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Do You Know the Signs of Self-Doubt in Children?

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

Identifying self-doubt early on can have life-long benefits.

We all experience self-doubt from time to time. But when children have these types of feelings and do not yet have the coping skills to handle them in a healthy way, they can fester and lead to problem in both the short and long term.

By recognizing the signs of self-doubt early on, parents, caregivers, and educators can take appropriate steps to address the underlying issues and provide the necessary guidance to help children develop a healthier sense of self-worth.

So, what are the signs to look out for?

  1. Negative self-talk: Listen to how children talk to themselves. If you notice a pattern of self-criticism, self-deprecation, or constant doubt in their abilities or worth - even if said in a joking manner - it may indicate a lack of self-confidence.

  2. Avoidance and withdrawal behaviors: Children experiencing self-doubt may avoid or withdraw from activities or situations they perceive as challenging. They may display a fear of failure or a tendency to give up on things easily. Look for signs of hesitancy, reluctance or withdraw, especially from activities they once enjoyed.

  3. Seeking constant approval or reassurance: Children who seek constant reassurance or approval from others - whether it be peers, teachers, parents, etc. - may be struggling with feelings of self-doubt. This is a sign that they rely on external validation to feel confident, and they may question their abilities or worth without it.

  4. Avoidance of new experiences or challenges: Children experiencing self-doubt often shy away from trying new things or taking on challenges. They may fear failure or believe they are incapable of success, leading them to retreat from opportunities for learning and growth.

  5. Perfectionism: While striving for excellence can certainly be positive, an excessive need for perfection can indicate low self-esteem or lack of confidence. Children who are overly critical of their work, get frustrated with themselves easily, or fear making mistakes might be struggling with deeper feelings of self-doubt.

  6. Not Owning Success: Children struggling with self-doubt may make negative comments about themselves, downplaying their achievements or attributing their successes to luck or external factors. This can point to underlying self-esteem issues.

Remember that self-doubt can manifest differently in each child, and it's important to approach them with empathy and support. Recognizing the signs and providing effective strategies to address them can be the difference between a child's path to self-discovery and growth or a perpetuation of insecurity and limited potential. By fostering a nurturing environment that encourages open communication, validation, and the celebration of small victories, we can empower children to confront their self-doubt, develop resilience, and unlock their full potential.

If you notice persistent signs of self-doubt that significantly impact a child's well-being or daily functioning, it may be helpful to seek guidance from a mental health professional or a child's school counselor. With the right guidance and an unwavering belief in their abilities, a child's self-doubt can transform into confidence, paving the way for a future filled with endless possibilities.


Looking for childhood self-esteem resources? Head over to the Resources section of our site for FREE coloring pages and worksheets, and don't forget that the Proud to Be Me Activity Book is packed with fun activities to help children understand and build confidence. Check it out here!

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