As a mother of two teenage girls, and a woman who speaks with countless moms about their daughters, one of the biggest concerns is lack of self-esteem. As I begin to ask questions so I can do my best to give advice, it seems that people often use the words self-esteem and confidence interchangeably. While they are related, they are different. So before getting into the nitty gritty about nurturing a healthy self-esteem, let’s start look at how it differs from confidence.
Confidence is related to an action – how you feel about your abilities. Confidence builds by taking action — by trying things you find hard, by going outside your comfort zone. If you work at something, bit by bit, you will become more confident in your abilities.
Self-esteem is basically how you feel about yourself overall – how much self-love you have. A healthy self esteem affects your confidence because when you love yourself, it makes you more confident in your actions.
So which is easier to build? Confidence, because you can be confident about one part of your life, while being uncomfortable about another.
Okay, now that’s cleared up. But the question remains, what can you do to help your daughter love herself? The answer isn’t so simple because you can’t just give your daughter self-esteem (although it would be the most wonderful gift). Yes, praising her might make her happy and/or feel good, but it teaches her that she must do something in order to get approval and rewarded. This approach will not help her develop a sense of self-worth.
The best way to nurture a healthy self-esteem is to work with your daughter on shutting down the negative chatter.
We all have little voices inside our heads that talk to us. They tell us things about ourselves. It’s called self-talk. It can be positive like, “You’re smart.” Or, it can be negative, like, “You don’t listen well.”
By saying negative things to ourselves, we tend to reinforce them in our actions. There are two things you can do to help your daughter shift from negative to positive self-talk.
- Become aware of the negative self-talk. Ask your daughter to write down the beliefs she has about herself, all of the things she says to herself in a given day – when she looks in the mirror, is learning and working on difficult tasks or even navigating relationships. It might be surprising to realize how often negative chatter is swirling around her head. From there, you can help her start to shift her thinking.
- Practice positive self-talk.Encourage your daughter to start saying positive statements to herself. It can enable her to recognize all of the great things about herself, leading to positive change. The more your daughter practices, the easier it becomes – and the less negative self-talk she will have.
- I am kind.
- I am strong.
- I am brave.
- I am capable.
- I am calm.
- I work hard.
- I like the way I look.
It might seem silly, but in order for her to change the silent thinking in her heads, she first needs to change her words. That means that saying positive affirmations out loud – actually hearing the words herself, is more impactful.
Want to take it one step further, have your daughter recite these positive affirmations while looking in a mirror (which also might seem strange). When she actually sees herself saying the words it makes it easier to believe. This shift from negative to positive is the key.
In general, a positive attitude and way of looking at things is very powerful.
By thinking about something in a positive way – even before it’s true – makes it more likely to become true. Aside from boosting self-esteem, it increases productivity and decreases anxiety, as well as overall health problems.
This strong sense of self is maintained whether your daughter has achieved what she set out to do, or she’s failed. However, even if your daughter has healthy self-esteem, it does not mean she should always feel good about herself. It does mean that even when her behaviors or decisions aren’t necessarily the best ones, the feeling of discomfort will likely motivate her to make changes. It also means that the way she values and respects herself, as well as her abilities, is what will enable her to thrive. So helping foster your daughter’s self-esteem as early as you can will be a gift she will treasure for the rest of her life.