What I Want My Daughter To Know About Self-Esteem

by Jessica Hoefer-Land
Originally Published: 

For as long as I can remember I have battled self-esteem issues. As a child I was painfully shy, introverted and very embarrassed of my body. It wasn’t uncommon to find me in the summer dressed in long jeans and sweaters. I put myself down a lot and felt very insecure about who I was as a young girl.

As I grew a little bit older I found a way to work how I felt about myself to my advantage. I remember the first time. I was at camp and walking by myself when a group of boys saw me. One of them yelled that I was ugly and I replied cheerfully, “I know, right?”

They laughed like it was the best thing they heard all day. Bingo. I found my solution. In order to combat my shyness and make people laugh, I could make fun of myself. People loved it and the more I did it, the bigger an audience I acquired.

Deep down I hated what I was becoming. I was harming myself in the process because after all the jokes I made about myself, I was letting them seep into my being, causing more harm than good to my psyche. Let me tell you, it was one of the worst mistakes I ever made; it continues to haunt me today. Self-deprecating humor isn’t always a good thing.

Fast forward to present day where now I have my own 13-year-old daughter who battles the same issues I did at her age. Her self-esteem is in the toilet despite my attempts to encourage her otherwise. She is smart, intelligent, a budding feminist and a gifted artist, yet she puts herself down continually.

I feel responsible.

Because unbeknownst to me, all these years my daughter has been silently observing how I treat myself. Do I treat myself with compassion and grace or do I berate myself every time I make a mistake, feel fat or feel stupid? Sadly, it’s the latter. The message I have been sending to my daughter is that it’s okay to be negative about herself, in fact it’s a natural part of being a woman.

While I have been trying to nurture my daughter in modeling healthy attitudes about body image, all she is hearing is static because I have portrayed just the opposite. She is learning to hate her body because she has listened to me speak negatively about my own. Most of what our daughters learn about themselves are based on what they see us as mothers do.

I’m a hypocrite.

How can she learn to be at peace with herself when I model something entirely different? The sad part? I didn’t even realize I was doing this.

She’s called me out on this and it was a huge wake-up call, because I had no idea the effect it was having on her. I’m grateful she told me.

I’m working hard at becoming a better example and inspiration to my daughter. I have to be extremely conscious of what I say about myself because I tend to be very cruel.

These are the things I want my daughter to know:

Be confident. Power is about knowing yourself and what you are capable of.

Be yourself. It’s your greatest strength.

Support other women in their journeys. Raise awareness and support woman-run organizations.

Turn off the TV and social media. Instead, join movements that work to counter media’s influence.

Photoshop creates unrealistic expectations. View media with a critical eye, keeping in mind the realities behind it.

Read more. Education is power.

Avoid criticizing other girls. It won’t make you feel better. It will only make you feel small.

Live your own vision. It will encourage other women to do the same.

Don’t be silent. Silence is our enemy.

Surround yourself with role models and mentors. It will allow you to see a better world view.

Most importantly, always remember that I love you and know you can accomplish great things.

The funny thing is, while I share these dreams I have for my daughter, they apply to me as well. Perhaps between the two of us we can encourage each other to make it a reality.

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