As a mom of a young girl, the intention to raise a confident young lady and eventually a strong woman is one of many challenges. It takes effort and consistency to instill confidence in kids. Who knows what will come of it all either? So this is why I was shocked and had a negative flashback to my youth when my child was being denigrated by a “friend” that was engaging in, dare I say, cyber bullying. I thought I would have to deal with cyber bulling in high-school, but not 5th grade! Yup, I discovered a string of emails coming into her inbox that were completely unacceptable. I can let a lot of things roll, but when her “friend,” a boy in her class, wrote “You are not even all that,” among other things, it really triggered me. The tiger mom in me came out. Oh hell no is some kid going to start squashing the spirit of my girl with words leading to her second-guessing herself, her looks and her personality.
The same thing happened to me when I hit middle school and continued on through college. “You think you are all that,” they said.
Unfortunately I didn’t have the where with all to fight back the cruelty behind the words. What was I doing or saying to make them think this, say this about me…both boys and girls? I’m pretty sure I wasn’t walking around like a conceited PYT. I had my own family and personal issues, so I wasn’t necessarily the most confident girl around town. Girls were the worst though. The end result of years of hearing those words actually hindered me and resulted in me dimming my light for many years. I saw other girls just step into that glow of attention and from the outside their confidence was blooming. I felt that I was on a roller coaster road of faking the funk. Sometimes I was out there, confident, doing amazing stuff, looking fabulous and then the flip side was feeling the exact opposite inside.
Now fast forward a few decades and here I am defending my girls (my 12-year old niece is going through this big time). The boys want the girl they can’t get. The girls are ‘hating’ with jealousy over who knows what…probably the combo of beauty and brains. It’s awful living it, but it saddens me that I now have to break it down for the young girls in my life. I had to say to both my niece and daughter…you know what? YOU ARE ALL THAT AND THEN SOME…and don’t let anyone’s words make you doubt your character, kindness, creativity, beauty, intelligence and talent. For many years countless girls are going to be told “You think you are all that.” I tell them, just say this to yourself when you hear that B.S. “ Yup, I am all that and don’t you forget it. “
There are all sorts of studies that come out and teach us how to empower our girls, about the disparity between the masculine and the feminine with societal childrearing and in our school system. We live in a masculine world after all. I’ve tried to take in consideration of all kinds of parenting tips, but the bottom line is we just have to go with our gut. In the end, our personal cyber bullying situation was squashed due to the “friend’s” good, empathetic parents. I’m so grateful for that. I guess my lesson is keep your eyes open. Check out the movie “Screenagers” for some insights on the state of technology and our kids (it’s scary). All we can do is keep on the path of being the best parents we can be.
Two of my closest friend are high-school educators for almost two decades and one day I asked them, after all these years, what do you think builds the most confidence in girls…what is the one common denominator? Both of them said the exact same thing, almost at the same time. I was shocked. Athletes. Without a blink of an eye, student athletes were the most confident girls from their experience. Maybe I’ll see you on soccer field this spring?
Hope McGrath is a Transformational Coach + Fashion Consultant. www.hopemcgrath.com
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