DISCLOSURE: I’m excited to celebrate International Women’s Day! In honor of this special day, I spent an hour of (extra) time with my daughters talking about confidence and self-esteem. This blogpost is written in partnership with the Dove Self-Esteem Project to encourage the next generation of girls develop confidence they need to reach their full potential.
“You know exactly what you’re doing… You’re amazing… Don’t let other people make you feel otherwise.” These were my mom’s words that would weave their way into conversations or casual drops practically every single day — when I was a kid, a college student, an adult. She was the most confident person I’ve ever known (sometimes a bit too confident, ha) and raising my sister and I into confident, capable women seemed to be her biggest priority. (Every day I am so thankful for her focus on raising me to be confident… can’t imagine coping with all the things life has thrown us without that confidence….)
Developing confidence within my daughters is not an option. It’s not a matter of “Well, I’ll try my best and see what happens.” It’s not a matter of hoping they grow up to feel beautiful on the inside and out. It’s my priority and requirement — as a parent, as a mother, as a woman. No second guesses, no second chances. Teaching my girls how to recognize their own power and self-worth is on ME, no one else.
I rely on repetition.
Every day, our conversations either approaching or departing the car-line at school are the same. When I drop them off, it’s “Be safe, be aware, be strong and good to yourself no matter what anyone might say…” and when I pick them up it’s”What happened today? Something that made you happy and something that made you sad or mad — go!”
Most times, they play along and spill the dish on everything. We celebrate the wins and then discuss and solve the bad parts. My girls are newly-6 and 7 right now and every day, during our car convos, I think “Please let them always be open like this, to talk to me… to feel confident and beautiful enough to share their lives’ ups and downs.”
Because here’s what scares me: As small girls grow into tweens, it’s been found that 8 in 10 tend to opt out of social activities (such as raising their hands to voice an opinion) when they don’t like the way they look. Even though my girls are really young and just approaching the age of being more aware of today’s 24-hour pop-culture and always-on news cycle, I know how much media has been found to negatively and dramatically impact girls’ self-esteem. (As someone who works in television media, I’m unfortunately a bit too aware of the dangers entailed… this is why I personally say “no smartphones or social media before age 14.”)
So yes, all this confidence and self-worth is on US moms more than ever. It’s GO TIME. If I don’t take bits and pieces of time every single day to talk with my daughters about their thoughts, questions, concerns, bad-happenings and what-went-wrongs about how they feel about themselves — what makes them feel beautiful and how to keep that feeling grounded and solid when the world might scream at them otherwise — we’re headed for trouble. (I don’t want trouble.)
Consider these extra findings (which won’t make you feel any better):
More than half (54%) of girls aged 10-17 don’t have high self-esteem.
7 in 10 (69%) of women and 6 in 10 (65%) girls believe media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most of us women can’t ever achieve.
6 in 10 girls believe that to do well in life, they have to look a certain way.
7 in 10 girls believe women who are beautiful have greater opportunities in life.
So we talk. And laugh. And sometimes cry. All in the car on the way home from school. And sometimes during dinner. And sometimes right before I tuck them in. The more frequently I feed them the right messages in their head (You are smart! You are beautiful! You are YOU and that’s the only thing you ever want to be!), the more it’s apt to seep in. Call it brainwashing… call it parenting… call it women helping women.
Since 2004, the Dove Self-Esteem Project has helped more than 29 million young people develop a positive relationship with the way they look – it’s the largest provider of accredited self-esteem curriculum in the world, helping our next generation of young women develop the confidence they need to reach their full potential.
Leading experts believe that just one hour talking to a girl about beauty, confidence and self-esteem can change the way she sees herself for a lifetime. From learning how to interpret destructive messages in the media to helping girls navigate toxic friendships at school, the Dove Self-Esteem Project provides free, accredited educational tools and resources addressing today’s biggest barriers to a girl’s self-esteem that anyone can get their hands on to spawn a positive conversation with a girl in their life.
My daughters may be young, but I wanted in on this action.
“Hey ladies!” I yelled from the kitchen after dinner when they were in the den playing before bath time. They came running. “Want to do something fun?” They gasped when I opened Dove’s Self-Esteem Project box and immediately grabbed the notebooks and sticky notes.
“Hold on! I have some questions for you two!” They were so excited, I started laughing. I started with the first prompt in the notebook — asking what makes my girls feel beautiful. I was feeling pretty good when my 7 year old started writing all sorts of positive stuff. Score.
Then, things turned a bit more serious than our everyday car conversations. My big girl shared a new story about something that happened that day with one of her friends. It was smashed in there between her saying that she feels most beautiful ‘being outside & being nice’ and ‘sitting quietly and playing with friends.’ (FYI: The ‘S-word’ is ‘stupid.’)
My mom-button was hit — hard. What?! You didn’t tell me this happened today in the car?! Did this make you sad?! Is your friend okay?! What made you stand up for her? I’m so proud of you! Did anyone else make you feel bad?! Are kids your age really this mean already?! You are beautiful no matter what people say.
Power of the pen. She may not have felt comfortable telling me this story earlier in the car that day, but she was comfortable writing it. Ah. So that’s the way you get through to the kids these days. The rest of our little workshop — writing our stories and sharing feelings about what makes us feel most beautiful in our handy booklets — was eye-opening and felt really, really great.
At first I was nervous to broach these types of things with her in what seemed like an ‘instructional’ way, but it was actually really easy and fun! (Took the pressure off.) We talked about words — good words that make us feel good, bad words that make us feel crummy. Right there in our little book.
I can tell them they’re beautiful until my face turns blue, but if I can’t help them recognize the thing that makes them feel confident and gorgeous from the inside-out (in my daughter’s case, being outside and being with friends) then my efforts aren’t adding up to anything. I’m super close with my daughters, but doing Dove’s #HourWithHer project put things on another level — a level that seemed to resonate more deeply and reinforce those same things I talk with my girls about on our car rides.
(This self-esteem workshop-in-a-box turned out to be a right fit for my 7 year old… my newly-6 year old didn’t quite get it but got a kick out of drawing the most adorable little pictures and writing her feelings down… a good start to opening a bigger convo later, I think!)
One of my favorite parts was writing our own scripts — for how we could respond to others who made us feel less-than beautiful, less-than confident, less-than anything that some kids want other kids to feel. We talked about throwing others off with kindness (and confidence!) instead of feeding into toxicity…
Since my girls are so young, I didn’t really dive into the social media mess and how it brings our self-esteem down while blindsiding us with inferiority complexes… but this special #HourWithHer workshop that we connected with (right there at our kitchen table, after dinner) made me realize so many things.
The more time we spend with our girls, the more value they find in themselves.
The less scared we are to bring up topics that might be hurtful (mean friends!), the less likely our girls might be affected in a negative way as they navigate these kinds of friendships.
The more open we are to communicating with our girls in varied ways (ie: writing things down!), the more we are able to offer solutions that they might remember a bit better.
An hour. That’s IT. I’m not saying we all have an hour every single day, end to end, to pounce on the problems that can nip away at our daughters’ self-worth and confidence… but taking an hour here and there, as we’re able in bit and pieces (even if we just start in our cars!), is always absolutely worth it.
No way will I back down from raising confidence, capable young women… even in this age of self-doubt and social media. No second guessing, no second chances. NO. WAY.
And your turn with the Dove Self-Esteem Project at our kitchen table is coming next year, little sister! (Until then, keep on talking from your car seat.)
Get your hands on a kit from Dove and LEARN MORE HERE!
Dove is the largest provider of self-esteem education in the world. This International Women’s Day, join the Dove Self-Esteem Project to change how a girl sees and feels about herself — your #HourWithHer can improve a girl’s self-esteem for a lifetime. The Dove Self-Esteem Project aims to reach another 20 million young people with self-esteem education by 2020. Together, we can help girls develop the confidence they need to reach their full potential.