Teaching Your Tween Girl Self Confidence

By Sarah Roach, BSW, MSW (in progress)

There are many challenges in being a woman, although one of the biggest challenges we face is societal pressures of being a woman. As women, we experience many expectations to look and behave certain ways, get married, have kids, be a good mom, be an involved parent but prioritize your work, what we should like or dislike, be polite, don’t be too loud, what we should wear, and what our bodies should look like… in short, we need to be perfect. As a young woman I remember constantly thinking about how I should behave in certain situations and how I should like certain things just because I was a girl. I felt pressured to meet societal standards and constantly compared myself to others. This diminished my own self-esteem as a child which is one of the reasons this topic sparks my interest.

Young girls are exposed to these high expectations and behaviors at a young age and as we know, children are always learning from their environment. Consequently, they pick up on these expectations, comparisons, and modeling we engage in as adults. 

On average, young women start to show signs of low self esteem at age 11, and this effects magnifies throughout their teen years. This is why I believe it is important to intervene and teach young girls how to cope with the everyday pressures they experience and see. When we don’t teach young women about their self worth, it can have lasting effects on their self-esteem, confidence, and overall self-worth. My hope is to teach young girls ways to love themselves as they are without the pressure of others by teaching strategies to set boundaries, increase positive self-talk, and accept oneself while integrating mindfulness techniques.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is the confidence and value in your own values, worth, and morals which affects how you value yourself and how you perceive others. There are a variety of factors that affect a person’s self-esteem such as social media, bullying, dealing with discrimination or stigmatism, mental health, worries about body image, pressure from family or friends, and more.

How does self-esteem affect us?

Having low self-esteem can manifest into feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, blaming oneself, hating oneself, self doubt, negative self-talk, perfectionism, people pleasing, worrying about the inability to do things, and more.

When someone has low self-esteem, they face many challenges. This can impact each person in different ways, but a few include struggling with anxiety, depression, self criticism, anger, shame, sadness, guilt, judgment, motivation, and their view of themselves. Additionally, having low self esteem can affect a person’s relationships with others, work, social interactions, and school.

What does healthy self-esteem look like and how can we get there? 

An accurate understanding of one’s own skills, the ability to set firm boundaries, having realistic yet appropriate expectations, having the understanding of your own needs and having the ability to express these needs to others. 

As adults we can do many things to cultivate a healthy self-esteem as well as improve self esteem in our kids. Here are some ideas:

  • Model body positivity
  • Teach boundaries (and how to say no)
  • Balance the type of compliments you give (don’t only give superficial compliments)
  • Praise effort rather than outcome
  • Have a candid conversation about media and what it is and is not (there is a lot of pressure portrayed by the media to look a certain way)
  • Encourage new opportunities
  • Model positive self-talk
  • Model confidence

This is a topic I am passionate about and I started a new group for girls 8-11 years old to work on their self-esteem in a non-judgemental group setting. I will be leading this group on five Saturdays from 10-11am: 10/21, 11/4, 11/11/, 11/18, and 12/2. For more information or to register, please click here.