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"Breaking Free: How the Fear of Judgment Damages Children's Potential for Success”



In my role as a karate instructor, I have the privilege to work with young children. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve become better at that role through the experience of learning and observing their behaviours. Unknowingly they are teaching me. 


I see repeated patterns of behaviours related to lack of confidence of self and I can't help but think this is related to social conformity. This isn't just with students I teach but far more pervasive, for example within my own children, their friendship groups, and wider in our community. Let’s face it, as adults we are just as much victims of ‘seeking to fit in’ as children.  The advent of smartphones and social media has undoubtedly had a significant impact on identity development and the issue of social conformity. 


Most of us aspire to be successful, it's a human endeavour, and whilst success can be broadly defined, we could agree that others seeing us as successful holds high value. Yet less than 5 percent of the population reach the rare air status of success. In the main because they are prepared to put in the work that the other 95 percent of the population won’t or can't commit too. I often wonder if this issue of social conformity is what holds many of us back from achieving our potential. 


Should we be more deeply concerned about the implications and or limitations of social conformity? Could we in fact help our children break free from the fear of judgement from others and allow them to soar?


Let’s look at 4 significant implications related to the impacts of following the crowd. 


1.    Development of Social Identity

According to psychologists, children go through a process of developing their social identity, which involves understanding their role in society and how they are perceived by others. During this process, children may become more concerned about fitting in and seeking validation from their peers. Social media platforms provide a space for children to showcase their lives, seek validation, and compare themselves to others. The curated and idealised nature of social media can lead to a heightened focus on external validation, popularity, and conforming to societal norms in order to gain acceptance and approval.

 

2.    Lack of self-confidence

Constantly seeking validation from others can erode children's self-confidence. If they rely on external approval for their self-worth, they may struggle to develop a strong sense of self-esteem and belief in their abilities. This lack of confidence can hold them back from pursuing their goals and aspirations.

 

3.    Influence of Peers

Peer influence plays a significant role in shaping children's behaviours and attitudes. Children may feel pressure to conform to the norms and expectations of their peer group in order to gain acceptance and avoid social rejection. This can lead to a focus on what others think rather than embracing their own unique identities.

 

4.    Missed opportunities for learning

Fear of judgment can discourage children from seeking feedback or constructive criticism. They may avoid challenging themselves or seeking new challenges that could lead to personal growth. By avoiding feedback and constructive criticism, they miss out on valuable opportunities for learning and improvement. We learn and adjust through failure, however with a heightened sense and fear over what others think, this important pathway is often untrodden.

 

 It is important to note that while some degree of conformity is a natural part of social development, it is important for children to also have the freedom to express their individuality and live true to themselves.


Encouraging children to explore their own interests, values, and beliefs can foster a sense of autonomy and self-confidence. Parents and educators can create supportive environments that promote individuality and provide opportunities for self-expression.


Teaching children critical thinking skills, self-acceptance, and resilience can help them navigate social pressures and develop a strong sense of self. By fostering open communication, encouraging independent thinking, and emphasising the importance of self-validation, children can learn to balance the opinions of others with their own authentic identities.


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