Annabel has a lot of confidence. She loves her hair and likes to brush it herself (so it will “get so long and so beautiful.”) When she looks at her reflection, she’ll pull her shirt up and say, “I love my tummy!” She’s been known to start dancing and shout out, “Look at my cute butt!”
Mike and I are always quick to tell her she’s more than just her looks. She’s smart, creative, funny. But yet, she’s shushed if she talks about herself, if she laughs too loudly at her own jokes, or lingers too long in front of her reflection. We tell her to tone it down because kids with her confidence are labeled vain, spoiled, precocious.
The ironic thing is that there’s a huge crisis of confidence in teens and grown women. Most females can name ten things they don’t like about themselves in one breath. We can’t accept compliments. The flaws in our reflections are all we can see. We spend thousands on self-help books, start confidence movements, and use hashtags in an attempt to recapture the confidence little kids come by naturally.
We want our kids to have high self-esteem, but then when they do, we only encourage them to whisper. To be confident is to be a target. Love yourself…quietly. Love yourself…but not too much.
I do not want this for my daughter. I don’t want her to struggle with self-esteem issues, or to know what the word “diet” means before she’s seven. I want her to walk confidently and think all of her ideas should be explored. She doesn’t think she’s better than anyone else, she just puts value in herself. Isn’t that what all the articles say to do, to value ourselves? I worry that when I tell Annie to restrain her confidence, she’s hearing “value yourself less.” So I’m never going to do that again.
I never want her to stop loving herself.