We know that the bullying of children with unusual appearances is all too common in schools

Building Your Confidence

image002What is in this guide?

  • Helpful skills when you are out and about
  • Tools to help you think, act and talk confidently
  • Examples of things to try out and practice over time


You’re in Charge

What you think about things can affect how you feel and how you act. It’s very powerful. The good news is… you are in charge of your head – even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes… the secret is to gain control of it and make it work for you.

If you are worrying about something, then it’s likely you will feel worried – and then you’ll probably act in a worried way.

Same if you are angry about something – you may feel angry – and then act angrily!

If you try to think confident thoughts and focus on thinking good thoughts about yourself – this can help you to feel more confident – and you are more likely to act in a way that shows the world you feel good about yourself!

All sounds very easy, but the truth is we know it can be hard sometimes. Don’t worry, with practice, you can take charge of this power – by learning to use THE CONFIDENCE TOOL KIT!


Changing Faces has come up with these five helpful skills to help you when you are out in public or with people you don’t know. And, you’ll see that the CONFIDENCE TOOL KIT gives you lots of tools to help you to master these skills. Look for the « later under each tool to see how they can help you with these skills.
 image006 EXPLAIN

To yourself: Explain to yourself why something happened

To the other person: Explain your condition to the other person, to help them understand

 image007 REASSURE

Yourself: Reassure yourself to help you feel ok

The other person: Reassure the other person by giving them more information

 image008 DISTRACT

Yourself: Distract yourself in a difficult situation by thinking about or doing something else

The other person: Distract the other person by talking about something else

 image009 ASSERT

Yourself: Assert yourself by showing you are in control

The other person: The other person is most likely to be embarrassed or surprised

 image010 HUMOUR

Yourself: If you can, use your sense of humour to either lighten the situation or to stand up for yourself

The other person: The other person may laugh or respond to the humour… or be embarrassed


Take it one step at a time  

To start:

  • Try each of the tools out a few times
  • Try them out on friends and family first – ask them how you’re doing and, if you need to, you can make changes next time
  • You can start to decide which tools work for you – and when to use them.

After a bit of practice:

  • Start trying the tools out in situations where you know some people, but not everyone
  • Think of easier situations to practice – this may be a family gathering, like a special birthday or anniversary, or visiting a friend’s house, when their family is there.

When you feel confident:

  • Try the tools out in situations you find more tricky – this might be going on the bus or going to the shopping centre – you know what is harder for you
  • You might want to take a friend or family member with you the first few times
  • When you’re sure you know how to handle the tools, you can use them in really difficult situations – again, you know what is hard for you… this might be going to a party where you don’t know many people or standing up in class to do a presentation.

Find your own way:

  • Some tools will work better for you than others
  • Some tools will be better for some situations.


Quick Tip: Think 3-2-1 Go!

As a simple, quick way to get you started – think of:

  • 3 things to do if someone stares at you
  • 2 things to say if someone asks what happened
  • 1 thing to think if someone turns away

Three tools to help you THINK confidently and to feel good about yourself

The MOTTO tool

Helps with the skills EXPLAIN and REASSURE

Find a ‘motto’ – a phrase that makes you feel confident and positive. Once you have settled on something that works for you, repeat it over and over inside your head.

You’ll find your own motto – to help you get started, try:

“I can do this!”

“My friends think I’m really great/clever/fun/talented – and I am!”

“There’s more to me than just how I look.”

“I am unique and proud of myself”

“I’m ok and I’ll show other people I’m ok.”

 “I’m happy to be me!”

Mottos work best if other people don’t know about them. It’s best to only discuss your motto with those very close to you, like your family or best friend.

Time to start practicing! Imagine you’re at the checkout in a supermarket with your family. You notice some children behind you staring. You start to feel embarrassed.

Think of a MOTTO to use and write it down

Try different mottos out in different situations – until you find one or two that you are comfortable with.


Helps with the skill DISTRACT

Use this if you’re feeling embarrassed or upset or worried. For example, you’re on the bus and feel like everyone’s staring at you – or you’re worrying about going to the cinema or standing in a queue.

Take your mind off it by thinking about something else.

You’ll find your own way. Try to think of something in advance. Test a few things to see if they work, like:

  • Think about something you enjoy, or that you feel happy about
  • Think about some of the nice people in your life, your friends or family or your pet
  • Count to 100 (or 200 – or more!)
  • Repeat the alphabet – or even try to say the alphabet backwards
  • Think of an animal or a country (or something else) for every letter on the alphabet
  • Think of a joke or a story or a song you like
  • Read your book or listen to music

It might take a little while to find things that work for you, but distracting your mind away from the situation is a good way to stop feeling so worried or upset about it.

You’re at the cinema. A bunch of kids start giggling behind you… you worry they are laughing at you.

Write down a DIVERSION – something you might use to take your mind off feeling embarrassed or upset?

The ARMOUR tool – or the BUBBLE tool

Helps with the skill REASSURE

In your mind, invent a suit of armour for yourself. Try to picture it. Imagine trying it on for size and comfort. Then, step into it each time you are faced with a situation you find difficult or embarrassing. Watch all the comments, stares and other things just bounce off – you are invincible.

Or, you can use the BUBBLE tool. In embarrassing situations, imagine blowing a big bubble around yourself. Picture it doing the same job as the armour – it’s just as strong, but it’s lighter to wear! Stares and comments will bounce right off your imaginary bubble. The good thing about the bubble is that you can include other people in it with you – like friends or family.

To add extra power, try using your MOTTO tool too!

Imagine using the BUBBLE tool or the ARMOUR tool. Draw a picture of your armour… OR… draw a picture of the bubble and the people you would like to include inside your bubble.

Three tools to help you ACT confidently and to show you feel good about yourself


Helps with the skills REASSURE DISTRACT ASSERT

We all ‘talk’ with our bodies – all the time, even when we don’t realise we are doing it. It’s surprising how much the body can ‘say’. We tell people things by how we stand, walk, move, sit, talk, sound and by the expression on our face. We also ‘read’ body language all the time – to learn more about other people.

If someone is slouching, hanging their head down, hiding their face away or not looking at us, we might think they seem unhappy, not interested, rude or shy. It often makes it harder for us to talk to them.

But, think about someone who stands tall, who looks at us and smiles. They seem confident, friendly and easy – we often feel more relaxed talking to these people.

You can make yourself seem more confident and friendly by using your body language. And if you look confident – you will feel more confident. It takes a bit of concentration and practice. Let’s break it down. Try these tips:

  • Posture – stand or sit up straight, keep your head held high and your shoulders back
  • Eyes – make sure you look at the other person – look at their eyes. We read a lot in each other’s eyes without even thinking about it. This shows you are interested in the other person too.

Practice looking people in the eye – by playing this game with a friend or someone in your family:

  • Time how long you can look at each other in the eye before one of you looks away. What is your best time?
  • Time yourself at the start – and then see how much better you are at it two weeks later!

It might feel funny at first… but if you practice, you will find you get good at it!

  • Smile – smiling makes us seem welcoming, friendly and happy. Even if you can’t smile fully with your face, smile with your eyes
  • Face – often our feelings are shown in our face. If you feel nervous or shy or embarrassed or worried, try not to show it too much – if you can, relax your face and turn your mouth up a little bit.
  • Hands – use your hands to emphasise things you are saying.
  • Voice – speak clearly so people can hear you – this will make you seem confident. Even if speaking is more difficult, try to be clear and speak loud enough to help people to understand you – this will work especially well if you use all the other body language tips too.

Try this! Stand in front of a mirror…

Don’t look yet. Imagine you have joined a new school and you’re the only new person in your class – you are nervous and embarrassed. Look at yourself now…

  • How are you standing?
  • Look at the expression on your face?

Chances are you look a bit worried and nervous…

Now, try using the body language tips to look more confident

  • Look yourself in the eye and tell yourself “I am a great person”.
  • Can you notice the difference when you try to make your body look confident?
  • Try adding your motto – to help you feel even more confident!
  • Try it out on a friend or your family – see if they can see the difference.

Chances are you look a bit worried and nervous…

You might find it helps to practice your BODY LANGUAGE – and it will start to become easier to remember when you are out and about.

The IMAGE tool

Helps with the skills REASSURE DISTRACT ASSERT

This is tool is about using your image to feel confident and show other people who you really are. How you look to other people is much more than just your face or body. It’s everything that can be seen (plus, of course, your BODY LANGUAGE!). It’s all the things in this box – and more:


It’s not about money or brands either. It’s thinking about all the different parts of your appearance to make sure you:

  • Feel comfortable
  • Feel confident and good about yourself
  • Express your personality
  • Have respect for yourself

It works both ways too… if you look good you will feel good… and if you feel good, you will look good.

So, before you get going in the morning or when you are going out give yourself the once-over – and smile at yourself in the mirror!

Imagine you are going to a party. Draw or list all the parts of the outfit you want to wear (see the box above to remind you). Label or describe each part to say why you like it.

Think of three words to describe what your outfit says about you?

The BUDDY tool

Helps with the skill REASSURE

We all feel more confident when we are with people we know. So, next time you feel nervous – maybe you are going somewhere new or you think something might be difficult – don’t go alone. Take a friend or family member as a buddy.

Friends and family can help us to feel stronger and safer. They are like glue or string – they can help hold you together when you think you’re in danger of coming apart And we feel more comfortable and relaxed with them, so with a buddy, you are more likely to come across as relaxed and friendly.

Write down the names of three people who could be your buddy

Four tools to help you TALK confidently and speak about yourself in a positive way



As you probably know, it’s very common for people to ask you why you look different. Rather than waiting until you’re asked or being taken by surprise, it might help to think about what you could say beforehand. Plan what to say and practice it in front of a mirror or with someone you trust.

Keep it simple. Use words you feel comfortable and happy with. Try using words that describe your condition. Don’t use words that criticise or judge it. Here are some words you could use:


Write these words down and circle any that work for you. Feel free to add in any words you think have been left out.

image070If you are not sure where to start, try describing how this dog looks first – and then try it out on yourself.

This tool comes in two different lengths. Choose the one that suits you at the time, depending on the situation and your mood.

The short DESCRIPTION tool

This is good for general questions, comments and curiosity. Mostly, you probably won’t want to say very much (or you may want to say nothing at all).

Use a simple, short line to explain your condition.

Here are some examples:

“It’s just a birthmark.”
“It’s a scar from an operation I had ages ago.”
“The colour of my skin is not the same all over.”
“I’ve got vitiligo – it’s like freckles only backwards.”
“I lost my eye after an accident when I was little”
“The bones in my face didn’t grow properly before I was born.”
“I was born with a cleft lip and palate.”

If you feel like it, you might want to add something like this:

“It doesn’t hurt.”
“You can’t catch it.”
“I don’t really talk about it much.”
“I don’t take much notice of it. You shouldn’t either.”
“It hurt a lot when it happened, but it’s fine now”
“It’s no big deal.”

Take the words you circled above. Try writing three short phrases using some of the words.

People are curious at first, but this will be enough information to reassure most people and they will probably move on after a minute or so.

The longer DESCRIPTION tool

Sometimes, saying more seems ok. This might be when you are getting to know someone better or when you feel comfortable with someone who is interested in knowing more.

It is up to you though – you only need to use the longer explanation when you feel like it.

It’s still handy to have it ready… and think about what you might say. You might talk more about your condition and how it affects you. Or you could explain how you ended up with it. You could talk about how other people act. It might just mean answering the other person’s questions. It’s your choice – and you can say as much or as little as you want.

Here’s an example of a conversation:

Kas has met Lulu for the first time at a youth club. They’ve been talking for twenty minutes, having a laugh about a fashion and make-up show on TV. Kas likes the girl… and it feels natural to say more about herself.
“Of course, I don’t really need to use blusher on this side of my face anyway.” she says, pointing to the birthmark that covers the left side of her face.
Lulu looks a bit serious and asks, “Does it hurt?”
Kas says, “No, it’s fine.” She goes on to explain more about her birthmark, how she was born with it, how it got bigger. She tells Lulu she is seeing doctors now to talk about another operation, but she’s not sure if she wants to do that or not.
“Well, I think you look fine,” says Lulu. “And you’ve got the best trainers! I want them!”

Time to practice!

Write a sentence to explain how you got your condition.

Write a sentence to say how your condition affects you now – or doesn’t affect you!

  • Practice using all your phrases.
  • Start by trying them on your own, perhaps in front of a mirror or when you are in your room.
  • Then try them out on your mum or dad or someone else you trust like a friend.
  • Once you have found the right words for you, try using them in other situations.

If you are feeling really confident, you might like to think about doing a talk to a group about your condition, like Josh below. This is a big thing to do, but it would really help the people you see more often to understand your situation… and to move on to the important business of seeing and knowing you, not just your condition.

Presenting Josh:
Josh got so fed up with teasing and questions at school that he decided to do something about it. He prepared a talk, describing his condition, how it happened, and how there was nothing that could make it better at the moment. He got his mum and teachers to help with what he wanted to say and how to go about it, but gave the talk on his own.The other children asked any questions they wanted and he even took along some photographs to show them what he looked like when he was little.

The other kids hadn’t realised how much he had been through. It answered all their questions and best of all, most of the teasing stopped afterwards. Some of the kids in his class stick up for him now and sometimes they help him out by telling other people what has happened to him.



It’s not always easy chatting to people, especially if you don’t know them very well. Most of us find it hard sometimes – we clam up and struggle to think of things to say. The good news is, with practice, we can get much better at it!

Joining a conversation can be tricky and we are not always good at including other people. So, sometimes, we have to be brave and find a way to join in. Here are some tips on how to do it:

  • Listen to what people in the group are saying
  • Identify the topic being talked about
  • Think about something you could say about that topic, for example:
  • Something you know about it
  • Something you think is interesting about it
  • Ask a question (most people like to be asked questions!)
  • Wait for a break or pause – and join in.

Starting a conversation with someone is not always easy either. The best way is to think of something interesting or something you might have in common and start with that.

Tyrol was in the lunch queue at school when he noticed the boy behind him staring at his face. He turned round and said “Ugh, mushy peas again! Good thing Wednesday only comes once a week.” “Yeah” said the other boy, “sludgy, gloopy peas!” They both laughed.

The next step is to keep the conversation going.


  • Thinking of something else to say about the same topic
  • Introducing a new topic
  • Telling the other person something about yourself
  • Thinking about other things you have in common
  • Commenting or asking a question

“I like your shoes. Where did you get them?”

I’ve seen you playing football before. Are you in the team?”

“Which class are you in?”

“What is your name?”

So, back to Tyrol… what did he say next?

“Good news is… I don’t think I’ll have to eat mushy peas on Wednesdays anymore! I’m joining the drama group next week – it meets during lunchtime on Wednesday. So I’m going to bring in a packed lunch that day.”

Then he asked a question.

“What are you into? Are you joining anything this term?”

Conversation is an art! Learning to chat with people takes lots of practice – but it will be worth it.

Think of a film you’ve seen and really liked. Imagine a group of kids are talking about this film and saying how much they liked it. What might you say to join the conversation?

To keep the conversation going, think of another film or TV show to introduce as another topic. What might you say?

The FUNNY tool

Helps with the skills REASSURE ASSERT HUMOUR

It’s good to use your sense of humour (when you feel like you can).

Making a joke or funny comment can help in lots of ways:

  • It can show you are friendly… and funny!
  • It can win people over
  • It shows you have a positive attitude towards yourself
  • It means you don’t take things to heart so much
  • It can stop things getting on top of you
  • It makes comments or staring seem less important
  • It’s difficult to be too serious when you’re being funny
  • It can stop people who are trying to tease or bully you

Try to look relaxed… and smile.  

Humour can be used in many different ways, depending on the situation. You’ll find your own words – here are some things you could say, for starters:

If people are being curious and staring:

“You seem to find me very interesting!”

“Haven’t you met anyone as cool as me before?”

If people keep staring or make comments:

“Oh no, I hadn’t noticed – thanks for telling me!”

“Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of a birth mark before?”

“I can hear a funny buzzing noise… I’ll just ignore it”

If people are teasing or being nasty:

“Oh no – I hadn’t noticed my face was different! When did that happen?”

“Oh, hilarious, I’ve never heard that one before…”

“Er, I can hear you talking, but you’re not making much sense.”

These are just a few to think about.  Try things out – in time, you will find your own way of saying things…

A boy is staring at you and won’t stop. Try writing a funny phrase you might say (or use one of the ones above)

Jamil was at school, walking along minding his own business when Joe (who was with a group of friends) pointed at him and shouted “Look, the aliens have landed!”

Jamil looked Joe in the eye and said, “I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say”.

Joe said, “Ha ha ha! What planet are you from alien”.

Jamil looked back at the boy calmly for a moment and then said, “Nope – you’re not really making much sense – I really don’t know what you’re trying to say”.

Joe’s friends started to laugh – not at Jamil – at Joe. Joe stopped and turned away.


Helps with the skills REASSURE ASSERT HUMOUR

This can be used when someone is teasing you a lot, being mean or bullying you. Being assertive means standing up for yourself and saying what you think, but without getting angry, being rude or losing your cool.

It’s good to try and judge the situation first, especially if you don’t feel safe or you feel like it might get very nasty. In this situation, the ultimate assertiveness tool is… to WALK AWAY. Make a short statement like, “I don’t need to listen to this!” or “You’re just ignorant!” – or say nothing at all – and simply walk away!

But, sometimes, you might feel like saying something. This can show you are in control and will not be beaten down by unkind comments.

  • Hold your head high
  • Stand tall with your shoulders back
  • Look the person in the eye
  • Keep your face relaxed, maybe even smile if you feel like it
  • Use a strong, firm voice – but don’t shout or scream
  • Stay in control – do not show you are angry or upset – do not be nasty or rude

Try some of these, or find your own words:

“That’s soooo boring.”

“Why is it a problem for you?”

“Is that the best you can come up with?”

 “At least I’m not rude to people.”

“I’m really not that interested in what you’re saying”

“I don’t like what you’re saying.”

“Did I ask for your opinion?”

“You’ve got no right to say that.”

“Very clever… as if I haven’t heard it a million times before!”

“My face looks different, but my brain’s just fine thanks”

“It doesn’t bother me and it shouldn’t bother you”

“I had a car accident. You think that’s funny do you?”

“It’s none of your business actually.”

“I can hear you, you know!”

If you feel this is happening a lot, you might want to look at the guide When teasing becomes bullying

This tool can be strengthened by using some of the other tools, like the MOTTO, ARMOUR / BUBBLE and BODY LANGUAGE and FUNNY tools.

Write down two comments people have said about you that you didn’t like. Write down an assertive reply for each comment.

Finished? Now, say your replies out loud using a strong voice.

Practice using the tools

Okay, it will take time… but by learning to use the tools, you’ll soon start to grow in confidence. You’ll start to work out the tools – how to use them, what suits you and what works in a situation.

You’ll be able to see how people respond – and, when you need to or if it doesn’t work as well at first, you can change things as you go along. Once you’ve settled on a few phrases or things that help, keep practicing, practicing, practicing until they become part of you. Eventually, you won’t even have to think about it! And it doesn’t all have to be hard work – it can be fun!


  • You’re in charge – you can take control of your power
  • Take it one step at a time
  • These key skills can help you: EXPLAIN REASSURE DISTRACT ASSERT HUMOUR
  • And, in the CONFIDENCE TOOL KIT – there are ten tools to help you with the skills:
    • Three tools to help you THINK confidently and to feel good about yourself
    • Three tools to help you ACT confidently and to show you feel good about yourself
    • Four tools to help you TALK confidently and speak about yourself in a positive way
  • Practice makes perfect – use the chart to see how you are getting on!


This chart is to help you remember the different tools and to measure how you are getting on with them. Keep it to yourself or put it up at home somewhere – it’s up to you. Copy this chart, and add a star or tick when you’ve reached each level for a tool.





I’ve used this tool on friends & family. I’m getting the hang of it


I am feeling more confident after using this tool in public a few times.


I’ve used this tool a lot. I’m now confident about using it.