Self-confidence in young girls

 Wanting to be someone else in a waste of the person you are

-Marilyn Monroe


Society sends girls the message that it is important for them to get along with others and to be very, very thin and pretty. The question I pose:  What can a parent do to build a confident daughter who does not fit this ideal?


In the last year I have been requested to see a number of children, more often girls, presenting with a low self-image/self-esteem/self-confidence. Symptoms include: doubting her abilities, feeling ‘useless’, calling herself ‘dumb,’ ‘stupid’ and ‘fat.’

The term self-image is used to refer to a person’s mental picture of herself. A lot of our self-image is based on interactions we have with other people and our life experiences. This mental picture (our self-image) contributes to our self-esteem.

Self-esteem is a girl’s perception of herself. It is all about how much she feels valued, loved, accepted and thought well of by others — and how much we value, love, and accept ourselves. A girl with a healthy self-esteem is able to feel good about herself, appreciate her own worth and take pride in her abilities, skills, accomplishments and is happy with what she sees in the mirror. A girl with a low self-esteem may feel as if no one likes her or accepts her or that she does not do well in anything.

Self-confidence is how a girl views her own abilities to do something. The level of self-confidence is usually a result of overcoming certain obstacles or working to improve a skill. Skills build on our confidence.

What can a parent do?

  • Mothers need to be warned about making negative comments about their own weight or appearance or casually mentioning that you feel insecure about a particular body part. Try modelling healthy habits, such as eating a balanced diet, enjoying treats in moderation, exercising (without complaining) and embracing your body the way it is.
  • Think twice about commenting on somebody’s appearance, whether in a positive or negative way. Negative comments invite young girls to create an unhealthy sense of beauty. Staring at a billboard and stating that you wish to have a stomach like the model may cause your daughter to look negatively at her stomach.
  • Make an effort every day to tell your daughter that she is beautiful and to look at her with loving, rather than critical, eyes.  She is perfect – the way that she is.
  • Empower your daughter by encouraging her individual interests and recognising when she excels. Having a hobby, passion or creative outlet helps build confidence and allows your daughter’s mind to flourish in an environment in which she feel safe and comfortable.
  • To build your daughters confidence and self-efficacy, assign her responsibilities at which she can succeed. These include: doing the laundry, cleaning her room or something as simple as sewing loose buttons back onto garments.
  • Talk about your child’s fears. Monitor your child’s television, radio and internet activity. Help her to avoid overexposure to violent images, which can heighten her anxiety.
  • Praising your daughter will help her to gain confidence. However, the compliments that you give her must be genuine. She will recognise when they are not.


Your daughter may not fit into the mould of what society perceives how a girl should look. And more so than not it is then that we should embrace difference and a sense of love and respect for who she is.  The best gift you can part on your daughter, as a parent, is a healthy self-image and a sense of worth.


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