I was driving along, listening to a fabulous book, completely absorbed in the story, minding my own business, and BAM! No, it wasn’t a car wreck; it was a mind wreck. A passage from the book set my mind on an ever-winding course of fear. Not fear for myself. Fear for my daughter, for the unnecessary fears she will undoubtedly face.
From A Secret Place by Tana French (page 53):
She hears all the voices from when she was little, soothing, strengthening: Don’t be scared, not of monsters, not of witches, not of big dogs. And now, snapping loud from every direction: Be scared, you have to be scared, ordering like this is your one absolute duty. Be scared you’re fat, be scared your boobs are too big and be scared they’re too small. Be scared to walk on your own, specially anywhere quiet enough that you can hear yourself think. Be scared of wearing the wrong stuff, saying the wrong thing, having a stupid laugh, being uncool. Be scared of guys not fancying you; be scared of guys, they’re animals, rabid, can’t stop themselves. Be scared of girls, they’re all vicious, they’ll cut you down before you can cut them. Be scared of strangers. Be scared you won’t do well enough in your exams, be scared of getting in trouble. Be scared terrified petrified that everything you are is every kind of wrong. Good girl.
I say “undoubtedly” because that is what we expect. We all went through the teenage years uncertain at times and downright afraid at others. Were we ever sure of ourselves? I mean, our entire selves? We all allowed our friends and society to make decisions for us, afraid that on our own we’d make the wrong choice. I say “undoubtedly” because that is what we say. Everyone must go through that in order to come out on the other end stronger and surer of herself. We may not be happy with it, but I went through it, you went through it, and our daughters will go through it. It’s a rite of passage.
I call bullshit. I don’t see why my daughter or yours has to be afraid of herself. We perpetuate this fear cycle by enabling it. And therefore we also have the power to crush it. Enlist your daughter’s friends’ moms and make a concerted effort to take down fear. We are the introduction to our children’s belief systems, and when they are young, we can influence those belief systems in very powerful ways. As they grow older, their friends take seats on the board next to us and help steer that confidence. Why not teach them early to value themselves as individuals rather than in comparison to others? Why not model for them the self-esteem they will need to stand up to fear and then turn away from it? Why not give them the easy way through this “rite of passage”? Why not give them the soothing words we gave them when they were young, urging them to not be afraid?
I’ve always thought positive affirmations seemed a little hokey. But now that I think about it, maybe that’s a good place to start. After all, if you hear something long enough, you’re likely to start to believe it. I’m going to try it — for both myself as a model and for Story. Every day, I will say five affirmations and have Story do the same. I urge you to try it as well. Let us know how it works in the comments section below. I’ve listed a few websites here to help you get started in finding those affirmations that fit you and your daughters best:
Remember, you are the best weapon against fear and self-doubt. The way you treat yourself and your child, whether verbally or through your actions, is going to shape your child’s belief system and influence the way she treats herself in the future.