How to Boost Confidence in Your Young Adult

Female student listening to co-student
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Helping your young adult child to feel confident can be a challenge. The world has become extremely fast moving and competitive. Young adults, especially young women, may worry that they don’t measure up to their peers, and be afraid to venture out of their comfort zone. This fear of failing can be debilitating and cause young adults to miss opportunities.

But what if failing wasn’t seen as a bad thing?

Redefining Failure

Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz, psychologists and career counselors, wrote a book called Fail Fast, Fail Often, which explains why failing can actually be good for a person. By trying new things and failing, young adults learn life skills that help them to eventually be more successful and lead happier lives.

Redefining failure is an important way for parents to help their young adult children gain confidence and self-esteem. Instead of viewing failure as a negative, help your young adults think of it as an opportunity. Encourage them to go after their dreams, even the ones that seem out of reach. Remind them that just because you fail at something a few times does not mean you will never succeed. Even the best batter in baseball strikes out sometimes, but then he gets up again and hopefully has a different result.

Forget Being Perfect

In their book, Babineaux and Krumboltz discuss how people can get fixated on what is wrong in their lives. The authors identify this concept as a ”not yet” view. A not yet view causes people to get stuck in situations because they perceive too many obstacles in moving forward.

For example, a person may feel, “I can’t apply for a job ‘yet’ because I need to wait for the economy to improve.”

Amy Alpert, a life coach, says that this desire to be perfect or only act in a perfect situation is a common feeling amongst her young adult clients. Alpert explains, “Striving to be perfect is a big obstacle. For example, before applying for a job, they may get overly concerned about making sure their resume is perfect before sending. But reviewing it over and over again is not the best solution. To get a job, you need to apply. So, assuming that they have worked on the resume, they would be better off just sending it in rather than continuing to try to make it perfect.”

Don’t Overthink Situations

According to the book, The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, young adult women tend to overthink and worry more than their male peers. Alpert concurs and says, “I find many of my young female clients are afraid to apply for a job or internship if they don’t meet every criterion in the listed requirements. In contrast, young men are much more likely to go for it and be less concerned about being a perfect candidate for the position.” 

On the surface, over-thinking might not seem like a bad trait. After all, teens and young adults are known for being impulsive and this can lead to risky behaviors. But there is a big difference between thinking things through and overthinking. Alpert explains, “I am not advocating unhealthy risk taking but rather encouraging young woman not to waste time ruminating. Make a decision and move forward. If it is the wrong decision, learn from it and move on.”

Understand That Action Leads to Confidence

Parents can be misguided in thinking that they can give their adult child confidence by protecting them from disappointment. True confidence comes from realizing that you can bounce back from a setback or failure.

Young adults gain confidence by their actions. A newly licensed driver may lack confidence the first few times she drives on the highway. A parent saying, “You're a good driver” will not boost her confidence as much as the new driver actually getting out there and driving. A parent saying to a new driver, “I am so worried when you are on the road, I can’t sleep” will diminish her confidence. Strive to be encouraging. Do not pass on personal fears and insecurities. Instead, parents should try to set an example for their young adult children by stepping out of their own comfort zone and trying new things themselves.