Friday,19 October, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1230, (22 - 28 January 2015)
Friday,19 October, 2018
Issue 1230, (22 - 28 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Once upon a time - Trusting in yourself

Since mobile phones started featuring electronic cameras it has become fashionable to take one’s own photograph, a “selfie” as it is called, and share it with family and friends. It might seem a bit narcissistic, this redirection of the camera’s lens, but it may also indicate a measure of self-acceptance that many psychologists see as beneficial.

In his book Tanmiat Al-Thiqa bi-Al-Nafs (Boosting Self-Confidence), published in 1963, writer Mohammad Ghanem said that a lack of self-confidence could make us vulnerable and more prone to failure. “The young in particular need self-confidence. As they approach adulthood, changes happen in their lives, new situations emerge, fresh skills need to be learned. And if teenagers feel they are not up to the challenge, their chances of failure can double,” he wrote.

Ghanem proposed a formula for boosting the confidence of young people. “First of all, you have to be honest with yourself. If you cannot trust yourself, admit it, and then look into the reasons why.”

One reason that could make the young doubt themselves is that they are thrust into situations that are new to them, situations that they are not prepared for. Another is that they may be prone to focusing on drawbacks rather than on advantages. A third is that they may be too idealistic, measuring their performance against standards of perfection that are neither necessary nor desired.

Teenagers also have many needs, and some of these may be conflicting. Their desire for independence may clash with their need for nourishment and support, for example, and their desire for love and respect may conflict with their urge to rebel and experiment.

The shift from childhood to adulthood is filled with self-doubt, confusion and mishaps. Along the way, teenagers need more than the guiding hand of adults. They also want the acceptance of their peers and the satisfaction of discovery. Teenagers are often not fully aware of the extent of their abilities or limitations. And while it is almost certain that they will make mistakes along the way, it is important for them to know that they will not be judged as a result.

Teenagers can also run into two types of adults: those who support them and encourage them to experiment and those who criticise them and try to mould them in a way that may not suit their natural inclinations. Criticism from parents and teachers, if routine, can also have a damaging effect on teenagers, whose sensibilities may be too fragile to deal with harsh comments.

Adults who deal with teenagers should encourage them when they see them trying hard, so that they may later take criticisms seriously when correction is needed. The more confidence you give young people, the more amenable they will be to constructive criticism later one.

Among adults, there are many people who are always willing to admit their mistakes and who know their limitations and work around them. These people were once teenagers who experienced encouragement from adults and grew up to accept the facts of life.

Ghanem says it is healthy to acknowledge one’s limitations. But exaggerating these may serve no purpose and can undermine a person’s chances of success.

A last important thing is that teenagers must fulfill a reasonable range of needs without being frustrated by the adults around them, in order to grow up with a real sense of self-worth. We all have needs: we need food and clothing, just as we need companionship, independence and security. Teenagers who are denied their natural needs risk losing their self-respect and may have trouble coping with later challenges in life, Ghanem says.

A balance is needed when guiding the young towards adulthood. Give them responsibility, refrain from excessive disapproval, talk to them as adults and trust them. They need to know they are needed, just as they need to know they are loved.

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