As someone who has struggled with low self-esteem my entire life, it’s something that I’ve been extremely conscious about in terms of my daughters. Sadly, I think young women battle self-esteem issues more frequently than boys. There’s a constant pressure from society to look, act, and think a certain way. One study showed that 54% of women ages 18 to 40 admit they are insecure. That’s more than half the population! And it has to start somewhere. Normally, in the teenage years, but sadly, the age of insecurity is starting younger and younger.
The idea of what is attractive or “right” when it comes to your appearance is completely skewed. But that doesn’t make the pressure any less crushing. So how do you teach your daughters to have self-confidence? To see the beauty inside themselves when the entire world is telling them something different? Here are a few ways to help the young girls you’re raising, grow into confident, self-assured, and self-aware young ladies.
Lead By Example
As the mother to a daughter, you are the first role model for what a woman should be. Your daughter looks to you for guidance and an example of what she should strive to be. Although that’s a lot of pressure, it’s also an amazingly positive and powerful tool. You can set the tone for your daughter’s self-esteem. Speak only positively about yourself, in terms of appearance and personal accomplishments. Don’t body shame yourself or other women in your daughter’s presence. In fact, you don’t need to comment on appearance at all. Talk about how amazing it felt to reach your goals at work today. Try taking walks together or a yoga class. Not because you want to lose weight but because it makes you feel good, healthy, and strong. Show your daughter what self-love looks like.
Discuss What You See in the Media
It’s inevitable that your little girl will recognize the difference between what you’re telling them is beautiful and what others are identifying as the same thing. It’s important to discuss what she sees on television, on social media, and on the cover of magazines. Explain to her that for many superstars, their appearance is part of their job description. They have trainers, chefs, and managers all helping them, and pressuring them, to look a certain way. There’s also a lot of photoshopping and airbrushing that goes into the images we see. A lot of the time, what the media portrays is not reality. It’s important for your daughter to understand this so she can stop comparing herself to what she sees in Hollywood or even on social media, where filters work wonders on changing a person’s perception.
Praise Their Skills More Than Their Appearance
If you place importance on your daughter’s looks, so will she. This doesn’t mean you can’t tell her that she looks beautiful or that you love the outfit she chose, but it’s important to balance those compliments with other ones about skills and accomplishments outside of her appearance. Praise her for her performance in school or on the playing field. Comment on something kind or selfless she did. When you do tell your daughter that she’s beautiful, acknowledge both her inner and outer beauty. If the compliments your daughter receives are strictly based on her looks, that’s where she’ll start to find worth. She may start associating acceptance from you and others with looking a certain way. And that’s a breeding ground for negative body image.
Praise Their Effort, Not the Outcome
This is another area where you can help build your daughter’s confidence. Try not to focus so heavily on what your child has accomplished, but instead, acknowledge their effort. Praise your daughter for trying out for the sports team or the work she put into her class project. It’s okay if she doesn’t make the team or receives a C instead of an A. If she put forth effort and tried her very best, she should be praised for that. It’s important that your child understands that her 100% effort is enough. This will help foster feelings of self-acceptance and actually push her to try harder and better herself next time. But this internal motivation will be tied to a positive drive to succeed instead of feelings of failure or disappointment.
Get Her Involved in Sports
Both organized and individual sports are an amazing way to boost your daughter’s confidence. And it’s never too early to start. Organized, team sports offer your daughter a sense of comradery among other young females. They work together to lift one another up and encourage each other. Your daughter will look to fellow teammates for motivation, encouragement, and validation. This is a much healthier dynamic that seeking validation from boys or other outside sources. Even individualized sports such as gymnastics, skiing, or tennis are not only a great way for your child to stay active and hone their skills, but their success and efforts will help them prove to themselves that they possess talent that’s not associated with their appearance.
Being a parent isn’t easy. There’s no manual or rules that ensure you get it right. When it comes to raising daughters, it’s important to help them recognize their self-worth at a young age. This will keep them safe from the outside pressure to conform. Of course, there’s no guarantees when it comes to protecting your child from body shaming or peer pressure. But arming your daughter with the tools to block out negativity and find validation within themselves will put them on the right path to self-acceptance and confidence.