into trouble or make a fool of myself.” They tell him that if he had to drink, that was actually good thinking.
  • They asked him why he lied. “Because I was so scared of how mad you would get.” They told him they were far more upset about his lying than about his drinking. They expect him to test the boundaries every once in awhile. And they know that there are likely to be many more occasions in the future when he might find himself in a difficult situation. “We need to know that you can tell us what is happening so we can be there for you.”
  • They asked him what he will do in the future when in the presence of drinking. “I think I won’t drink. It wasn’t a good experience. I feel comfortable saying I am the designated driver or the designated sober guy.”
  • They told him that for the next 30 days he can’t drive the car alone. They also banned the home of the friend who hosted the drinking. They asked their son if he felt this was a fair set of consequences. “Yeah, it is.”

Your turn: What did they get right? What troubles you? What should guide a parent’s response in circumstances like these?

To find our more about Pearl Mattenson and her work, visit her website: http://pearlmattenson.com/