Last week I celebrated my 38th birthday. It amazes me to think that not too long ago, I used to think being 38 was old. In reality, at 38, I finally feel comfortable in my skin. No, I am not talking about having the confidence to strut my stuff at the neighborhood swimming pool. After birthing 3 kids – 2 of them at the same time – I only got the confidence to venture into bikini territory last year… And it took a lot of inner pep talks…And if I have to walk more than three feet, you better believe I am reaching for the cover up!
No. My outer appearance is just a small portion of who I am. Unfortunately, as women, that tends to be what we struggle with the most. My 8-year old daughter, Ella, is just now starting to notice her appearance. Of course I want her to feel beautiful, but I want her to feel confident in all the many qualities that make her so special.
Here are 10 ways I can be intentional in my parenting, so I can help my sweet girl gain some of the confidence that it took me 30 years to find:
- God’s Girl – Remind her that God created her just the way He wanted her to be. He knew exactly how to make the best Ella, and He does not make mistakes. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14. That really should be enough said, but since we are human, there are numbers 2 – 10 😉
- Unique Girl – Embrace your differences and don’t be ashamed of them. Those differences are what make you unique! When I was little, I hated my freckles and would try to cover them up. Now that I am in my late 30s, I love that they make me look younger. My kids actually get excited when new freckles pop up in the summer because not everyone gets to have freckles. Within the last week, my face has sprouted at least 100 new freckles from our pool time. And I love every one.
- Healthy Girl – Teach her to take care of herself in a healthy way. I think this is so incredibly important as they are growing. Their little bodies are growing and changing so quickly. Often times they are growing at different rates than their friends. At such a young age, they are already hyper aware of being bigger or smaller than their peers. I encourage my kids to make healthy choices in terms of their nutrition and physical activity. I want them to grow to have a complete healthy lifestyle. They have balanced meals, are active, but look forward to treats too. I do not talk about dieting or weight. EVER. I talk about being healthy, strong and taking care of the body that God gave them.
- Complete Girl. Build her confidence with praise about all aspects of her. We wonder why girls allow their confidence to be tied so closely to their appearance. Most likely because most of our compliments usually are geared towards that! You look so pretty! I love your dress!! When they are kind to their siblings, recognize that. If they answer a question correctly, praise their intellect. If they use good manners, encourage them to continue. And absolutely tell her that you think she is the most beautiful girl in the world. She needs to hear that from you too. She needs praise about her total package!
- Daddy’s Girl – Fathers play a HUGE part in their daughter’s confidence today and for the rest of her life. My husband, Eric, is always a great example of how a gentleman treats a lady. Whether it is what she experiences first hand on their Daddy Daughter dates or what she observes in how he treats me, she will know how she should be respected. Eric’s greatest fear is that Ella will date a jerk. Talk about a way to kill her confidence before she even finds it! If we show her and talk to her about how she deserves to be treated, then she will not settle for anything less. Just in case, Daddy has a shotgun and isn’t afraid to use it 😉
- Good Girls – It is so important for our daughters to have a good group of supportive friends. Since I am her social secretary, I can encourage friendships with girls that are kind and a positive influence. As much as I hope that Ella will always come to me when she is sad, I know she will talk to her friends too. She needs to have friends that will build her up, not knock her down to make them feel better about themselves. There is no room in my daughter’s life for mean girls.
- Independent Girl – I taught two-year olds in preschool last year. At every parent teacher conference, I encouraged the parents to let their child do more on their own. Then I would go home and micromanage my own! I had to let her spread her wings too! She could do so much more than I was letting her do. When she tries something new and succeeds, the pride on her face is priceless. Yes! I can do that! Whether it is doing chores or helping fix dinner, they all give her a sense of accomplishment when she masters them. And even if it is something little like picking out her own clothes for school, she is fostering her own identity. (Even if she looks like Punky Brewster!)
- Persistent Girl – Try and Try Again. Encourage her to keep trying until she finds her unique talents. Maybe she will get lucky and find her niche right off the bat. Maybe she will go through 10 activities until she finds something that she feels good about. Maybe she won’t discover her talent and passion until she is 37 like me. Don’t let her give up trying.
- No Shame, Girl!! Sometimes we have to let them spread their little wings and let them fail. As a mom, this is probably the hardest thing because we want to help them succeed. However, sometimes getting knocked down is the best way to build confidence from within Knowing that life doesn’t end when she fails at something, will give her to confidence to try again.
All that being said, I am still a work in progress. I sat on a conference call last week in tears. It was to help me get prepared for upcoming appointment with book publishers, and I felt so overwhelmed…inadequate…not at all confident. I looked over at my notebook where I was brainstorming ideas for this post and thought, “Ha! What a joke. Why the hell am I writing about having confidence??” And then it hit me. Confidence isn’t just doing something that you know you can do. Confidence is having the courage to try knowing you may fail.
So my last bullet point is this:
10. Get Real Girl. Let your daughter see that you aren’t perfect and you have insecurities too. However, you don’t let them rule you. You face them head on through prayer and the support of your family and friends. And even if you do fail, it isn’t the end of the world and you are gonna keep on trying.