Let’s Talk About Self-Esteem
Did you know that only 11 percent of girls (ages 10-17) are comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves? And that 72% of girls feel immense pressure to be beautiful that 60 percent of girls GLOBALLY (age 15 to 17) avoid normal daily activities such as attending school, going to the doctor, or even giving their opinion.
That is astounding.
Dove Movement for Self Esteem challenges us to make a change and by starting to make this change, we first must begin talking about it with our girls. Dove believes beauty should be a source of confidence, not anxiety and they are committed to inspiring all women and girls to reach their full potential.
Most girls say that their mother is their number 1 role model, speaking about beauty or our experience can truly make a world of a difference.
It begins from birth.
Many of you know that I am a proud Latina, my mother taught me from an early age to be confident and that beauty comes from the inside. She taught me to always stand tall, walk tall and to not worry about what other people thought about me. Especially those that had negative things to say. She helped me build a thick skin yet maintain a peaceful inner self-esteem. A balance that came with experience and age.
Pictured above is my mother and I and the bond that we shared. Growing up wasn’t easy of course but, learning that I am beautiful from a young age and that I am unique helped me through all the ups and downs that come with growing up in a world that pressures girls to covet an illusion of what is “thought” to be perfect.
An unrealistic version.
Sure there have been times when I have felt insecure, in fact, I still have my days. But, I never let it overcome who I am and who I’ve always been. I’ve learned to accept myself and who I am and how I look, while not perfect according to society, I am perfectly happy being me.
Sure, I’d love to lose the baby weight and sure most of my old clothes doesn’t necessarily fit like it used to but, I don’t feel the pressure to change for other people. But, when I do choose to change, I do it on my own time and my main priority is to be healthy for myself and my family.
I can remember times, even in my adult life when both my inner and outer appearance was attacked but, you cannot let it get to you. It doesn’t bother me now and I feel that if someone is petty enough to be that way, they simply aren’t worth being in your life. But, as a child, it was a bit harder to come to terms with it and of course, it was difficult. Luckily, I had parents who reinforced inner beauty which made me appreciate my outer beauty when others didn’t.
I always believed that inner beauty is a reflection of outer beauty.
My father has always, always made me feel beautiful and even though I have many inward and outward imperfections, he always helped me to see the beauty that I had within myself. He always uses honesty and love and praises. Even through the angst of my youth, he helped me stay strong and to never give up.
Y para my fellow Latinos…
Lo que me enseñó mi Mami desde muy corta edad es que la belleza viene del interior y que nunca me deje llevar ni influír por las cosas que las personas dicen o piensan de mí, especialmente cuando es negativo. Que camine con mi cabeza siempre alta y que reconozca que soy linda por dentro y por fuera. Lo que me ha ayudado muchísimo hasta este día, es creer que soy única y especial.
The first thing is first, you have to ask the little girl in your life their thoughts on beauty/belleza. You can’t assume that you already know their thoughts just because you’ve already been there and done that. We all grow into our thoughts quite differently and at different times.
Some questions to ask:
What makes you feel most beautiful? Or ¿Sientes que la belleza es una fuente de presión enorme para tus amigas? Which means do you feel beauty is a form of enormous pressure for you and your friends?
Have a heart to heart. What is most important is that you are honest. You don’t have to be an expert–just talk from the heart and share your experiences. Listen to her answers and a great way to respond would be, “That kind of reminds me of a time when I...” or “lo que me dijiste me recuerda algo que sucedió en mi vida.” It’s also best to avoid “When I was your age…” terms better, connect with her emotions and intellect and you’ll be good to go!
Keep it simple and free from interrogation. Listen to her reaction to your questions which in turn can entice more conversation. Also, give her a chance to talk and to get her feelings out. If you are asking too many questions, she may feel overwhelmed. If she feels she is safe and free to express herself, she can get her feelings out! A veces lo único que una niña necesita es hablar las cosas para poder sacarlas; si se siente protegida, escuchada y con una conexión íntima, lo logrará.
After you’ve had a conversation and answered questions–invite her to act on her thought and feelings. Does she want to talk to her friends about it? Or invite her to look at pictures in the media in a different light. Or ¿Le gustaría escribir un email o comentario en un blog sobre sus sentimientos?
Looking to the future.
Having two girls of my own, this is extremely important to me. Especially considering how unique and different my girls are, it naturally worries me about how they will be perceived in their journey in this life.
Also, knowing how cruel some kids can be, it’s a scary thing. But, we must remember that it is a learned behavior. In order for our girls to feel beautiful inside and out, we have to show them through example and how we talk about ourselves and our fellow women can teach them to be either negative or positive towards their peers.
What’s so very important is to build them up every single day, I call my girls pretty, beautiful, smart, funny, intelligent, caring, fun and the list goes on. Not to mention, I will continue to praise them for their talents, their personality characteristics, kindness, and so forth.
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How do you teach your girls about beauty and accepting themselves?
Let me know, til next time–cheers m’deres!
Nancy Polanco is a freelance journalist, lifestyle content creator, and editor of Whispered Inspirations. She is a proud Mom to Gabby and Michaela. Having worked as part of a health care team for almost a decade, Nancy is happy to be back to her passion. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY’s Parents, and an Oprah Magazine Brand Ambassador.