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What gives Jessica Ennis-Hill and Davina McCall such self-esteem?

As research for Confidence Month reveals a third of young people lack belief in themselves, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Davina McCall share some tips

By Lisa Salmon

Winning an Olympic gold medal has to be one of the biggest confidence boosts you can get. But as an elite athlete, you also need plenty of confidence to start with - and Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill says she gained hers from her parents.

The heptathlete, who is an ambassador for the current Sky Academy Confidence Month, says: "Nothing is more powerful than confidence.

"In my career, it was my parents who first gave me the encouragement and confidence to overcome boundaries and achieve my goals. It was then about hard work and determination to build the skills I needed to succeed."

Ennis-Hill, who has just won another gold medal at the World Championships in Beijing, has joined a host of other celebrities, including Davina McCall and Melvyn Bragg, to highlight the importance of confidence for young people as part of Confidence Month.

A Sky Academy initiative which aims to build young people's confidence to help unlock their potential, it was organised after Sky Academy research found that one in three young people aged 11-24 claim they don't feel confident. Confidence is lowest among 17-year-olds (45%), and highest in 11-year-olds (73%). This age group say receiving supportive feedback is a fundamental factor behind how confident they feel, with 82% noting that being praised by their parents is key.

Not surprisingly, 66% of girls say their confidence is influenced by how attractive they feel, compared to only 46% of boys.

The findings suggest confidence peaks among pre-teens, as they have less to worry about and seek validation from parents and teachers. As they get older, young people become more worried about how they come across in front of others, leading to a confidence dip.

But building confidence can be tricky - so where do you start? TV presenter, and fellow Sky Academy ambassador, Davina McCall, has learnt a few tricks along the way.

"I have a mantra that I always tell myself, and that is: 'You've got to fake it to make it'," she says. "If you can allow yourself to fake being and appearing confident, and that allows you to start doing a good job, then, eventually, you're going to believe it.

"From that moment, your confidence will grow and grow and you'll know that, whatever it is, you can do it. If I'd known that earlier, it would have helped me so much. Being able to work on my confidence and allow it to build with every show and every programme has proved so useful over the years."

Ennis-Hill, who was bullied at school, gained the strength to overcome it when she recognised her athletic talents. "Over the years, I have grown in confidence and much of this has been down to my sport - it gave me a really good sense of worth," she admits.

"The more you enjoy what you do, the more you'll get out of it and the more you'll feel good about yourself. Don't put pressure on yourself at a young age." But she advises youngsters who still do feel under pressure: "It's important to share lack of confidence with your parents and teachers, so they can help you."

Child confidence expert Annette Du Bois says today's young Brits are feeling more emotionally imbalanced, insecure and under-confident than ever before, leading to anxiety and unhappiness.

"The modern and complex world means emotional and psychological pressures are felt much earlier on," she says.

"Trying to keep up, gain acceptance or fit in, both online and offline, can lead to a decline in wellbeing, life-skills, and social interaction.

"By learning effective techniques to build confidence, young people develop lasting self-belief to reach their full potential."

For more on Confidence Month, visit

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