Naming Thoughts of Self-Doubt
Tweens and teens often doubt themselves as they look towards their peers for acceptance and credibility. They might say things like, “I’m not as smart as they are,” “I’m not as funny as them,” or “I just don’t fit in.”
As parents and supporters, a typical first reaction is to reassure your teenagers, to praise them, offer positive affirmations, and to try to help them eliminate these limiting beliefs.
Ten minutes later, though, you might experience a limiting belief of your own. You might look at your neighbor and think “They are so together, and I’m such a mess!” or your friend and think “Ugh, I’ll never be able to keep up with them.”
These comparisons are symptoms of self-doubt and fears. These are normal human thoughts, AND they are thoughts that we can train ourselves to transform. Many of these beliefs came from our own childhood and teenage experiences, so this is an excellent time to offer compassion to these parts of yourself.
Noticing Your Thoughts
Recently, I was stuck in a cycle that looked something like this: “I don’t fit in as easily as everyone else… I don’t get invited and welcomed the way other people do… I’m always getting left out… I wonder if people think I’m not fun/interesting/cool enough…” and so on. (Notice how I am personalizing others’ behaviors.)
Let’s look a little more deeply at this situation. While it is true that I didn’t get invited to something I wish I would have, I allowed myself to drift into a vast lake of self-doubt. In this lake, I felt very alone, and it was difficult to stay afloat. See, I was telling myself stories that are rooted in self-doubt and fear.
In this instance, the big fear was likely connected to a deep-seated belief like, “I’m not lovable.” While this thought never directly crossed my mind, it is at the core of the comparison-based stories I told myself.
While working with a parent recently, she mentioned that other moms have “closer bonds with their daughters.” This mother was comparing herself to other moms of teen daughters, and she felt like she was failing. Furthermore, she started to believe that she had ruined her relationship with her daughter. She worried that all that her daughter would later resent her.
Now, let’s look a little deeper. The mother’s self-doubts might have come from a fear of being alone or a fear of abandonment. She wants to love and be loved by her daughter! Like me, this mother wants connection, which is the opposite of the abandonment we fear.
Beyond Compare and Despair
Both of these situations illustrate the cycle of “compare and despair.” I use this phrase to name my behaviors. Additionally, the phrase cues to give my brain something different, something more truthful, to sit with.
Next, I meditated on this phrase, the feelings I faced, and the feelings the mother shared with me. I came up with a few affirmations or phrases to use instead. Moreover, these affirmations get the root level– beliefs about the self.
12 Affirmations that Help You Love Yourself More Fully
- I am perfect exactly as I am.
- I am content with the life I’m creating.
- I am enough.
- I am right where I’m supposed to be.
- I have all that I need within me now.
- I am here for a purpose.
- I love myself.
- There is only one me.
- I am here.
- I know who I am.
- I trust myself.
- I am on my own unique path.
As a parent, it is crucial that you know and believe these truths. You provide one model of what self-love can look like, and your teenager is always learning from you. As you invest in yourself and your relationship to yourself, you are giving back to all of your other relationships. Furthermore, these affirmations are tools for your personal practice, as well as material you can share with your loved ones. (Note: These affirmations offer a sense of agency and empowerment for the person speaking/saying them– that’s YOU!)
You can explore the use of affirmations a variety of ways, including the following:
- Post the phrases on mirrors, fridges, or other highly visible places.
- Create screensavers or backgrounds on your phone or other devices.
- Repeat the phrase while “tapping” (Emotional Freedom Technique).
- Write in journals or planners as part of a daily practice.
- Create affirmation cards to pull each morning.
- Shift the “I” to “You” and affirm your loved ones.
Finally, as you and your family explore affirmations, you may enjoy documenting these on your support system map. There are so many tools and strategies we use on a daily basis to care for ourselves, and I invite you (and your family) to reflect on what support means to you.