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Fayette-Mom: Our daughters, our self-esteem

Posted September 27, 2010 8:54 p.m. EDT
Updated September 29, 2010 9:39 a.m. EDT

Jennifer Joyner

When an ultrasound showed I was having a girl with my first pregnancy, I left the doctor’s office feeling as though I couldn’t breathe.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want a daughter. On the contrary, the thought of dresses and bows and little lace socks filled me with glee. But it also made me feel this overwhelming sense o f….. what? Responsibility? Weariness? Dread?

You see …. I’ve been fighting self-esteem issues all my life: never skinny enough, never pretty enough. And the experts tell us this rampant problem begins in childhood — that we have to start at the earliest of ages to let our daughters know they are smart, they are pretty, they are …. enough.

If I struggled so mightily with my own self-esteem issues, how would I ever prevent my child from going through something similar?

Emma is six and a half, and she is smart and pretty and outgoing, but she definitely has her moments. She wonders why certain friends don’t want to play with her, why so-and-so won’t sit with her on the bus. I try to tell her: You can’t control the actions of others, you can only control your reactions. Some days, I think I get through to her. Other days, I fight back tears, watching her struggle.

But ultimately, I’ve learned that the very best I can do for Emma is to lead by example. Even now, at 38 years old, I fight bad self-esteem. I constantly question whether I am worthy or if what I have to offer is of any value.

Do I do these things directly in front of my children? No. But I think we all know how intuitive our kids can be. If I want Emma to believe in herself, I have to show her that I don’t place so much value in what others think — that I set that bar for myself.

On good days, I know I am enough. On not-so-good days, I have to remind myself, sometimes by the hour, of my worth. I don’t give up. I keep pressing ahead.

And right now, I think that’s the very best thing I can do for my daughter.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food addiction memoir, "Designated Fat Girl," is out this month. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.