Adolescence is one of life’s most challenging phases for the development of self-worth. Social media and society puts more pressure on today’s teenagers. Social media has elevated the constant pursuit of external validation which can result in low self-worth. While social comparison also affects males, the prevalent discourses in social media, the mass media, and the broader society suggest females experience this pressure more than males. Overwhelmingly, there is pressure on females to conform appearance, behavior, and aspirations that meet society’s expectations. This pressure on teen girls can result in a low sense of self-worth. Mom’s often ask us; “how can I help my daughter improve her self-worth.” Our five tips are: affirm her self-confidence, give her the space to express and be herself, avoid social comparison in your home, encourage mindful eating and health, and lead by example.
Take moment to consider these tips to help you improve your teen daughter’s sense of self-worth.
Encourage your teenage daughter to believe in herself. Historically, women have been discouraged from being as ambitious. The existence of misogynistic language often degrades ambitious women. Instead of appreciating them, society can shame confident women by labeling them as “gold digger,” “bossy,” or “control freak.” Reassure her that self-confidence and ambition is not a bad thing. Instead, it is reflective of self-acceptance, strength, and assertiveness. Being self-confident will strengthen your daughter’s sense of self-worth and empower her. Teach her to be her own cheerleader. The ability to self-motivate will equip your daughter with the belief that she is worthy of her ambitions, regardless of others’ opinions.
Express Her True Self
Sometimes, the pressure that teenagers experience comes from home rather than the outside world. While it is important to be as involved as possible during this transitional period of your daughter’s life, it is also important that you do not pressure her to become someone she is not. Often, parents have a specific idea of who they want their teen to become. In order to receive love, a teen in this situation hides who they are and tries to assume the identity of the “desired child”. This can be detrimental to one’s self-worth, creating a belief that their true self is not acceptable or not good enough. Give your daughter the space to be herself while still encouraging values you cherish and fostering her natural talents.
Avoid Social Comparison, Appreciate Her Uniqueness
The pressure for teenagers to compare themselves to others is not only found online but can also come from their immediate environment. Even if your daughter does not use social media, she can be exposed to social comparison at home. This may come from well-meaning comparison comments about grades and achievements to their peers or siblings. Comparing your daughter to her peers or siblings can harm her self-worth, therefore avoid social comparison in your home. Help your daughter to change her language around comparing herself to others to identifying her strengths. Appreciate her uniqueness and seek to affirm her strengths will help your daughter feel valued as an individual.
Encourage Mindful Eating and Health
Be mindful to keep the focus on exercise and food as maintaining health rather than tied to “weight”. Focus on lifestyle habits, wellbeing, and healthy eating that can be sustained long-term. Create the perspective of selecting food that will be fuel for activities and a become a good source of sustenance. Separating foods from value judgments mitigates focus on weight, reduces the risk of disordered eating or setting a tone of a lifetime of dieting cycles. Avoid negative comments about food, such as “a moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips.” Taking a mindful approach can help promote a well-balanced diet and avoid viewing food with fear. Encourage your daughter to appreciate whole natural foods and be mindfully present when eating, this includes avoiding mindless eating, i.e. eating while doing another task, such as homework or watching tv. Help your daughter create a realistic approach to exercise habits. Encourage physical activity two to four times a week. Giving options such as going outside for walk or hike, riding a bike, or playing a sport as part of weekly activities. This refreshing sense of perspective harnesses a holistic approach, diet and exercise becomes an end itself rather than merely a means to an end.
Set the Example
Your own mindfulness is perhaps the most impactful tip in helping your teenage daughter value her self-worth. Mindfulness is the ability to be mindful of one’s presence in the world, awareness of one’s environment, and accepting oneself without judgement. Enhancing your daughter’s self-worth, includes being mindful of how you treat yourself. Modeling mindful self-care and mindful self-talk is important. When you take care of yourself you will be in better position to help your daughter. This modeling will remind your daughter that she deserves to be kind to herself and take care of herself. It can help her overcome negative thoughts and self-talk. Mindful modeling includes avoiding negative self-talk, comparison to others and expressing your own confidence. If you are always talking about your appearance, the next great diet, or making self-deprecating comments, your daughter may start to be overly judgmental of herself. Our own mindfulness can help our daughter create lasting self-worth.
The culture of social comparison makes it difficult for teenagers to have a sense of self-worth. If your daughter is struggling, seeking therapy or life coaching can be a helpful tool to help you and your daughter. Consider seeking a body positive life coach to implement these tips or if you see early signs of an eating disorder or anxiety, seek a therapist who can help stabilize mental health or disordered eating. You have an important role in your daughter’s self-worth. We encourage you to give these tips a try and see how she can develop a strong sense of her self-worth.