10 Ways to Build Self-Esteem in Black Girls


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Before becoming a mom to two little girls, I remember having a conversation with a friend about girls and self-worth.  My friend said, “We should not tell little girls they are ‘cute, ’ instead we should tell them that they are ‘smart!’”  She argued that because we tell girls how cute they are at a young age, their value becomes wrapped up in their looks and not their brains.  Fast forward to 2012 and President Barack Obama tells his daughters, Malia and Sasha they are strong, smart and beautiful but he gets criticized for saying they’re ‘beautiful.’

But feeling beautiful is an important part of self-esteem for every woman and little girl.  There are products, media and people trying to define what beauty is and is not.  When I see how skin bleaching is becoming so mainstream, and how beautiful brown skinned women struggle with self esteem, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to tell our daughters how beautiful they are, every day.  Of course, we do not want our daughters to be so wrapped up in their beauty that they cannot appreciate anything else, but in all things there needs to be balance.  We can raise smart confident girls who know they are beautiful.

When I think about building up the self esteem of my two girls, I hear the phrase in my head, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  If your daughter is struggling with self esteem issues, by all means address them.  But do not wait for that to happen, do all you can to build her up so that her testimony can be I always loved myself.

So how do we build self esteem in little brown girls?  Here are a few suggestions.

1. Daily Affirmations.  Give lots of praise through words and actions.  Tell her every day the things that make her beautiful, and have her say it as well.  You are beautiful.  Your eyes are beautiful. Your hair is beautiful.  Your skin is beautiful.  Your nose is beautiful.  You are capable of doing great things.  You are intelligent. You are loved.  Have her repeat it:  I love myself, I love my eyes, I love my hair, I love my beautiful brown skin, I love my nose, I am capable of doing great things, I am intelligent, I am smart, I am loved.  I love this viral video of Jessica saying these affirmations in the mirror.  Teach your daughter to say daily affirmations.  When we speak words they have power.


 
2. Surround her with beautiful images of black people in books, media and art around your home.  Need a list? Thispost on books, movies and TV shows that affirm brown girls is what brought me to this blog.

3. Sing songs that affirm black beauty like, James Brown’s ‘Say It loud’ or Sesame Street’s ‘I Love My Hair’.


 
4. Speak well of yourself!  As previously noted here on Baby and Blog,  self esteem can be passed down from mother to daughter, so remember to avoid negative talk about yourself, for the sake of your daughters!

5. Speak well of other women!  Nothing screams low self-esteem like a woman who is always speaking negatively of others.  If you are always gossiping or putting down other women, this will rub off on your children.  Women who love themselves and are confident will find more praise to give than negative gossip to spread.

6. Let her hear the stories and testimonies of black voices who speak on self love and self hate

Martin Luther King–Black is beautiful

Malcolm X–Who taught you to hate yourself? (As with anything talk about the context of this speech.)

Lupita Nyong’o’s Black Women in Hollywood Acceptance Speech


 
7. Listen to your daughter, even when she is saying things that do not seem to be important, and especially when she is saying things that are difficult for her to express.  When kids know you are paying attention to them, it makes them feel important. And if they always feel that they don’t have your attention, it hurts their self-esteem. Let her voice be heard, and show her that her voice is powerful, important and meaningful to you.  Engage your daughter in conversation, encourage her to speak her mind, let her know that her opinions and thoughts are important.

8. Limit media. There are so many images of women that are over-sexualized and promote unrealistic and/or Eurocentric ideals of beauty.  Make sure that you monitor her access to these images because they can permeate the mind.

9. Teach your daughter how to dissect the media and analyze it. There will come a time when you won’t be able to control her media consumption, and she will seek out her own information and entertainment. Make sure she is armed and prepared to negotiate and, if necessary, resist the images, narratives and ideals she will encounter.  Media literacy and critical thinking are very important for teenagers these days. We consume so much media and we need to have discerning minds as we take it all in.  A good video that I used to share with my high school students is Killing Us Softly.


 
10. Get her involved in sports. Studies have shown that girls who are involved in sports have greater confidence than those who are not. Sports gives girls the opportunity to develop confidence in their bodies’ strength and performance rather than its appearance.

Finally, know that raising confident women is not only important to you and your family, it is important to the world.


 
Mommies, what tips would you add to this list?  How do you encourage your daughters self esteem?

Angele is a wife to a wonderful creative husband, mother to two beautiful intelligent daughters and a lover of art, education and laughter.  She is the creator and author of ABC remix.

Angele

About Angele

Angele is a wife to a wonderful creative husband, mother to two beautiful intelligent daughters and lover of art, education and laughter. She is the creator and author of ABC remix


  • Baby and Blog

    What a powerful piece!! As I was editing it I was nodding my head in agreement. If I could add a number 11 (although it’s kind of related to numbers 4 and 5) it would be to examine and challenge your own notions of beauty!

    Most of the work I do is highlighting and celebrating black women, so I thought I was immune/exempt from a lot of the colorism, cattiness and infighting that can occur amongst women of color. But recently an acquaintance of mine — who I felt was a very plain and even unattractive black woman in her mid-30s — became engaged and married to a very loving and supportive man. I went out to lunch with a friend of mine who also knows of the girl, and our conversation devolved into cattiness, as we both expressed shock at her marriage. Later that day I was deeply ashamed of the conversation and started to wonder; what had I been taught about women and marriage that would make it hard for me to believe that this girl could find a partner?

    The truth is that I’d been taught that pretty girls fetch the best husbands and are rewarded for their beauty with the ‘first round of the draft’ when it comes to picking a life spouse. We all know that this is not true. One look at the disastrous state of marriages in Hollywood (and reality TV!) proves this is not true — but somehow I had internalized this to the point that I was mocking someone for not fitting into my ideal and thus not being deserving of a quality relationship.

    I have really had to take some long, hard, reflective looks at myself! I don’t want to pass down my ignorance to my son and — if God blesses me with a girl — my daughter.

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    • Angele

      “If I could add a number 11 (although it’s kind of related to numbers 4 and 5) it would be to examine and challenge your own notions of beauty!”

      That is an excellent one! I totally agree. No matter what we think, our notions of beauty have been shaped by someone else: our culture, media, family etc. So examining and challenging our own thoughts is very important.

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      • Angele

        I was thinking, how could I leave off #12 Introduce your daughters to awesome Black women role models from our history and present!

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  • BeaJae

    I’m not a mother, but I think this is an important piece; maybe, one for boys can be written (then again, some of these can also apply to boys). All of the points are key, but number 7 especially stands out to me. It takes me back to some of my childhood experiences and how those experiences on up have led me to still struggle with speaking my mind/speaking up for myself in general. As an adult, that becomes especially a problem when it hinders your personal and professional growth. Also, the importance of number 7 becomes even more evident when I’m around children and see how they respond to not being heard. It’s so necessary to listen to them and in listening, allow them to be their true selves.

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    • Angele

      Thanks for your feedback, yes a lot can also apply to boys as well, I do think they deserve a separate post 🙂

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  • http://IguessFacebook Debra Carter

    This article was very informative and intelligently written and I’m sure will be a very helpful tool in helping young mothers to raise their daughters!

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    • Angele

      Thank You!

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  • Nathalie

    I have two beautiful girls. I cannot stress this enough to tell you what an eye opener this is for me. This article is everything a mother can ask for. Very informative and powerful blog!

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    • Angele

      Thank you!

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  • http://www.DearDumplin.com Joey

    Hi Angele,

    First, slow hand clap for the awesomeness that is your article. Fantastic job! This was right on time! My daughter is one and I find myself thinking of ways to maintain her happy self. I know that self-esteem will be a giant piece of the puzzle. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction.

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  • Shona

    What an amazing piece. When I became a mother to a little girl seven years ago, it was my mission to make her feel beautiful, strong, confident and smart. I even transitioned to wearing my natural hair in order to teach her to love her hair… I would also like to add how important it is to teach our Black Boys how to love themselves and be confident with their skin, etc. I have two boys as well and just as I teach my daughter self love, I make sure my sons are right there building confidence within them as well.

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    • Steven Smith

      How does your husband help?

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    • Steven Smith

      Just so it’s clear; I am supportive of the piece, but a little ticked off it says nothing about the MOST IMPORTANT ingredient in insuring your daughter has self esteem – the presence of a loving FATHER!

      All this other stuff is of significant less relevance.

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  • Steven Smith

    Here’s a suggestion! Make sure you’re daughters have a FATHER IN THE HOME. Preferably, you know, your husband?

    As 72% of black children are raised by single mothers (a disaster) at least 50% of those children are black girls. The self esteem of those black girls will be improved tremendously if black women make more intelligent choices and, you know, get married before popping out bastard children.

    THAT (what’s written above) is at the core of more social problems than any of the trivial nonsense mentioned here.

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    • Baby and Blog

      Steven, please take your false concern, which really is thinly veiled racism, and go someplace else.

      The woman who wrote this piece is married. As am I. As are 8 of the 9 women who contribute to this site.

      A few things to consider:

      What has been written is NOT “trivial nonsense”. American culture is very invested in a Eurocentric standard and ideal for beauty. And resists the humanization of black men, women and children.

      I grew up in a home with a loving father, and I still struggled with self-love as a girl. Yes, as you point out, having a father in the home is key — but additional ‘weapons’ are needed in the fight to assure black girls of their beauty, value and worth.

      Comments like yours, which hurl stereotypical assumptions at the black women who write and comment on this site, are exactly part of the problem. It is people like you that we are trying to protect our daughters from.

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      • Dananana

        You tell it, Leila!

        To the racist troll under the guise of “Steven Smith”:

        I grew up with two married, heteronormative parents. My dad is actually the root of some of my self esteem issues. As an adult, our relationship has grown and flourished into what it always should have been. But when I was a preteen, a teenager, a young woman, when I needed him most? He wasn’t really there for me. He was wrapped up in a struggle with his own demons, leftover from a childhood filled with abuse.

        I think it’s harmful to push this idea that a child is not a complete or whole being without two opposite gender parents. I know quite a few individuals raised by a single parent that have way fewer confidence/emotional issues than I do, so it’s not fair to state in any way that a mother and a father are what makes a child a stable, healthy individual.

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  • http://ourdiversityatwork.com Stéphanie

    Since Monday, I’ve been doing this with my Girls.

    First day: they were super uncomfortable.

    Day 2: one was blowing kisses at herself. I love to see how parents (who are blessed to find such good articles like this one) can help their kids blossom.

    Thank you,

    Stef

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  • Angele

    Stéphanie that is awesome! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  • Angele

    I just found this video, perfect for this post!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwLpoy0nfng

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  • http://www.eip.com/ Patent Lawyer

    I think this is a very important post, often these posts focus on ‘confidence in girls’ but we have to understand that confidence in young people of colour may be lower due to their lack of prevalence in the media/fashion magazines, which is completely unacceptable.I particularly think it’s a wonderful idea to surround the young girl with inspirational photos of great black men and women.

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  • Carolina Sander

    I love this article. Hey in case you need something for your gags, or fun gatherings, this is perfect. The new Fake Ultrasound designs from Fakeababy.

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