Having a baby girl in August kind of shook me to my core. She has an 8-year-old older brother who looks up to my husband in every way imaginable, and I worried that my constant insecurities would rub off on her, when I really want to raise a strong, empowered daughter.
Reading a study published in the journal Science that shows that as young as 6 years old, girls are already less likely than boys to believe that the female gender is brilliant and that gender stereotypes do impact them made me more cautious about the way I act in front of my little girl. A recent body-confidence study by Girlguiding U.K. revealing that girls as young as 7 years old feel pressured to be pretty was enough for me take a cold, hard look at myself and the image I project each day.
The experience in the 10 months since my daughter was born has been one of the biggest learning moments for me. I’ve paid more attention to the message that I’m sending her through my actions every day, and it has in turn made me a more confident mom.
1. By being brave
I know that she’s still a little bit young to understand what being brave means, but I figured that if I get into the habit of starting it now, I’ll be able to keep pushing forward with my bravery her whole life. I decided that it’s time to take risks and break out of my shell whenever those opportunities present themselves. For instance, I’m typically the mom to sit on the sidelines and let everyone else have their fun, but while we were traveling last week, I joined in on all those scary rides at Universal Studios instead of just waiting for everyone else. I believe simple things like that that will establish bravery in her from the start so she never looks back and says, “I wish I did that.”
2. Not letting my insecurities leave me sitting on the sidelines
So many of my insecurities are body-related, but I refuse to allow those to keep me from creating memories with my kids. Even something as simple as wearing a bikini even though I haven’t quite lost all the baby weight yet speaks volumes to a young mind.
3. Practicing positive mantras every day
Every day of her life, my daughter hears that she is strong, beautiful, kind and smart. These are the types of reiterations that will help her go through life replaying them in her head. She will be confident in herself, knowing she possesses everything inside her to make the best decisions in her life as she grows.
4. Recognize my strengths
In my experience, women as a whole tend to be really hard on themselves — and I’m no different. I look at my flaws and let them outweigh the things I’m actually really good at, and I’m trying to change that. I work from home and know that I’m good at my job, and I let my daughter see that every single day. I want her to grow up to see her mother being confident in her abilities and skills. I see this as a way for her to not only recognize her own potential, but know the enormous power in that.
5. Work out!
I want to not only empower my daughter to be strong-minded, but physically strong and healthy too. Having a regular fitness routine has always been a huge part of my life, and at exactly six weeks postpartum, my daughter was by my side in her baby swing watching or in the jogging stroller along for the ride.
6. Make healthy choices
The biggest standout for me with showing her to make healthy choices is that it translates to respecting her body. This is a big one because I want to empower her to always know that she is in charge of her body and makes all the decisions that go along with that.
7. Reading books with her that have an empowering message
Relaxing before bed and reading together is one of my favorite times of day with my 10-month-old. As she gets older, we’ll switch to stories with girls in the forefront, having adventures so she knows she can do anything boys can do. For now, our favorite is The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin, as it instills the value in her mind of all the wonderful things she will do in her lifetime.
8. By being her cheerleader
Through thick and thin, I will always, always be there cheering my daughter on. I want my daughter to know that she has the potential to do anything she puts her mind to, but she also shouldn’t be afraid to work hard to get there. In these early years, cheering her on while she hits her milestones, learns something new and steps outside her comfort zone to do something as simple as trying a new food will keep me in her head, cheering her on, during those times in life when I may not be right by her side.