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Tips for cultivating confidence and self-love in your daughters

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I was 8 years old when I arrived home from school and announced to my mother, “Mom, I think Eva might be prettier than me”.

My mother, in her infinite wisdom, replied, “Well Lia, she might be”.

Needless to say, I was horrified. This was my own mother, telling me that another girl might be prettier than me! Wasn’t she supposed to tell me how fantastically wonderful I am at everything all the time? Wasn’t she supposed to tell me that I would have the looks of Elizabeth Hurley, the tennis prowess of a Williams sister and the grace of Audrey Hepburn?

Obviously, my horror and outrage were evident on my small face because Mom looked at me carefully and explained something totally ground-breaking to me: There will always be someone on earth prettier than me, someone better at soccer, someone better at math, someone who knows more jokes, whose parents had a bigger house, or who is taller/skinnier.

The thing of it was, she said, there would never be another person quite like me, and it was my job to make that person the best person I could be. No one else could do this for me. I should remember that I couldn’t ever be anyone else, and I shouldn’t be mad or mean to anyone for being different than me.

This was one of the most important lessons I learned as a young girl. It made me start to think of myself as parts of a whole, rather than focusing on just one aspect of myself that might be lacking, like my looks, or my totally lacklustre soccer abilities.

So what can we do to ensure that our daughters are happy and healthy, able to love themselves and love others?

Here are five ways you can help young girls see their worth beyond physical beauty:

Focus on her other talents.

Constantly reinforcing that beauty is something to be treasured and praised could send the wrong message. Her ability to play piano, or draw or tell a creative story should be praised as much, if not more, than her appearance.

Help her find other ways to validate herself.

Validation is to recognize, establish or illustrate someone's worth. Encourage your daughter's qualities that aren’t related to her appearance, and support her to develop skills and interests that she can find validation through. Teach her to validate all parts of herself.

Teach her healthy diet and exercise habits.

Habits are incredibly hard to break, so help her out by starting her with healthy ones that focus on nutrition and balance, rather than thinness or health fads. In doing this, you might even develop better habits for yourself. Incorporate some form of exercise into your family routine, like before breakfast or the during 5 o’clock news.

Surround her with strong female role models.

We spend a lot of our young lives emulating those around us, so it’s crucial to surround your daughter with women who are attractive because they are strong, confident females who know themselves.  At the YWCA, there are mentorship programs and youth education programs that provide young women with the opportunity to meet positive role models, explore their career and education options, learn leadership skills and better prepare for their futures. Leverage opportunities like this to surround her with positive mentors.

Have fun and dance. Get down. Get funky.

Teach your daughter that one of the most attractive qualities is having fun in a totally unashamed manner. If you let loose and dance like no one is watching, you might embarrass your daughter but the lesson will stick. Teach her, if you can, that life is only as serious as you make it. Life can be rough, but having the ability to throw your head back and laugh will come in handy again and again.

Beauty expectations are difficult to manage in women of all ages. I recently had someone ask me whether I had a hard time with the fact that my boyfriend’s last girlfriend had supermodel good looks (she really does, she is gorgeous). My first reaction wasn’t anger or surprise, but laughter. I have my mother to thank for that.

I replied calmly that no, I didn’t have a hard time, because whoever she is, she isn’t me.


YWCA Youth Education Programs for Grade 7 girls are offered in Vancouver and Surrey. For more information, contact:

Samuel Ramos
Coordinator, Volunteer and Community Engagement
tel 604 895 5779
sramos@ywcavan.org

Comments

Thanks for the practical advice, I liked the comments about the positive influence a
parent can have by engaging in their daughter's daily routine. From a personal perspective, I have witnessed the direct benefits that a grandparent, dance instructor and coach has made in my young daughter's young life. She is fortunate to have "significant adults" in her life and they reinforce positive messages about her whole self. As a 7 year old, she adores their kindness but I truly value the caring messages reinforced by these "unknowing" adult mentors. These mentors will leave a lasting impression in her life.

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