The transition from childhood to adulthood is a fundamental moment of transition in the life of an individual. It is a period that rhymes with physical and psychological transformations, questioning who we are and the image that we send to others. It is also a stage where the desire for independence becomes strong, one seeks to forge one’s identity, to detach oneself from parental attachment figures and determine one’s own life. The teenager, the adult who creates himself, will no longer follow a set path but will create it himself. This is why this period of upheaval is an opportunity to plant healthy seeds, so that a path filled with serenity can open up. And one of the seeds that we can continue to cultivate throughout our lives is self-confidence.

1- The Lobster Complex

In her book, Françoise Dolto describes the concept of the lobster complex, perfectly illustrating this delicate transition. The lobster changes its shell during its evolution. During this period, it is very vulnerable and threatened by its external environment filled with sharks. Being in danger, it must withdraw into itself, hide under the algae in order to protect itself and wait for its carapace to grow back in order to resurface.

The analogy with the adolescent is well reflected here. During the transition to adulthood, the teenager loses his shell in order to grow up, which makes him more vulnerable. Unfamiliar with the unfamiliar adult world, they are forced to develop new resources that allow them to become stronger, more responsible, autonomous and confident. Thus, at the same time as he develops these resources, his shell grows back and he can then face this adult world without fear and with confidence.

2- How is this period crucial to developing strong self-confidence?

This concept shows that this period of evolution is a crucial stage in building self-confidence. In the process of construction, the teenager is like a sponge in front of everything that surrounds him, being in search of reference points to develop solid foundations for the rest of his life.

This is why the environment (social, family, professional…) plays a fundamental role in the development of the teenager’s self-confidence. In fact, according to Erik Erikson, an American psychologist, the psychosocial identity of the teenager that is created at that time, would be determined by the situations experienced with others, thanks to the meanings that the subject attributes to these situations. The more resourcing they are, the more they contribute to a valuation of oneself, of one’s image, and the more the adolescent will develop a better self-confidence. In adulthood, this self-confidence will be demonstrated by being able to assume one’s identity, one’s history, to have confidence in one’s decisions and to know how to maintain healthy relationships. But then, how to develop this famous self-confidence?

3- Some key points to develop self-confidence

Fortunately, we can maintain our self-confidence just as we can maintain our physical appearance. As we do sports to build muscle, we do the same thing but with an activity that takes place in our mind. The advantage here is that at least we won’t have cramps at the end of the session!

Just as we commit ourselves to continue our sporting efforts, we do the same for our mental efforts! A single effort has never changed anything. It is perseverance and determination that lead to profound changes! And, with practice, it will be easier and easier to reverse the tendency of our brain to focus on the negative, to develop more positive thoughts.

To do this, here are a few tips:

  • Take action. You can’t build confidence if you stay in your comfort zone. It’s actually more fun to do the same thing over and over again than to try new things. But, you never create something new out of the old. Just as they say you have to suffer to be beautiful, you have to get outside to build your confidence. Out there, you can face new opportunities and discover new facets of your abilities, your personality, your preferences. This can range from simply striking up a conversation with a stranger or going to a restaurant on your own, to trying out a new activity, such as piano, basketball, music, or even a career change. They say that success is made of small victories! No matter what the outcome, as long as you manage to get out of your comfort zone, it’s already a victory. And, you can already be proud of yourself.
  • Remember your successes. Grab a pen and paper or (speak up) and list all your victories, your strengths, what you like about yourself, to change your limiting beliefs and remind yourself that you do in fact have strengths and that you have beaten battles. This may seem like a difficult exercise for some, or even unnecessary for others. But it is an automatic thought process that is found in people who are confident in themselves. Externalizing your thoughts by writing them down or verbalizing them helps to clarify them. You can do this exercise whenever you feel uncertain or insecure and even make it part of your morning routine.
  • Surround yourself. To keep your spirits high and your attitude positive, stay connected to loved ones, family members and friends who value you. The love and appreciation they can give you is fundamental to maintaining self-confidence. Conversely, avoid people or situations filled with negative energy.
  • Be patient. Developing self-confidence can be long and difficult, especially during adolescence when there is little respite from questioning. It is therefore necessary to be aware that time is a fundamental key point, because yes, you act, but it takes time for your daily actions to have an effect. Moreover, to commit and to wait is already a good part of the work. Then, in the meantime, you can trick your brain. Neuroscientists have discovered that the same areas of the brain are activated when you do something and when you imagine you are doing something. Smiling will naturally bring you positive thoughts and boost your confidence.

So, smile and continue to persevere on your quest – because it’s not the destination that counts, but the journey itself.