A Mother’s Effect On Her Daughter’s Self-Esteem

Here is an excerpt from a piece I submitted to a healthyplace.com. 

“Mothers need to be deeply aware of what they convey to their daughters through the attitudes they model about their own relationship to their bodies, their self-talk about how they look or “ought to” look, and how secure they seem in their choices. When a mother is battling low self-esteem or not even battling because she’s unaware it’s a root cause of frustration within her life, her daughter is likely to carry this burden as well. If a woman has spent her lifetime locked in a cycle of dieting, hatred of her own body and carries a sense of inadequacy, her daughter will understand that that is an acceptable way to consider oneself, although it’s not. This will inhibit a girl from feeling positively about her own body and she may even come to believe that negative talk is a way to bond with her mother or that being positive about herself is a form of unacceptable bragging.”

To read more, please click here.


Not a Perfect Ten..but Close. (A Teen Story of Self-Esteem)

I am the rare eight out of 10 on a scale of self-esteem. About those missing two points… It’s a visual thing, you know? People tell me, “Oh you have such a great figure!” or, “Oh you have such long legs!” or, “Oh, you’re so skinny!” and part of me believes them. But then I get a bad case of the “yeah buts…”

So I have long legs. Yeah, but… I have hairy arms. I think I get them from my dad, and I hate them so much!  I just want to shave them or wax them or something, but my mom says I’ll just make it worse and that my arms are beautiful the way they are.

So I am skinny. Yeah, but… I am TOO skinny. While some of my classmates starve themselves, I eat to gain weight. But I have a fast metabolism and it never quite works.

So I have a nice figure. Yeah, but… I have NO boobs. The media says I should have BIG boobs. Sometimes I look at other girls and think, Why can’t mine be like that? 

The “yeah buts” keep me from a 10 out of 10.

So where do the “yeah buts” come from? The media, I guess. Think of all the beautiful celebrities: Hourglass figures. Voluminous hair (on their heads and not their arms, of course!). White teeth. Blue eyes. No wrinkles. I know these are unrealistic expectations. I KNOW that. But sometimes I still want to experience what it feels like to have people look at me and think, Wow, she’s perfect! 

Other than the visual thing, I have good self-esteem. I have no idea where it came from. My mom and brother have anger issues and my dad just kind of goes with the flow, you know? I think looking at life positively and surrounding myself with a strong support system of family and friends helps. I try to hang out with positive people too. A lot of girls I used to be friends with were always saying things like, “Oh, I don’t have a boyfriend because this or that is wrong with me,” or, “Oh, I need a boyfriend.” Every conversation. I tried to tell them they were amazing just how they were, but some of them kept complaining. I can’t hang out with them anymore. Listening to them, I started feeling bad about myself too. It was hard, you know?

I don’t just ignore someone if they need help though. Like my friend who was depressed about her weight and contemplating suicide. Oh my God. What do you do when someone tells you that?  I asked her mom and she said she was out of ideas; nothing ever helped. So I got a group of girls together to talk to my friend and make her feel better. We’re not as close anymore, but I think she’s okay now. Another time, I asked a friend why her arm was bleeding, and she said that she cut herself over her boyfriend. I told her it wasn’t worth it; he wasn’t worth it. He wasn’t worth her time. I think she actually stopped for good. It’s just so sad, you know? That a girl would do this because of a boy.

There’s what girls will do because of a boy, but then there’s what they’ll do for a boy, right? I think boys put a lot of pressure on girls sometimes. They’ll say things like, “We’ve been dating a long time now. Things are getting boring so we need to try something new.” Or, “Well, so-and-so would do it,” and then the girl starts to feel bad if they don’t do it too. Or, “That’s the way to show affection if you really love me.” One girl in my school even sexted a naked picture to her boyfriend because he asked for it. Then he showed it to the whole school. Can you imagine? THE WHOLE SCHOOL. I felt so bad for her. It was horrible, just horrible.

I’ve had my run-ins with peer pressure too, what with my great figure and nice legs and all. Like the time I was dating this guy for only two weeks, and out of nowhere, he asked me for a blow job! Can you believe it? I told him he was crazy. And, he had texted it to me! That’s just CRAZY, right? I was like, “I don’t even know you!” I broke up with him the next day.

I am seventeen. I am a senior. I am 100% Mexican. I am more artistic than scholarly. I run track and go to work. I am an eight out of 10. Yeah, but…

Yeah, but… I would really like those other two points.

Why Sarah Cuts. (The ugly side of low self-esteem)

My interview with a 16 year old cutter.

She is a 16 year old girl with the lowest self-reported self-esteem of any girl I interviewed for my book.  She had tears in her eyes the entire interview and she nearly broke my heart. I found myself struggling between interviewing her and counseling her. She didn’t see herself as smart or pretty, good at sports or anything else really. She suffers from a very bad case of negative self-talk that’s alive and well living inside her. She told me that whatever she does, she hears an inner voice telling her she isn’t good enough and to quit, which she does every time. Because of this, she can’t stick to anything long enough to get good at it, experience success and then build confidence. This is a huge factor contributing to her very low self-esteem.  It has a paralyzing effect on her and has perpetuated an unnatural fear in her for anything new. She says her friends are starting to get tired of her negative attitude and they think that she is constantly fishing for compliments. She is pushing her friends away, which makes her inner voice (or saboteur) very happy. We talked about how she was bullied in middle school for being over weight, having braces and wearing glasses… all at the same time. She has never fully recovered from the way she was treated back then, even though she has blossomed into a beauty swan. She acquired an eating disorder freshman year of high school and based on our conversation, it seems that she still struggles with anorexia. She still sees that girl from middle school when she looks in the mirror and still hears the kids calling her names. More upsetting is the cutting. She told me that she “used to cut” herself, as a way to deal with stress in her life and probably because of the self hate. In her words, it’s a way to release stress and anger. Not to mention, the inner saboteur tells her to do it. She doesn’t have a close relationship with her mother and feels it’s partially her mom’s fault for her being bullied in middle school.  She feels her mom is the direct reason why she was overweight. In addition, they fight about school work. In her words, homework seems more important to Sarah than it does to her mother. The more mom pushes her to join the family, the more this teen pulls away.  Sarah is looking for independence, but is being challenged with family pressure to be  more like them. These pressures lead to more cutting. Getting good grades seems to be the only way she feels good about herself right now, although it’s generally fleeting. Her mom doesn’t understand the sadness and negative thoughts that circle her mind, so Sarah has stopped trying to tell her about them. This is a difficult relationship brewing between mother and daughter that is far from over.