Raising Girls with Healthy Self-Esteem

Self-esteem.  It’s a tricky thing, even for adults to navigate at times, so I’m determined to help my daughter navigate and stay afloat in these waters.  As someone who has at times had very low self-esteem, especially during the teenage years, it’s important to me that I raise my daughter to be confident and feel worthy and loved.  My hope is that with these three things, she will be able to get through this thing called life making good choices, and come out of it a descent, happy person.  Moms, it’s our job to make sure our daughters never lose their oars.  Here’s why.

Self Esteem

PsychCentral says self-esteem answers the question “How do I feel about myself?” and that question is answered with either global or situational self-esteem.  Global self-esteem centers on “who I am” and tends to stay consistent.  I, personally, have no problem with global self-esteem.  I know I’m a good person with a high moral character, a good set of values and if I wasn’t already me, I would want to be friends with me.

Situational self-esteem on the other hand fluctuates.  You may feel confident and awesome at work, but at home you may feel unimportant, unsure of yourself or unworthy of love.  For me, I tend to let what others think about me or what they say to me dominate my thoughts and cause my self-esteem to falter.  All that confidence I have with global self-esteem can go out the window with one situation, such as a party my junior year of high school where some jackass I didn’t even know told me I was ugly.  It still bothers me 25 years later.

When things like that happen to me I tend to become depressed and withdrawn.  I know the triggers, know how I’ll react, and I can usually pull myself out of it fairly quickly.  Unfortunately for others, low situational or global self-esteem can lead to poor decisions in life such as drug use, promiscuity, or staying in unhealthy relationships.  Exactly the behaviors I am trying to protect my daughter from.

Every day I try to pump her with messages about how important it is for her to only care about what she thinks of herself, to love herself, and to not care about what others think of her.  In kindergarten she was pretending to be a dog on the playground when a boy threw a ball in her face and yelled “no dogs allowed.”  She was so horrified she never told on the boy and internalized the incident for the rest of the day, until I picked her up from school where she immediately started crying.  She was having a hard time understanding how someone could be so mean.

Who knew kindergarteners could be such assholes?  It was a good teaching moment to let her know it had nothing to do with her, and everything to do with him.  Unfortunately, that kid will probably end up telling girls at parties in high school how ugly they are.

And it doesn’t get better, first graders are just as mean.  She has already been in a bullying situation where she was told by one little girl what a mean and horrible person she was, continually over the course of a few weeks.  I wanted her to learn how to diffuse the situation herself, so I told her to tell the bully “I don’t like it when you say those things to me,” and then walk away and play with friends who do not treat her kindly.

Unfortunately, “I don’t like it when you say those things to me” somehow came out as “I hate you” and the bullying continued.  Eventually she used the right words, the bullying stopped and they were able to become friends.  In those weeks it was easy to see the effect this other person’s words were having on her when I picked her up from school.  Some days, she was so upset she would start crying.  I kept up the positive messaging, but I never know if it’s sinking in.  I mean, I hope it is, but I’m not sure.  

Until yesterday.  She has these adorable animal print leggings.  I love them.  She used to, but has since decided she does not like them.  She reluctantly wore them to school yesterday, and wasn’t very happy about it.  I dropped her off with a frown on her face and told her she was going to have an awesome day because her pants were magic.

When I picked her up, the frown had been replaced with a smile.  She did have an awesome day.  A little girl she didn’t know told her she loved her pants, she found out she gets to have lunch with her teacher because of her good behavior last month, and her clip landed on purple {the highest color level for good behavior} for the first time all year.

I told her, “See you did have a good day, you’re animal pants are magic!”  She looked at me and said, “No they’re not, Mom.  I’m magic.”  Success!  It’s working.  Now I just have to hope with every ounce of my being that her self esteem stays in tact for the next ten years…

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  1. Anita says

    Thanks for sharing this! My daughter is 2 1/2 and I’m dreading when she’ll be old enough to experience bullying and other self-esteem challenges. Thanks for the tips and encouragement!

  2. Meagan says

    What a cool story! I LOVE it! You are absolutely right, this is so incredibly important. It surprises me how mean kids can be to each other at such a young age and really breaks my heart. We have several students that come to our center that struggle with self-esteem. We even had one kid who kept saying how stupid he was. We really have to not only help them succeed in school, but build that self-esteem back up because they see the differences with them and their peers with they don’t measure up. All of the students that come to our center are incredibly intelligent, there are just gaps that we need to close. Once we do that, we can definitely see a change in their demeanor and self-esteem. Wonderful article! I’ll have to share with our parents.

  3. Denay DeGuzman says

    Angela, this story is so sweet. I’m really glad you shared it. My two daughters, Ashley and Brooke, are 23 and 21 and have already graduated from university. However, it seems like yesterday when they were the age of your daughter and having to navigate the social scene at elementary school. And it truly is a “social scene” beginning in preschool. What I did to build up my girls’ self-esteem was to begin each and every morning with a Q&A session while I was helping to get them dressed for school. It would go something like this: Q: Who is the most beautiful at school? A: I am!!! || Q: Who is the most special girl you know? A: I am!!! || Q: Who is the smartest girl in your class? A: I am!!! || Q: Who is the kindest person you know? A: I am!!! || Q: Who can easily make friends where ever they go? A: Me, Me, Me!!! || Q: Who can grow up to be whatever they want to be? A: ME, ME!!! || Q: Who is about to have a fabulous day? A: WE ARE!!! || So this was how our days would begin as shoe laces were being tied and backpacks were being filled with lunches. And to celebrate their individualism, Brooke would wear a pair of beautiful gossamer wings (the straps crossed around the body) to school each day through second grade. And then every girl wanted one too. Ashley would confidently wear a tiara to school every now and then. So I LOVED it when you sent your daughter to school with magic pants! I truly believe that when we instill self-confidence into our children EVERY SINGLE DAY, they grow up believing they are important, have great success making friends and being trend setters, and can accomplish anything they set their minds to. Both girls ended up being cheerleading captains in high school. Ashley graduated from Cal Poly SLO with an engineering degree at age 20 while involved in cheerleading, engineering councils, modeling, and more. Brooke loved sorority life and graduated with her PR degree in 3.5 years. Even today family and friends look back to the girls’ early years and wonder if it all began with our little morning pep talks! Keep being that awesome, supportive parent that you are. Allow your daughter to see your own self-confidence in a myriad of situations and she will more clearly see those same qualities in herself. 🙂

    • Angela says

      Thank you Denay for your sweet response! I love what you did with your girls and I’m happy to hear that it stuck with them throughout their academic careers!

  4. Joanna says

    I love this. I have three little girls and want for them to know how special they are and how important being confident in their own skin is. I hope your sweet girl keeps growing in her self esteem!

  5. Jay says

    I really enjoyed this Angela, and you’re right, kids can be unbelievable assholes! I spend a lot of time thinking about this, and I keep challenging myself to build my kids up rather than tear them down. Easier with one of mine that the other. But we press on, and always try to do better!!

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