Youth confidence on the decline

Published 9:25 pm Thursday, November 21, 2019

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

What would you think if the large-font headlines of today’s newspaper read “Eight-year-old girl robbed of her confidence”?

Perhaps you would question what was taken from the victim. In the case of Michigan 8-year-old, Marian Scott, it is what was not taken that snatched the young girl’s confidence.

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In October, her story gained high visibility when the administrators of Paragon Charter Academy denied her the privilege to take a school photo because she had red braids woven into her hair. News coverage this week provides updates to the story stating that photographers across the U.S. reached out to Marian’s family offering more than a school picture. Each donor presented ways they wished to restore the young girl’s stolen confidence.

I noticed her picture on the MSN homepage under the title “Girl denied school photos gets magazine-worthy photo shoot.” In the photo, Marian’s arms are flexed in 45-degree angles at her sides, her fists clenched tightly and her head thrown back with her mouth open wide as if she is mimicking the victory shout of Serena Williams. If Chicago photographer Jermaine Horton intended to evoke an image of a Marvel superhero clad in a comic book palette of colors to represent the moment that Marian felt more confidence strengthening her, he nailed it.

In an interview, Marian said she felt her confidence decline that day. The New York Times reported in an article titled “The Confidence Gap for Girls” that confidence in girls falls by 30 percent between the ages of 5 and 14. The same article provides several ways that parents and adults can help our girls navigate through these years with their confidence still intact. But in the case of Marian Scott, what do we do when the environment that they are forced to show up in every day kills their confidence?

The world that girls are growing up in today is probably more of an incubator for disenfranchised confidence than there ever has been. Before women were given the right to vote or allowed to pursue their education, it could be understood that girls would face challenges for being bold, committed and outright gutsy. They now have the right to be confident and it is still taken from them? In the case of the Nigerian young disciple, Leah Sharibu, and Michigan third-grader, Marian Scott, they face persecution for standing firm or standing out. The world seems to have only a few situations in which the developing confidence of a young girl is acceptable. We have created a narrative that negative views of women and girls is here to stay. It may require supernatural power to overthrow its long-enduring weightiness. Perhaps that is why people are stealing confidence nowadays.

Killing confidence has made for good business. Confidence-building is a hot commodity. Several products on the market today promote confidence as the real investment you’re making whether you purchase some of Sassy Jones’ accessories or detangling conditioner for coily hair by Gabby Goodwin. Perhaps these female entrepreneurs would not be promoting confidence as a necessary product if it were not that we live in a society that repeatedly destroys the confidence of many women and girls. Confidence is a must, especially for minority girls, because they constantly face the label of being a “double minority.” The label suggests that minority girls are disposable because they have two strikes against them. Their confidence, combined with every other treasure in our girls, is not trash. We have to stop the stealing of our girls. To lose their confidence is to lose their spark and therefore miss the chance to make their mark in this world.

In the same chapter of the Bible where the writer of Hebrews implores us to hold fast your confession, Hebrews 10:35 states, “do not cast away your confidence because it hath great recompense of reward.” Recompense means that something will result in reimbursement. While the context of the scripture does apply to our standing strong in our Christian faith, it is not a stretch to encourage our daughters not to throw away their confidence.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via or via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.