"Becoming yourself is really hard and confusing and it's a process to get there."
-- Emma Watson during her speech at the MTV Movie Awards, 14 April 2013
When I think of my teenage years, I mostly remember how incredibly insecure I was. I was insecure about my looks, about what people thought of me and I felt a constant pressure to be accepted. It was definitely not an easy time, but I found a way through it when I learned to consciously build my self-confidence. Becoming yourself is indeed 'really hard and confusing,' but the 'process of getting there' is, in my opinion, a lot easier when you have a good level of self-confidence.
Unfortunately, many teenage girls growing up in today's society are finding it more and more difficult to maintain their self-esteem; "friendships, relationships and peers don't come easy, and society and the media are putting higher and higher standards on girls to be so called 'perfect'", says Lauren Galley, President of Girls Above Society and author of the empowerment guide for teenage girls.
In many of her talks and writings, Lauren also emphasizes the importane of a good and strong mother-daughter relationship, especially when it comes to helping their daughters to build self-esteem. I couldn't agree more with her. But how do you help your daughter to build self-confidence? Lauren and I sat together and wrote a guide.
How You can Help to Build your Daughters Self-Confidence!
1. Dedicate one dinner a week to giving each other compliments!
Lauren: Compliments and encouragement are powerful reminders that we can accomplish great things in our daily lives. We are a product of our surroundings to a certain extent. If we grew up in a household where our mother rarely complimented or encouraged us, we would be likely to pass on that attitude to others in our lives. It is important to learn to give compliments as well as accept them. Many young girls are jealous and selfish because they have not learned this giving behavior.
Merel: As a mother, it can be challenging sometimes to find the time and the motivation to compliment your daughter; we often get caught up in our day-to-day life and sometimes it's just 'hard' to find something we could compliment. But giving each other compliments will change the energy in the house and in your relationship. Just set one day a week as the moment that you (or your family) will share compliments with each other. It can be 'awkward' to start this process, but it will be very rewarding. Also, the rule is just to listen and say thank you after you received the compliment -- no discussions necessary :)
2. Set boundaries (and reflect on the results of setting them).
Lauren: Respect carries a young girl very far in life. Learning respect not only gives you boundaries for your morals and values, it can define your reputation with your peers and elders. Having respect for yourself can give one a sense of empowerment to make good choices as we go through our journey of life. Girls learn respect from mothers who themselves make good choices and have attained standards they wish to live by. Kindness, however, can be taken too far when mothers allow themselves to be pushovers giving their daughters everything they ask for. Boundaries and practical decisions will earn your daughter's respect.
Merel: As a mother this can be heartbreaking and very difficult at times: We want to give our daughters 'everything' and we don't want to see them unhappy. But deep in our hearts we know when a boundary is reached and also that the 'short-term unhappiness' of our daughter will be replaced by a deeper and longer sense of happiness if we set that boundary. When you are confronted with a difficult boundary setting moment, take your time to reflect on this, it will give you the necessary strength.
3. Live by example
Lauren: Living by example is one of the best ways for a daughter to learn from her mom. When kindness and compassion are shown to those who surround her including friends, family and strangers, a daughter will become enveloped by these traits and see the greatness in having kindness and compassion in her heart. This kindness must be genuine. Gossip and negative talk about others can be overheard. As a mother, we should be careful not to for example, if a mom is gossiping about one of her friends on the phone and the daughter overhears this, that memory is in her brain forever and she will be more inclined to gossip with her friends as she grows up.
Merel: What can I add to that?
4. Watch TV with your daughter
Lauren: Watching TV with your daughter and learning what the "popular" shows are can provide a platform to give advice and critique to the scenarios and consequences played out on television. Pointing out negative and positive behavior can benefit your daughter so long as this is done in a conversational manner. Dictating and only making the negative obvious may result in a negative action from your daughter. Some of my best lessons were learned as my mom and I watched television.
Merel: This doesn't seem like a very obvious advice, but it is an important factor in building your daughters self-confidence. It opens a door to communication and it can also strengthen your daughter's opinion when she is discussing the same topics with her peers.
5. Be patient
Although it can be confusing and very very hard at times, remind yourself that it is a process and that what you build with effort and determination, will always grow!