"I have an adolescent daughter who lacks confidence and self-respect. What can I do to help her? "
Let me give you several suggestions that may help your daughter.
1. Help your daughter recognize that she is not alone.
When your daughter goes to school tomorrow, tell her to watch the students who are coming and going. Some will be smiling and laughing and talking and carrying their books and playing baseball. Unless you take a second look, you'd never know they had a care in the world. But I assure you, many of them have the same concerns that trouble your daughter. They reveal these doubts by being very shy and quiet or by being extremely angry and mean or by being silly or by being afraid to participate in a game or contest or by blushing frequently or by acting proud and "stuck-up." She'll soon learn to recognize the signs of inferiority, and then she'll know that it is a very common disorder! Once she fully comprehends that others feel as she does, she should never again feel alone. It will give her more confidence to know that everyone is afraid of embarrassment and ridicule-that we're all sitting in the same leaky boat, trying to plug the watery holes.
2. Encourage your daughter to face her problem.
Look squarely at the thought that keeps gnawing at her from the back of her mind or from deep within her heart. It would be a good idea for her to make a list of all the things she most dislikes about herself. Nobody is going to see this paper except the people to whom she chooses to show it, so she can be completely honest. When she's finished, tell her to go back through the list and put a check mark by those items that worry her the most—the problems she spends the most time thinking and fretting about. Then it would be a good idea for her to select someone she trusts, a person in whom she has confidence. This should be an adult who understands the problems of young people. Perhaps it will be you—or her teacher or counselor or pastor. She can take her list to that trusted leader and go over it with him or her, discussing each one of her problems. It's best if she talks openly about her feelings, asking her friend to make suggestions about changing the things that concern her.
It is very likely that many of the problems she faces have been conquered by other people, and she may be able to profit from their experience also. In other words, there could be an easy solution available. Maybe she doesn't have to go through life struggling with the same concerns that have troubled other people.
But how will she handle the remaining items on her list? What can she do with the more difficult problems that defy solution? It would be wise to remember that the best way to have a healthy mind is to learn to accept those things which you cannot change. There will always be circumstances which we wish we could rearrange or remove. However, the happiest people in the world are not those who have no problems, but the people who have learned to live with those things that are less than perfect. Let me suggest, then, that your daughter take her remaining list of "unsolvable problems? To a private place where a small fire will not be dangerous." Perhaps she would like to have her counselor-friend present for this ceremony. She can burn that paper as a symbol to God that the problems are now His. Her prayers should contain this message to Him (stated in her own words):
Dear Jesus, I am bringing all my problems and worries to you tonight, because you are my best friend. You already know about my strengths and weaknesses, because You made me. That's why I'm burning this paper now. It's my way of saying that I'm giving my life to you. . .with my good qualities along with my shortcomings and failures. I'm asking you to use me in whatever way You wish. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. And from this moment forward, I'm not going to worry about my imperfections.
The Bible teaches us to reveal this humble dependence on the Lord, and He will honor it!
3. Help your daughter compensate for her weaknesses.
Compensation may be a ten-dollar word, but it has a very simple meaning. It means to make up for your weaknesses by concentrating on your strengths—in other words, to compensate for your weaknesses. Returning to the unsolvable problems on your daughter's list that bother her the most, she can balance those weak areas by excelling in some other abilities.
Not everybody can be the best-looking person in school. If this is your daughter's situation, she can say, “All right, so what? There are a lot of other people in the same boat, and it doesn't really matter. My worth doesn't depend on the arrangement of my body. I’ll put my effort into something that will help me feel good about myself. I’ll be the best trumpet player in the band, or I’ll succeed in my part-time job, or I’ll raise rabbits for fun and profit, or I’ll make good grades in school, or I’ll see how many friends I can make, or I’ll learn how to play basketball as well as possible, or I’ll become a good pianist or drummer, or I’ll just see how pleasant a personality I can develop (that's one that nearly everybody can work on), or I’ll learn to play tennis, or I’ll become a seamstress, or I’ll draw or paint and express myself through art, or I’ll write poetry or short stories, or I’ll become a good cook." Or maybe she could become highly skilled at entertaining small children and become well-trained as a child-care worker.
4. Impress on your daughter the value of genuine friends.
When you know that other people like you, it's much easier to accept yourself. You don't have to be beautiful or highly intelligent or wealthy in order to be liked by other people. "The best way to have a friend is to be a good friend to others." That's a very old proverb, but it's still very true.
How can your daughter make new friends quickly and easily? It will help her to remember that the people she deals with every day have exactly the same problems I've been discussing. Understanding that fact will help her know how to get along with them and earn their respect. She'll never want to make fun of other people or ridicule them. Instead, she'll want to let them know she respects and accepts them, and that they are important to her.
Your daughter will be surprised at how many friends she can make by being understanding, by "covering" for other people when they make a mistake, by standing up for them when others are trying to make them feel foolish. She'll find that this sensitivity leads to friendship, which leads to greater self-confidence.
One of the most important responsibilities in the Christian life is to care about other people—to smile at them and to be a friend of the friendless. You see, God wants to use you and your daughter to help His other children who feel inferior. He said, "Inasmuch as you do it to the least of these my brethren, you are doing it unto me!" If your daughter starts living this kind of Christian life as recommended by the Bible, I know she'll find that her own self-confidence will grow, and that God will bless her for it. The Lord honors those who obey Him.
From Dr. Dobson’s book Raising Teenagers Right.