8 Ways to Ensure Your Daughters Don’t Inherit Your Self Esteem Issues

Ways to Improve Daughters' Self Esteem - SavvyMom

I am sorry that I am fat.
I hate myself.
I know that you probably don’t love me.
I should run away.
I wish you didn’t have to have such a fat daughter.

I wrote those words when I was seven years old. I didn’t run away. I continued to deal with weight issues and my own sense of worth, up until today. It’s hard to know sometimes where the weight issues end and the mental ones begin.

I wish I could go back in time and hug that little girl. I wish I could sit with her and talk about how to address these issues. I obviously can’t, but I can hug my two daughters who are seven and five-years-old. I can try to head off low self esteem with them.

The hard truth is that although I did go on to become obese (and then lose the weight, and then gain, and lose again), at that moment of the letter writing I was not fat. I didn’t become “fat” until after I already had started labeling myself.

Now I have an opportunity as a mother to make sure that I give my daughters the tools to protect themselves from the path I went down. The path towards mental anguish, self-hatred, and doubt. I worry about their physical health, but my experience suggests that taking care of ourselves mentally is directly related. So, I will focus on keeping their minds happy and healthy. Here’s how I plan to do it…

Ways to Keep Your Daughters’ Self Esteem Healthy

1. Show Them How It’s Done:

Model self acceptance and self esteem. You can’t tell your daughters that they are perfect the way they are and then turn to your reflection and pick apart your flaws. I’m not sure if you are aware, but about 50% of the time people are telling your daughter that she looks so much like her mom (the other 50% it’s her dad’s relatives). If her mom is in the mirror listing what ugliness she sees in herself, and she is being told she is the likeness of her mother, what is that little girl left to put together but that she also should be ashamed of her looks?

We need to be vigilant with this. This is a big one and it will shape her first ideas of herself. Not only that, it shapes your view of yourself.

If you can’t look at yourself in the mirror and point out things you like, look at it as neutral. Don’t attribute good or bad things to your face and body. It is just there. Eventually after cutting out the negative chatter, hopefully, you will start to feel better and make a mental change. If not, at least that little girl will know the part of her that is her mother is still beautiful.

2. The Family That Watches TV Together, Learns to Love Themselves Together:

Media has many messages about what we should strive for in our looks. Try to speak up if you see there is an underrepresented group on the show you are watching. If there are stereotypes, see if you can discuss them and see what is being “sold” through the media. Are there positive messages? Is that curvier friend in the show just as likable and pretty?

3. There Is No “Insecure” in Team:

Girls that get involved in team sports early are shown to have a higher self esteem. Their body images are better off and as a bonus, they are less likely to do drugs. If your child’s personality allows it, this is a great way to develop friendships and build confidence as well. Unfortunately, not all of our children are the team sports type. That’s okay. Not all of these will work for your particular child. The goal is to have enough options to make some of them work for you.

4. For Every Compliment Given About Appearance, Give Two Others:

It’s really easy to give a compliment to someone based on looks. The goal is to move focus away from how she looks and towards what she does. Dr. Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist, school consultant and creator of the Full of Ourselves social-emotional program for girls, suggsts that for every one compliment you give on appearance you give two compliments on non-appearance things. Don’t just do it for your daughters, let’s try to do it for all the women in our lives. We deserve it.

5. Praise the Effort:

The outcome in many situations will be secondary to the effort your kids put in. You want them to try new things. If you only support them when they successfully perform at the new unfamiliar things, then they will start to be reluctant to move towards new experiences.

6. Raise Them Up:

Try your best to not talk negatively about other women around your kids. Avoid the easy put downs that have been around forever. Name calling never ends well.

7. Confidence Vs. Conceit:

Confidence in women or girls is too often confused with being conceited. Again Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD puts it best when she says “Girls need to know that claiming their strengths doesn’t mean they’re stuck up.” Teach our daughters that they can do anything and healthy self esteem is confidence, not conceit.

8. Listen to Them, But Don’t Jump in to Fix:

Sometimes you just want to talk a situation out, without having someone solve it for you. Same goes for your daughters. Let your daughters talk it out and work it through with you. Offer your insight and your hand to hold. Then let them march into managing the problem like the bosses that they are. The more they handle, the better they will be at remaining calm and leading their future.

When my seven-year-old daughter told her little sister that she was prettier than her, I immediately launched into how they are both so incredibly beautiful. I now wish I hadn’t. But when I watched my daughter look down at her rounded belly (because she was pushing it out) and say, “I have a big belly, though,” it knocked the wind out of me. It hurt enough that I decided to sit down to research how to make this better. How to avoid leading my daughters down the path I took.

Knowledge is the first step. Every part of me went into making my daughters. My body and soul. The times that hurt, the times that made me scared, and the numerous times I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. They made those girls and I will stop being mad about my mama pooch and my cellulite. I will confidentially take action to address those issues. Because those girls are me, and we all deserve to know that we are so much more than an appearance.



  1. Beverly on September 10, 2023 at 9:33 pm

    Why is there a black woman and child being used when talking about something negative? This constant perpetuation of negativity when it comes to people of colour in social media and other spheres does not help anyone. I hope in the future the publishers of this magazine would be more thoughtful and considerate when they use images and think about the impact it has on people, particularly racialize people.

    • Corinne McDermott on September 12, 2023 at 10:55 pm

      I’m so sorry. I can assure you this was not intentional. I don’t find the tone of this piece negative however I’m not black so that’s not for me to decide. I’ll change the image.

  2. Moira Sherman on September 13, 2023 at 9:27 am

    I’m having some issues with this piece as well. I agree with the commenter above that there is an undercurrent of negativity and not associating this with an image of POC was the right choice. In regards to the negative undercurrent it may not be perceptible to the author but it is there. There is a perceptible tone of dismay towards bigger bodies and that should be considered, even if not intentional. Although some of the points are valid and well intended, the use of the word Unfortunately when referring to children who don’t enjoy team sports doesn’t sit right, not everyone is athletically inclined or able-bodied. Different, more passive pursuits are just as admirable, like art, music, coding and even gaming can produce similar self esteem and team building benefits. Where is the source material stating that youth who do not participate in team sports are more susceptible to drug use? That seems questionable. I’m thinking while trying to gently point out that there is some personal projection in this piece and that is fair enough, we’re all susceptible. With respect, I think we need to be careful with our words and sensitivity is called for when discussing different body types and abilities so we set a better example for the future generation.

    • Corinne McDermott on September 17, 2023 at 9:57 pm

      Thank you for your comment. This article is the author’s first-person perspective. No one’s more aware than I am about the damage that diet culture can do and I believe that’s demonstrated, not celebrated, in this piece. That bias is real and it’s everywhere. I don’t see that it’s condoned as ok. I appreciate someone being vulnerable enough to share in this way.

Leave a Comment