Is Your Daughter’s “NICENESS” Interfering with Her Self-Esteem???
Posted Apr 30 2011 8:22am
This morning, after yet ANOTHER day stuck inside because of the snowfall, my daughter asked me to play WII with her. (She has recently re-discovered it and it’s been a great distraction during the BLIZZARD!)
“What do you want to play – WII Sports or WII Play? Bowling? Boxing?” she asked me.
I replied that I didn’t really know, since I don’t really know the options. I asked her what she’s prefer.
“You decide!” she implored, “I really don’t care. I want you to choose. Please!”
My heart sank. It’s not that I didn’t really want to choose which WII to play. It’s that her “not caring” and “wanting me to choose” were becoming too-familiar phrases around our house lately. At almost 7 years old, my daughter has already begun to “learn” how to be a “nice” girl. UGH.
Not that I don’t want her to be a kind and compassionate person (of course I do!). I’m talking about something different here (see my past article on the curse of being TOO NICE nice).
I’m talking about this thing that happens to girls (and WOMEN!!) in which we learn to put others first, to automatically gauge our desires and wants according to what we think others want, and to tune out our own intuition and self-awareness of our own wants and needs.
The implications on our lives, of course, are huge and I see it ALL THE TIME in my practice: girls and women who are disconnected from their own needs, desires, wants, and HUNGERS. Girls and women who aren’t sure what will support them in their lives, how to choose what to do for a career, what to say when they don’t want to do something (so they say yes and feel overwhelmed, resentful, depressed), and how to NOURISH their hungers (on so many levels).
You can see, I’m sure, how this relates to food and eating. When you don’t know what you want, you may not know how to discern your hunger and what truly “feeds” you. When you don’t know how to tune into your intuition or express your own needs and wants, you may “stuff” those down with “fake” forms of “fullness” (i.e. comfort food). When you say yes when you really mean to say no, you become depleted and exhausted and “starving.”
One of the best ways we can support our daughters in having a healthy relationship to food and eating is to help them learn how to have a healthy relationship with their emotional hungers and desires. It is our job, as the main women in their lives, to nourish and support the awareness – and expression! – of their desires, their hungers, and their big, bold selves.
Here are a few practical ideas for supporting your daughter in her SELF expression:
1) Notice if your daughter is being subtly rewarded for siphoning off her desires. Do teachers always tell you how sweet she is and how she puts other people first? Do you find yourself complimenting her more when she’s being “easy” and “thoughtful”? Do you get angry or frustrated when she says “no” to you or expresses a different opinion?
2) Start becoming aware of the times she does offer her opinion (even if it’s different from yours), express her desires and says no, and let her know that you like hearing what she wants! (Even if she says “no” to something you want her to do, you can acknowledge her ability to express herself while still standing your ground.)
3) Be direct: “Honey, you have a good mind. Ask yourself what YOU really want. You don’t always have to make me – or others – happy. Your opinions are important and valuable.”
4) Depending on her age, share stories of yourself and why you believe so strongly in her self-expression. Here’s a condensed version: “When I was a girl, I always tried to make other people happy because I thought they would like me better. It ended up making me sad and angry and tired. I’ve learned how important it is for me to express my real feelings. I want to support you in that too because YOU are so important and your ideas are so valuable.”
5) Notice your own struggles with expressing what you need, want, desire, think. MODEL saying no, speaking up, expressing your feelings honestly, asking for what you want. Your daughter is learning from you whether it’s really ok to say what she means.
6) When it comes to eating, try to avoid phrases like “you must be hungry! You haven’t eaten anything!” or “how can you possibly want that? You just ate!” This just serves to tune them away from their own internal hungers. Our daughters are the “knowers” of their hungers. It’s our job to help them tune into that “knowing” rather than being the “knowers” for them (more on this another time!)
I’d love to hear your comments and experiences with your own daughters and how you’re addressing some of these same challenges.