Ways to Boost a Girl's Self-Esteem
you know a teenage girl who has low self-esteem? Chances
are that you know several. According to groups such as
the Commonwealth Fund and the American Association of
University Women (AAUW), girls entering junior high school
feel less self-confident than they do in elementary school,
and they become less assured with each successive year
of school. In contrast, boys become more confident
with each passing year.
teachers, counselors, mentors, and other concerned adults
can have a significant impact on how girls see themselves.
Here are six concrete things an adult can do to help a
Focus on the person she is instead of her appearance.
are harshly judged by other girls, as well as
written off by boys, if they dont fit within the
bounds of our society's narrow definition of beauty. As
a result, a girl's body becomes her focal point. This
is borne out by two startling statistics: One out of every
5 girls between the ages of 12 and 19 has an eating disorder,
and one-fifth of cosmetic surgery performed in the U.S.
is on teens. To help a girl develop a healthier self-image,
compliment her for her achievements, thoughts, and
actions. Remind her in various ways that she is a
smart, valuable person with great ideas and lots of potential.
Call her attention to media deception. One reason
girls feel so negative about themselves is that they are
continuously barraged by picture-perfect images of girls
and women in magazines and on television. Teens compare
themselves to these images, either consciously or unconsciously,
and feel dissatisfied when they inevitably don't measure
up. One way to help a girl feel better is to expose
unrealistic media images for what they are: retouched,
computer-manipulated photos of modelsa group that
makes up only five percent of the population. As supermodel
Cindy Crawford admits, Even I dont
wake up looking like Cindy Crawford. Once a girl
knows that most people look like the ones she sees in
her everyday life, she will likely feel more satisfied
with her own looks.
Give her a journal. experience many conflicting
emotions during their preteen and adolescent years, and
expressing their thoughts and feelings by writing ina
diary or journal is a proven way for them to cultivate
esteem. According to Mary Pipher,(Reviving Ophelia),
In their writing, [girls] can clarify, conceptualize,
and evaluate their experiences . . . and strengthen their
sense of self. You can simply give a girl a blank
bookthere are many decorative ones availableor
present her with a more structured journal that asks her
to answer open-ended questions. These can be found in
the teen issues section of local bookstores.
Encourage her to share her thoughts and opinions. Studies
show that girls are more frequently interrupted than boys.
Over the course of many conversations, they get the message
that what they have to say is not necessarily as compelling
or valued as what boys have to say. Compounding this conditioning
is the fact that boys often feel threatened by smart,
outspoken girls. It's no wonder some girls clam up when
they enter their teens. Adults can help them stay verbal
by conveying that their thoughts are important and that
their unique viewpoints should be shared. If a girl learns
to use her voice confidently on a regular basis, and people
listen and respect her, she builds self-confidence.
Encourage her to take risks. People develop self-reliance
when they're given the space to solve problems and make
mistakes in the process. What happens with girls? Researchers
have found that teachers are more likely to intervene
and solve problems for girls than they are for boys. In
addition, girls are rewarded for being good and behaving
well, as opposed to being adventurous in their thinking,
as boys are. need to be given time and permission
to creatively complete what they start. We can praise
them for considering new problem-solving options, allow
them to make mistakes, and refrain from rescuing
Suggest that she get involved in a sport. Research
shows that female athletes are more self-reliant, and
get better grades and higher test scores, than girls who
don't participate in sports. Being on a team or playing
an individual sport is also a way for a girl to divert
some of the energy focused on appearance to healthy physical
activity and personal achievement.
the right kind of support and encouragement from key adults,
girls can potentially avoid many common problems (such
as low motivation and underachievement) that are rooted
in low self-esteem. Commenting on an accomplishment, making
an observation about her skills, or giving her an opportunity
to push through frustration and solve a problem on her
own can start the ball rolling. In many small ways, we
can help girls transform the ways they think about themselves
so that the end result is one big shift in their confidence.
by Catherine Dee
latest book is The Girls' Book of Success, which
is part of a series that includes the award-winning Girls
Guide to Life and Girls' Book of Wisdom. For
more information, visit the Empowering
Books for Girls web site, www.empowergirls.com.
The (Girl) Power of
back . . . when you were growing up, did a trusted woman
such as your aunt ever offer an observation or piece of
advice that ended up shaping your perceptions or expanding
your thinking? My mother used to tell me: "If you don't
like something the way it is, change it.
Simplistic though it sounded, this little mantra helped
me develop a proactive, can-do attitude that has served
me well throughout my life.
role models for girls, women are in a prime position to
pass along observations and advice that could have a substantive
long-term impact. Moms, in particular have an impact:
Accordint to Inc., 99 percent of girls surveyed
said their mother was the person they admired most because
of her advice. But teachers and others (aunts, mentors,
friends) are also highly influential.
right encouragement at the right time can be absolutely
life changing. It can help girls switch tracks if they're
heading in the wrong direction, and get them to envision
themselves at higher levels of success than they've ever
are three ways you can provide ideas that your daughter,
niece, students, mentee, or young friend may take to heart.
her to take healthy, adventurous risks.
are generally rewarded for good behavior instead of venturing
outside the box. Encourage them to take positive
risks such as trying out for the lead in the school play
or signing up for a backpacking trip. Read them one of
my favorite quotes from computer programming language
inventor Grace Murray Hopper: "A ship in port is safe,
but that's not what ships are built for." This embodies
the spirit a girl should embrace as she moves into her
can also discuss with her that its the process of
taking the risk that matters most, and that she's
sure to learn something valuable from every risk she takes.
Cite actor Geena Davis as an example. A famous media personality,
Davis could have rested on her acting laurels, but instead
she is continually honing new skills. For example, she
tried out for the U.S. Olympic team in archery. When she
didnt make it, she said: I think I did well.
I was very happy, and added that she'd try again
in four years.
her open the lens wider when taking a snapshot of career
way to do this is to encourage her to attend an event
correlated with the Ms. Foundation's annual "Take Our
Daughters and Sons to Work Day" (the fourth Thursday in
April). This annual event was begun so girls could get
real-life views of how they might thrive in the world
way to give a girl career soul food is to
teach her that a career should be fun. When I was selecting
quotes for the Careers chapter of The Girls'
Book of Wisdom, the advice I found ran unanimously
in favor of finding work one enjoys. Entrepreneur Nanci
Mackenzie explained: "I enjoy working like other people
enjoy taking vacations. And Princess Diana said:
People think at the end of the day that a man is
the only answer [to fulfillment]. Actually a job is better
can bolster girls' career development by helping them
see that a good job holds numerous rewards. Suggest she
pay attention to what she most likes to do in her spare
time. The skills she develops in hobbies could well be
the ones she ends up translating into a career.
off about self-reliance.
though we're in a new century, many girls are still hoping
and dreaming that when they grow up, their "prince" will
emerge and take care of them financially (and in other
ways). However, for most women this is not likely to happen,
or, if it does, it won't last a lifetime. Your girl mentee
may not initially get Virginia Woolf's A
woman must have money and a room of her own," or Katharine
Hepburn's As one goes through life one learns that
if you don't paddle your own canoe, you dont move.
But she may store these reality checks for future examination,
ultimately embracing them at a key moment in her development.
you plant the right seeds, they could very well someday
sprout. The wisdom you offer girls now could prove transformational
for them as they move into young adulthood and beyond.
by Catherine Dee
latest book is the second edition of The Girls' Guide
to Life (2005). For more information, visit
the Empowering Books
for Girls web site, www.empowergirls.com.