I grew up hearing lots of praise from my parents. My father was constantly telling me not just that I was smart, but that I was the smartest one in the class. Not just that I was pretty, but that I was the prettiest girl in the world. I welcomed the attention and the compliments. I have to admit that as a youngster, I kinda had a big head. I thought I was the best. That's what I was told. Then as I got into school and learned that it wasn't really true -- there were others who were smarter and prettier, my self-confidence sank. As much as my parents tried to build it up, I was a little crushed to learn it wasn't true. It kinda backfired and I then focused on all the people that were better at me at so many things.
Like my parents, I praise you often. I tell you you're smart. I gloat over good grades. I tell you you're handsome. I tell you that you've done a good job when you successfully complete something. I avoid telling you that you're the best in the world. It's not that I don't have confidence in you. I just don't want to instill false confidence in you or put the idea in your head that you are better than everyone else. Do I want you to always do your best? Absolutely! Do I want you to think you're the absolute best and look down on others who might not be as good? Absolutely not!
I always want to high-five you for a job well done. I want you to strive to be the best. But I never want you to acquire the attitude that you're so good that you don't have to try or that someone else is less than you because they are not as good at something. I want you to be confident. I don't want you to be cocky. It's a fine line. I want you to have the attitude that you can do anything, but in competition with yourself more than with others. I know all of you are intelligent, caring individuals who can do whatever you dream to achieve if you're willing to put in the work. I want you to have the confidence to try new things and to push through and succeed at what you're most passionate about. Please don't ever feel you have to put others down in the process. Let your confidence be contagious and encourage others.
In the movie (and book) The Help, there's a line that a maid repeats to a little girl on a regular basis to instill confidence in her - "You're smart. You're kind. You're important." I hope I do enough to convey those thoughts to you. I want you to hear such thoughts often. I want you to have confidence in yourselves and believe in yourselves. Just don't ever take anyone else down in the process. Have the character of someone who is truly smart and kind. Ah, character....another lesson for another day. :)