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10 confidence-building skills we should teach our daughters by age 10

From frying an egg to writing a heartfelt thank you note, Dermalogica founder and author Jane Wurwand says she gained her self-confidence by “learning how to do something.”
Kids playing on the beach
Confidence can be gained by learning how to "do something," says author and Dermalogica founder Jane Wurwand. Stephanie Rausser / Getty Images

The following is an adapted excerpt from Jane Wurwand’s new book “Skin in the Game: Everything You Need is Already Inside You”:

My practical English mum was my greatest mentor. She empowered me and my three sisters by her example. At a very young age, she told us that it was important that we learn how to “do” something. Little did I know then the impact her words would have on my life.

My sisters and I were born and raised in the U.K. When I was 2 years old, my family’s life changed drastically when my dad suddenly passed away, leaving my mum aged 38 with the responsibility to care for herself and four young daughters.

Fortunately, my mum was a trained nurse, and she was able to call upon that portable skill-set to reinvent her life and provide for us. My mum taught herself how to drive an automobile, so she would not have to limit her work venues based on the bus route. She was just so pragmatic, yet very positive.

Dermalogica founder and author Jane Wurwand.Courtesy of Jane Wurwand.

Her accompanying advice when one of us girls was feeling a bit sorry for ourselves was, "Stop whining and eat your sausage" - meaning, "don't complain, just get on and deal with it." Her incredible strength and sense of pragmatism were the qualities I admired most in her.

Her advice to learn how to “do” something instilled so much confidence in me, even from a young age. Below is what she taught me and what I believe all girls should know how to do by age 10, in order to feel their best, confident, self-sufficient selves. Obviously, this takes time and practice with a parent or guardian. But the pay off is worth it.

1. Fry/boil/poach an egg. Learn how to do all three.

2. Wrap a gift and write a good thank-you card.

3. Wash and dry dishes by hand.

4. Do a load of laundry (and neatly fold a fitted king-size sheet; I’m still working on this).

5. Hem a garment.

6. Sew on a button.

7. Unclog a sink and a toilet.

8. Lay a dinner table.

9. Pump gas (no reason to wait until we learn to drive to do this).

10. Go to a bank and open both a checking and savings account.

And if you’re struggling with your own self-confidence, especially as you balance a career, relationship, children and more, take another page out of my mum’s playbook: “Life isn’t about balance; it’s about resilience.”

So remember to:

1. Slice It Up

If we want to eat a large melon, we have to slice it up. Cut it into bite-size pieces that can be swallowed more easily. We will also enjoy it a lot more in smaller bits without the skin on.

A lot can come at us all at once like an overwhelming avalanche. Wait. Pause. We can only manage what our capacity is. If we are already full, there is no point in trying to add more. Take a breath and get ready for the next piece.

2. Put Self-Doubt In The Back Seat

We all self-doubt at times. Some of us self-doubt most of the time. What’s with that?

It’s usually something that has been repeatedly told to us that is deeply embedded in our brains. And it’s usually completely untrue. We believe it because it has been told to us so often by someone who probably had it told to them and they are just passing on the toxic waste. And now we repeat it to ourselves.

When others doubt us, we can start to doubt ourselves. That self-doubt becomes ingrained in our psyche. Those other people start to write the script you store in your head and determine how you see yourself. Don’t let that happen. Remember, whoever said this doesn’t want us to even attempt whatever it is that we reach for—because if we did, we would have outpaced their own efforts. They want us to stay small so that they can feel big. And those toxic recordings keep being stored in our brains. Every time we are in a situation that triggers them, we just hit the play button.

Go through all those mental recordings in your baggage and either erase, replace, or stash them away and never listen to them again. They do not serve us, they serve whoever said it to us. Next.

3. Replace "scared" with "excited"

Failure is the top fear in The Book of Lists. Number one. Death is number three, so clearly, we prefer to die than fail. When I give a big presentation in front of a couple of thousand people, or even a small one in front of half a dozen, I tell myself, “Jane, you are not scared; you are excited.” And sometimes it actually works. Adrenaline is released in our bodies both when we are very excited and very frightened. The feeling is chemically identical.

I focus on my breath moving in and out and tell myself, Breathe in strength and excitement and exhale stress and fear. I repeat it over and over in my mind until I step forward to speak. It doesn’t always work, but at least I am safe and not suffocating. After all, I’m still breathing.

4. Choose Your Response

Ditch the anger and attitude when something happens you don’t like. It distracts you from your main goal.

You can’t control what happens, but you can damn well choose your response. I’m winking my one hidden eye at you to remind you.

5. Find Your Edge

Get comfortable being in the place in your brain where you feel the most at risk. Where you feel the most vulnerable and have the most to lose. Sit deeply into your discomfort and allow strength to overwhelm it. Stand on the edge of the abyss. From the edge you can see and feel everything. Be unafraid. Have courage. And don’t step off into the void.

6. Root Out The Cynics

We all need problem solvers around us, not just problem finders. Identify those who start from a place of no, seeing the problems and never the solution, and call them out. Get them out. They will infect others fast. Including you. Find the ones who start with yes and find the solutions.

7. Find Your Bigger Why

Many measure their success in purely personal terms. That’s a bad shortcoming: scrambling after power and prestige without committing to a principle. To find our purpose, we must want to make our mark by making a difference. No matter how risky. What does it do for others, not only us? Our success has to matter to someone else and benefit them. Otherwise, it will elude us.

What are you fighting for? More importantly, who are you fighting for, and why?

Jane Wurwand is the Founder and Chief Visionary of Dermalogica. An innovative business leader, her advocacy for women’s economic empowerment has earned her a platform at the United Nations, The White House, and around the globe as a sought-after thought leader and public speaker. In 2018, Wurwand launched FOUND, a nonprofit initiative offering funding, mentorship, unique incubator programs and educational resources for entrepreneurs who have been underserved or overlooked by traditional systems.