Did you know we are all made of stardust?
Tonight I was chatting to one of my tutor kids about confidence as we aim to increase hers. But we all know that telling someone to be more confident does not make them more confident. In fact, it can do the opposite.
We started chatting about times we need to act confident – like sharing a poem in front of a class or presenting a talk, and how the thought of that makes us feel. She found it a little hard to articulate her feelings. This can be due to many things; in this case, I suspect that she was a little embarrassed.
I explained that I share those very same feelings; in fact, I am feeling some of them tonight as I start a role as a lecturer at a university on Friday. That is scary! Validating feelings helps kids understand that those feelings are legitimate. Sharing that we experience them as well makes them normal.
She then told me I would be fine as I am awesome anyway. How often have we seen adults do that to each other or kids? It is comforting to say, but it does not help us feel fine. The platitude is as helpful as a chocolate teapot! I explained that I have age and practice on my side, so that helps. I also have experience, which lets me know I will survive. She is a kid; she has limited experience.
I explained that the feelings I have are the same as she has. We started to explore them because sometimes kids find it easier to explore their feelings by talking about someone else, so I asked how she thought I might feel. She suggested I would be nervous. I then encouraged her to consider the physical symptoms, from butterflies in the tummy to a racing heart, sweating palms to tense shoulders etc.
Taking the time to do this reassures her that when she has all of this, it is totally normal.
We then talked about things we could do to help us feel better in those situations, and I shared my magic tricks.
Trick one – I wear my confidence perfume!
This is the perfume I put on every time I do something where I need a boost – from a night out with the girls to work meetings to presenting a lecture. It is a reminder to breathe as I smell it. Kids might want a wee touch of lavender essential oil on their cuff.
Trick two – my necklace
I have a locket with my parents in it. Having them with me reminds me that I can do much more than I think. I also have an acorn necklace. That reminds me that it only takes small actions to make big things happen. Like taking that first step to standing in front of a class. That literal first step. I can go from there.
Trick three – a link to a loved one
Whether both the kid and their parent wear a matching or drawing a dot on the middle of my hand and a loved one has a matching drop on theirs, we can have an invisible thread that links us together. As an adult, I tend to use my phone in my pocket as that thread, but a kid doesn’t have that, so these wee things can help –make sure not to wash it off!
Trick four –see it and breathe
I do a lot of breathing, relaxation techniques and visualisation with my tutor kids. We start by taking three to five deep breaths, then close our eyes and imagine we are there. It might be in front of a class, at a gymnastics competition, or anything. We then talk through the whole process and imagine it.
You see, our brains (not us) are incredibly stupid. If we do this well, focusing on the senses and making it seem real, the brain thinks we have already done whatever scares us. This means that we find it much easier when it comes time to do it.
Trick five – we are all stars.
That isn’t just a phrase but is scientifically proven. Most of the elements of our bodies were formed in stars over billions of years and multiple star lifetimes.
Even more exciting, we may also be a little bit big bang! It is possible that some of our hydrogen (which makes up roughly 9.5% of our bodies) and lithium, which our body contains in very tiny trace amounts, originated from the Big Bang.
So, no matter how I do, I am a literal star anyway and can shine – even when I am scared. Kids love that!