Near the end of the video from the SET activity, students are told to “give themselves a pep-talk”. But what does this mean? Tell students that what they tell themselves and how they interpret other people’s comments has a significant effect on their abilities and behaviours (i.e. their reality). Fortunately, they are the author of their own story and, as suggested by Brené Brown, when they own their story, they can write a brave new ending.
Now, introduce positive affirmations and explain that positive self-affirmations are spoken or written statements that students say to recognize their own worthiness and value. These statements can be used to challenge, and eventually change, negative thoughts. To reference the video again, mention that positive affirmations are how students can give themselves a pep-talk.
Then, read the following scenario to students and ask them to share some of the negative thoughts that Ira might be having:
Ira is a student in Grade 6 at Westville Public School. She is a good student and works hard, always finishing her homework and volunteering to help her teacher in the classroom. Ira is an incredible singer and spends her afternoons jamming out at home. But Ira is shy and has never sung publicly before. When Westville announced their first-ever talent show, Ira’s best friend dared her to sign up, and Ira agreed. At first, she was excited about the idea of sharing her voice but as the talent show drew nearer, Ira became more and more anxious and insecure. It’s the night of her performance and Ira is standing backstage. She has five minutes before her name will be announced and, despite having practiced every day for the last two weeks, Ira can’t help thinking about everything that might go wrong. What do you think Ira’s self-talk sounds like?
Students will likely share statements such as, “I can’t do this”, “I am going to make such a fool of myself” or “Why did I even sign-up for this?”. Once several students have shared, ask them to think about how Ira’s confidence would change if she told herself, “I practiced hard and I will do my best”, “No matter what happens, I know that I will be okay”, “I am worthy of love regardless of my performance”, or “I am strong, confident and capable”. Now, it’s a much different story, starring a much more confident young girl, and a brave new ending. Use this discussion to guide the activity instructions.
Provide students with old magazines and newspapers, scissors, glue, construction paper, and writing supplies. Their task is to make a mixed media collage representing who they are, what they value, memorable accomplishments or defining experiences, and future dreams. Ask students to include the words “I am” or “This is me” somewhere central on the collage.
After creating the collage, students will use their artwork as the foundation for constructing five positive self-affirmations. Allocate 30 minutes to make the collage. After 30 minutes, ask all students to stop working on the collage, regardless of whether or not it is complete, and dedicate the next 5 minutes to writing positive self-affirmations. To get students started, share the following tips:
- Start with the words “I am”.
- Make it believable – although self-affirmations are positive and optimistic statements, self-affirmations also need to be realistic. It doesn’t help to tell yourself something that you know to be untrue. For example, if you have never enjoyed running and struggled with this form of physical activity, telling yourself “I am a great runner”, or “I am going to win this race”, will not be very helpful. Instead, telling yourself, “I am strong”, “I am capable of doing hard things”, or “I am striving to be my best self”, will be more believable and therefore also more beneficial.
- Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend (or think about what a friend would tell you).
Students who did not finish their collage in class should finish it as homework. Let students know that this collage can be treated like a vision board or a self-confidence portrait: When they are feeling insecure, overwhelmed, or scared, students can look to this collage to remind them of their positive characteristics, their strengths, their accomplishments, their dreams, and their abilities. This information can then be used to write a brave new ending with the help of positive self-affirmations.
Use the last 10 minutes of class to introduce the relationship between body language and confidence.
Here’s what you and your students need to know:
Amy Cuddy, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley asked participants to adopt either a high-power or low-power stance for two minutes.
She then analyzed physiological differences using saliva samples. After just two minutes, participants who adopted a high-power stance showed a 25% decrease in cortisol levels (the main stress hormone) and an 8% increase in testosterone levels, which is related to ambition, confidence, and energy. Participants who adopted a low-power pose experienced a 15% increase in cortisol levels, as well as a 10% decrease in testosterone. As a result, Cuddy concluded that “our nonverbals [can also] govern how we think and feel about ourselves. Our bodies change our minds”.
NOTE: If you want to learn more about Amy Cuddy’s research and how body language has the potential to shape who you are, watch her TED Talk, “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are”.
In light of this information, ask everyone in the class to adopt a high-power stance for the next two minutes, while they review their collage and silently read their five self-affirmations. Then, ask students to share their main takeaways from this lesson, any insight they gained, and how they might apply their knowledge in the future.
What’s the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem?
Self-esteem is one of the three components of self-confidence. Your self-confidence is affected by:
- Self-efficacy – your belief in the ability to make a change and for that change to impact performance in a positive way.
- Self-esteem – your overall sense of self-worth and value.
- Self-compassion – your ability to be kind to yourself, to recognize common humanity, and to be mindful.
How can telling myself something that I don’t believe increase my self-confidence?
It can’t. Positive self-affirmations will only work if they are realistic and honest statements that you believe. You can think of these statements as having passed the “gut test”. If you are telling yourself something that you know to be untrue, or which seems too far-fetched, then the affirmation will not resonate and may even do more harm than good by causing cognitive dissonance. When you are using self-affirmations, make sure that (at least deep down) the statement resonates with you. If you are having a hard time using positive self-affirmations, start with neutral statements. For example, if you have always struggled with negative thoughts related to your appearance and the statement, “I am beautiful and I love myself” does not pass the gut test, try saying “I am working on accepting me as I am”. When it comes to negative thoughts and beliefs, it’s not uncommon to need a “pit-stop” at neutral, before continuing on your journey north of neutral.
What can I do to help other people believe in themselves?
That’s a great question! Similar to your own confidence, the words you use and the way you talk to others has the potential to positively or negatively affect their confidence. You can help others build their confidence by being encouraging, recognizing their efforts, and expressing your support. Another way to help them build confidence is by accepting them for who they are – including all of their flaws, quirks, and imperfections. Finally, one of the most overlooked ways that you can support someone else is by being a positive role model. Start by developing your confidence and model this behaviour in your everyday life. By role-modeling self-confidence, your friends will not only witness and become more convinced of its benefits, but also become more likely to trust your words of encouragement and support.