Recently I had a discussion with several friends who, like me, have a daughter(s). I asked what one lesson do you feel is the most important to impart to your daughter? The answers all varied slightly (to use their voice, to stand up to bullies, to have good regard for their bodies) – but when broken down to their root core all the answers ended up being what my answer is: strong self-esteem.
As you may know if you’ve read my book Joan of Arc Is Dead, or been a client of mine for any time, I am on a personal mission to rid the world of modern-day martyrs. “Super women” who take on too much to their own physical and emotional detriment – women who do not speak up regarding their needs and wants. Worse yet is a prevalence in society to place value in looking (or acting) like Kim Kardashian or Pam Anderson while offering no substance.
Little girls are taught very early on to dress or pose sexy to gain acceptance (have you seen the Bratz dolls?!). This is often even before they understand the word, and more importantly, the ramifications of “sexy.” I overheard a young mother with her five-year old daughter in a salon one day reading People Magazine and discussing which women were sexy. The other day I saw a 10-year old girl dressed in very short shorts, high wedge heels and her shirt tied to reveal her belly button. SHE WAS 10!!!!
There is still a huge double standard in this world that while a man can go wild in Vegas and be considered cool, a drunk bikini clad girl at spring break is a desired conquest while simultaneously being considered loose and not the kind of girl you bring home to mom.
So how do our young daughters make sense of all these mixed messages? The still coveted ideal that men want a prim and proper lady running their home while being a whore in the bedroom is in itself a ridiculous concept to strive for.
Therefore, my goal is to inculcate my daughter with the ideals that she is a beautiful soul first and foremost – and on equal par to any man. She has a brain and a heart that must be used for her own self-advancement while still being compassionate and giving. Her body needs to be healthy inside and out, and confidence about her shape comes from knowing that she offers so much more underneath her skin (and that no BODY is perfect).
I hope to instill in her a value of her body as a whole – one that keeps her from choosing to flaunt her sexuality, especially before she’s old enough to understand what that means! I am teaching her to use her voice, not as a tattletale, but as a tool when a choice is being thrust upon her that does not jive with her moral code, comfort level, or simply an obvious injustice. As she grows, I hope to help her understand the power, beauty, and double-edge sword of female sexuality.
Lastly, I tell her she should never do something she really doesn’t want to do just to make me or her Dad (or a boyfriend) happy. Too often little girls learn early on to please their parents for the wrong reasons at the wrong times. Then once an adult this habit continues and the relationship between parents and children suffer, especially if she doesn’t feel she can say no to them, thereby imposing boundaries once she is married and has children.
As a Mother I feel that the goal of guiding my daughter into being a strong women who can still be vulnerable, with a healthy balance of selfishness and selflessness is an ongoing project, but one worth staying focused on. The same goes for mothers of young boys. They too need to be taught the fine line between strong self-esteem while still being able to be emotionally in tune and open.
Ultimately, we all need to have healthy boundaries and keep ourselves balanced!