Good Housekeeping just posted a terrific piece giving advice to mothers, titled, “5 Ways to Encourage Confidence in Your Daughter”
An important part of the message is that for women to consciously build confidence in their daughters, they also have to undo the messages they have bought into—self-defeating beliefs and behaviors I call toxic girly thoughts.
GH quotes a study by feminine-care brand Always that surveyed “more than 1,000 British females aged between 16 and 24 years old, and found that a staggering 66% reported feeling held back by society.”
Yes, by the time young women are spreading their wings, they feel society’s constraints. But the truth is, this begins much earlier and more innocently.
How Does It Happen?
Mothers learn what society expects and unconsciously teach their daughters to do the same. A mother’s actions are observed by her daughter, who then consciously or unconsciously models Mom’s behaviors.
Think you’re not guilty? Have you ever:
- berated yourself in front of your daughter?
- announced “I’m so stupid” when you’ve made a mistake?
- focused on criticizing your appearance with statements like “I’m so fat“ when you look in the mirror?
- avoided taking risks because “I know I’ll mess this up if I try”?
- focused on gender stereotypes so they will be seen as acceptable by:
- saying things like “Don’t be a smarty pants,” or
- encouraging your daughter to wear a dress instead of pants, or
- rewarding your daughter for being sweet while you reward your son for being strong?
When we act on our toxic girly thoughts in front of our own daughters, we inadvertently teach them to do likewise, thereby carrying society’s message home to another generation.
What to Do?
Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk. You are the most powerful example your daughter has. Listen to how you speak to yourself.
Then ask yourself, Is this how I want my daughter to speak to herself?
If not, then stop. Easy? No. But you’ll have lots of opportunity to practice saying no to your girly thoughts because these messages are all through society.
Once you stop acting on these disempowering and toxic messages, you will inspire confidence in your daughter, and at the same time, you’ll gain more confidence in yourself!
Remember, you’ll find more ideas for getting rid of your negative self-talk in my latest book, The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power
Patricia A. O'Gorman, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice. She is noted for her work on women, trauma, and substance abuse and for her warm, inspiring, and amusing presentations that make complex issues accessible and even fun. She has served as a consultant to organizations across the country in preventative and clinical strategic planning. Dr. O'Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and she has held positions ranging from director of a rape crisis center to clinical director of a child welfare agency, and director of the division of prevention for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). She is a veteran of numerous television appearances, including Good Morning America, Today, and AM Sunday and is the author of eight books including: The Girly Thoughts 10 Day Detox Plan (2014), The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (2013), and Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting (2012) 12 Steps to Self-Parenting.