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Q&A about confidence with Davina McCall

Thanks to Sky Academy, Mumsnetters had a rare opportunity to get advice from Davina McCall on building confidence and how to be more assertive

Sky Academy is set of initiatives that use the power of TV, creativity and sport to help young people unlock their potential. It recently launched Confidence Month, to highlight the importance of confidence in young people's development. As part of the campaign, Sky is showcasing its five Sky Academy initiatives, each of which help build practical skills, experience and confidence, with the aim of helping one million young people by 2020.

Davina McCall, Jessica Ennis-Hill CBE and Thierry Henry are supporting the initiative and to celebrate, Sky gave Mumsnetters the chance to ask them whatever they liked about confidence. First on the podium is Davina McCall - read what she had to say below.

WIN! A £300 John Lewis voucher!

Building your own confidence

Mumsnet: How do you learn to love your body - lumps, bumps and all? (Sharond101)

Davina: I think learning to love your body is a very slow and long process. I do think it's ironic that I probably love my body more now - with all the extra skin on my stomach and imperfect legs - than I did before I had children. I think that comes with self-acceptance. Having children has really taught me to love my body more, to understand that my children love me unconditionally, regardless of my appearance. They just love me - and that's a really powerful thing.

Mumsnet: Do you ever suffer from self-doubt or impostor syndrome, and how do you deal with it? (CheeseEMouse)

Davina: I suffer from both quite regularly - particularly when I’m doing something slightly out of my comfort zone. 

I was recently asked to do something that involved sailing, which is not my area of expertise at all. I kept thinking that they were going to tell me to get off the boat, but I managed to carry it off and fake it to make it. That would be my advice: fake it, and soon enough you'll get through it and think, "Oh my God, I did OK!" I always try and push thoughts of self-doubt aside and tell myself that I am good at my job, and I wouldn't be here if somebody didn't think I was alright.

But the thing I suffer the most self-doubt with is being a mother. I ask myself questions all the time like: Have I done the right thing? How do I deal with this situation? Matthew and I always sit down, talk it through and go for the best plan of action. I think parenting is harder than work when it comes to self-doubt.

Mumsnet: What did your parents do which helped your confidence? (MerryMarigold)

Davina: It was really all my dad and granny. My dad taught me to never give up. He taught me to always dust yourself down, pick yourself up and try again. That has been one of my most valuable life lessons. My granny just taught me to work hard. She's like a packhorse - she just goes and goes and goes! She's 96 and still inspiring me everyday.

How to give children more self-confidence 

Mumsnet: How can you instil confidence in young children who you know are capable of achieving so much, but hold back due to confidence issues? (Del2929)

Davina: It's so frustrating with young kids when you can see some have it and some don't. The issue with confidence is it's one of those weird things that can affect you differently throughout the day. Sometimes I'll get up in the morning, look in the mirror and feel confident about my appearance. But by the time I've gone outside, done the school run and maybe smiled at somebody that didn't smile back - my confidence is gone. Then later on somebody could give me a phone call and it could be some great news - and it's back again! So it can be quite a rollercoaster with confidence. 

The place you want to get to with a child is making them feel OK with themselves. I think it's about setting small goals that you can achieve. With my kids, I read something once that said: don't over-congratulate a child for something that's normal. So don't say every single painting they do is fantastically brilliant - save it for the really fantastically brilliant painting and point out the positive aspects of the other ones. I think those kind of things build confidence because you know that when you've done something good, it really is good and that makes you feel wonderful inside.

Mumsnet: My children are still small, but already I see fear that they can't do certain things. How can I lead by example? What kind of phrases or language should I use to encourage and reinforce confident behaviour? (MakeTeaNotWar)

Davina: I think what you mean is about the fear of failure, or thinking your not capable? And I think that's totally down to the parent throwing themselves at something, failing - and showing that they're not embarrassed or upset about it. It's really down to us to show our kids that it doesn't matter if you fail, you just have a go and try again. You know, we as parents fail sometimes, and that's OK.

Mumsnet: I have a young teen - he has confidence, but he's very quiet. I worry that this will hinder him later when he goes to college. What can I do to help? He is very much like I was at that age, and it worries me. (RainDaisy)

Davina: Firstly, I don't know if he has any kind of gaming or TV stuff? Matthew and I made a rule very early on that our kids wouldn't have TVs in their room and had to use computers downstairs in the kitchen. I think these kinds of things help and mean they're forced to socialise with the family. This is the first step. But it sounds to me like you've turned out alright! And he'll find his own way. It could be meeting somebody after school or somebody at uni that will really bring him out of himself. So try not to worry too much, because I've definitely found that anxiety is catching.

How to be a good role model for children 

Mumsnet: How do we best support the children who don't fit neatly into boxes? How can we prevent them from being 'othered'? (InAndOfMyself)

Davina: I think children that don't fit neatly into boxes often shine when they leave school -  sadly, at school it seems that everybody just wants to conform. As a parent of somebody that's a real individual, try to help them carry that individuality in a way that's so confident that nobody will give them a hard time about it. But if they do get bullied or excluded, teach them a way to deal with that too. 

The way that I teach my children to deal with negativity is through comedy. When somebody stuck their tongue out at my daughter, she was upset and didn't know how to deal with it. I told her to just turn around, smile, give them a big thumbs up and keep smiling! It's about giving them tools to deal with being different. Being different is not bad. And in fact, sometimes when you've left school, being an individual is great!

Mumsnet: Is it possible to instil confidence in one's children if one doesn't have it oneself? (Gazzalw)

Davina: I think everybody's got a bit of confidence somewhere - it's very rare for people to have no confidence whatsoever. You might not have confidence in the usual sense of the word, as in presenting yourself to a wider audience, getting yourself out there, speaking up or making yourself visible. But you might, in your heart, know you're a good parent - know that you get the kids to school on time and know how much you care for them. You'd be confident about that. There must be an area in your life - painting, drawing or even looking after your dog - that you know you're good at. 

Sky Academy and how to get involved

Mumsnet: How do schools get involved with the academy? It does sound like a great idea but working in a small rural school, we often miss out on opportunities like this. (Theimpossiblegirl)

Davina: Sky Academy is open to everyone and it is so easy for your school to get involved. Simply visit the Sky Academy website and you'll find all the information you need to sign up and get involved. They've set a target of positively influencing a million kids by 2020 - how amazing is that?! That is just a phenomenal reach. 

I was working with young people recently in Sky Academy's Careers Lab. It's a full-day careers experience, giving 16 to 19-year-olds the chance to take part in practical workplace challenges and learn about careers in media, business and technology. The positivity that these kids walked away with was huge - not just in life skills, but new skills that they enjoy and didn't even think they had. 

For more information about Sky Academy, visit the website or follow Sky Academy on Twitter @SkyAcademy


WIN! One lucky Mumsnetter will win a £300 John Lewis voucher - courtesy of Sky Academy!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply answer the question below. 


Competition closing date: 4 November 2015



Last updated: over 3 years ago