Growing up is hard. Navigating how to be independent among groups of individuals your same age who are going though the same raging hormones and erratic emotions (but with different parents and different rules) is probably one of the most awkward and scary stages of life.
When I was younger, I remember having so many thoughts that I allowed to penetrate my self-worth and create anxiety and self-doubt for me for years. Many caused me to live in unhealthy relationships and live in negative paths for periods of my life that I wish I could take back. It took me a long time to get over many of my uncomfortable feelings about myself, and to realize that I deserve so much more in life. I think this happens to a lot of women. If there is anything I can do for my daughter, it would be to help her grow to avoid these defeating thoughts as much as possible and to understand these 8 things about being a girl, and eventually a woman.
I grew up with "you're stupid" running in the back of my head constantly. Every dumb mistake turned into an obsession on how if I wasn't so inept, I wouldn't have made such a silly mistake. But the truth is, I was on the honor roll, I took accelerated coursework and was offered scholarships based on my academic achievements. I also ended up completing a master's program alongside having a family. So clearly, I'm not stupid.
I want to make sure that even when my daughter makes a mistake, I reinforce that mistakes are normal. People are not perfect. I want her to know that one stupid mistake does not define her, and if anything it's just another way to learn and grow. She's brilliant. She's strong. And she is definitely not stupid.
It took me many years, countless diets and multiple pregnancies before I started to realize that my body was perfect just the way I was. And even now, I still struggle with reminding myself of this. I want my daughter to understand that people come in all shapes and sizes, and striving to have the perfect body is an unrealistic and unhealthy goal. Being healthy, eating well and taking care of your body is so much more important than the reflection you see in the mirror. Sometimes that's out of your control no matter how hard you try.
Almost every man I dated (and one I married) were "bad boys" — men who needed help or support in more extravagant ways than the average relationship. It was my way of taking the focus off of my negative feelings about myself and focusing my energy elsewhere. But in taking on these strenuous relationships, I took away from myself. I couldn't spend as much time as I should have been focusing on my own well-being because I was so overwhelmed with taking care of someone else. I want my daughter to know that she deserves someone who doesn't require every ounce of her energy. I want her to not just feel but to comprehend that she is special and deserving.
I am the person people call when they are in a crisis because they know I will step up to help. But as I've gotten older, I have had to learn that it does no good to yourself as a whole if you are constantly giving and not receiving. You have to take care of your needs before you can even think about going above and beyond to help others. This is a lesson that took me a long time to learn. And it wasn't easy. I need my daughter to understand that she comes first. Her needs and her life need to be her number one priority. It's easy to lose yourself completely, and when you realize you've lost yourself, the damage can take much longer and much more heartache to repair. I also want her to know that saying "no" when you're too overwhelmed is completely acceptable. In fact, it's welcomed.
I'm not sure why, but I have a really hard time accepting even the most basic compliments from others. I guess it probably goes back to my body insecurities. I want my daughter to learn that it's ok to allow someone to compliment you, and to accept the compliment without downplaying yourself as a person. I even ask her questions that force her to tell me the positive things about herself.
I grew up afraid of disappointing my mom. I knew that she had high expectations of me, and that made it hard for me to ever feel comfortable coming to her with even minor issues going on in my life. When I found out I was pregnant at the age of 26, I was terrified to tell my mom. Because even though I was an adult and I had established my life with the man I loved, I was so afraid of disappointing her. I don't want that kind of relationship with my daughter. I want her to know that even through my disappointment, I am proud. I am trustworthy. And she can tell me anything without fear of my reaction. Everyone needs that kind of support. I want to help her through the tough stuff, and know that she believes I can.
Similar to accepting compliments, it's also important to know your worth and not take any less. I find myself apologizing or feeling bad for minor successes. I make excuses as to why something good happens, instead of allowing myself to be proud of my hard work. Everything good in life takes effort on your part, and women are so quick to forget that. It's important to give yourself a pat on the back sometimes. I want her to be able to not only see herself as beautiful and worthy, but be able to talk about her accomplishments with pride.
Low self-esteem can easily put you into relationships that are unhealthy. No matter what, it's never ok to be treated like a lesser human being. After going through an abusive relationship, I learned the hard way that people will beat you down until they have completely crushed your will to fight. And that's something I don't ever want my daughter to experience. I want her to be able to spot when someone is being emotionally or physically harmful, and to be strong enough to LEAVE before it's too hard to just walk away.
Raising a daughter when you are a woman is scary. You know all of the things that they are going to fear most. All of the terrifying and hurtful things they might encounter as they grow older. And worst of all, the insecurities that she will bring on herself. As a woman you want to save your children from the world but you also know the importance of learning some (maybe even most) lessons for yourself. You want to be there and hold their hand along the way so they know they aren't alone. Even though your little girl might not be your baby anymore she will always be your daughter, and it will always be your job to keep her safe.
Nicole is a realtor, divorced mom of three, and ally to the transgender community. As a mom who achieved her graduate degree alongside growing her family, she understands the importance of finding a work/life balance. Follow her on her blog where she focuses on family, parenting, divorce, and experiences of raising a young transgender child.