When Do We Stop Thinking We’re Awesome?

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“I’m awesome!” “I’m adorable!” “I’m a great harmonica player!” “I’m the best hula hooper EVER!”

If you heard me shout one of these phrases, you would likely think I’m conceited and probably would talk about me behind my back… in a really bad way… unless it was about the harmonica playing… then you might think I was just a bit strange… or perhaps someone who picked up a hobby or two in prison.

But I did hear someone say these things recently. My five-year-old daughter. She has a very high opinion of herself and of her abilities on many fronts. She really does think she is amazing. And she is. And I’m proud that she thinks she is. Her self-assurance makes me feel like I am doing something right as the mother of a little girl.

2012 Girls on the Run Grand Rapids Montessori February 22, 2012 12

All of this makes me wonder, however, when we as females start to lose this self-assurance. I don’t know any women who would actually say to someone else in utter seriousness, “I’m awesome” or “I’m adorable” or “I’m the best at X,Y,Z.” Part of it is, no doubt, the lessons we will give our daughters in humility or in politeness later on. Because as we all know, as adults we don’t just go up and tell people we are awesome. It’s just not done. And if it is, it is not viewed as a good thing.

But it is a good thing (as far as I can tell) in little girls. As parents, we strive to forge self-confidence in them every step of the way. Why? To prepare them to deal with Queen Bees later in life? To give them enough sense of self to be able to ignore (to the degree possible anyway) the unrealistic portrayal of women in fashion magazines? To be able to be their own person in the face of peer pressure?

I don’t know, but what I do know is that when, for example, my daughter’s gymnastics class lets out and the little girls pour into the lobby from the gym and ask their moms how they did and if they were great, we all beam with pride and assure them that they were amazing and everything in between. And our daughters soak up our adoration and believe us. And the truth is, they were all great. They were all amazing. Because they are little girls full of little girl joy and giggles and giant personalities. They really are these crazy little miracles, and how great is it that for this short period of time in their lives they totally believe that without hesitation or any shred of self-doubt?

So when do little girls transition from this phase to the one where they are not so self-assured? When does “I’m adorable” turn into “Does this make me look fat?” When does “I’m the best dancer in the whole world” turn into “I can’t dance”? More importantly, how can we prevent this slide? Because while I don’t remember when it happened in my life, I do remember how it felt to sit in a classroom too insecure to contribute to the discussion. I do remember dieting and obsessing about body image at a time when I had no business doing so. If only I had had the self-confidence of a five year old when I was fifteen my teen years might have been a bit smoother.

On the bright side, this very long period of insecurity gives way to another period called middle age when we just don’t care what other people think -- and that’s not so bad either.

And what about you? When do you think little girls lose this confidence? Why does it happen? And most importantly, is it preventable? As I search for the answers to these and other daunting parenting questions, I will be moseying about in my yoga pants and T-shirt out on the playground with my kids. Because with middle age upon me, I am reveling in the moment where I just don’t care what people think, which is almost as good as thinking I am amazing, adorable, and the best hula hooper EVER!

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