Fifteen-year-old Kayla called her mom to pick her up early from a party. When her mother picked her up, Kayla shared her challenges. She explained that her friends invited her to drink. She liked them, but they didn’t want to be with her unless she drank with them.
The thing that makes this story rare and wonderful is that Kayla had long ago made the decision on her own be healthy and not drink in high school. She also never felt the need to drink to fit in and be accepted. But the discussion with her mother was never about that. Most of the conversation centered around her concern for her friends and the consequences of their decisions, like their safety or being removed from school teams if they were caught.
Kayla’s self-worth and personal values were like a roadmap that led her safely through the landmines of teenage peer pressures. But what made Kayla so strong? Where did she get her self-worth and her ability to maintain her values despite the potential cost of friendships? How did she know her value wasn’t dependent on other’s opinions?
Does your daughter know her worth doesn’t depend on what her friends think? Does she have a strong sense of who she is and what her own personal values are?
Try this experiment
Go to the nearest mirror and ask the person looking back at you what their value is. Listen to how you talk to yourself. Do you notice flaws, weight or that pimple on your face? Research tells us that whatever you feel when you look in the mirror is what your daughter will feel.
Start with your own self-worth.
“Sad to say, unless you’ve managed to rectify your own self-esteem deficiencies, it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll be able to assist your kids in thinking all that favorably about themselves,” says author and psychologist Leon Seltzer.
In other words, your actions are speaking so loudly, they will override anything you tell your children. If you base your sense of self-worth on what other’s think of you or acceptance by your peers, so will your children.
“The way you choose to measure your worth affects the kind of life you’ll live. Use a measuring stick based on factors you can control – not the external events in your life,” psychotherapist Amy Morin says. “Instead of chasing things that temporarily boost your self-esteem, measure your self-worth by who you are at your core. Behave according to your values and create a life of meaning and purpose.”
Take this test
1. Name at least 10 things you DO, not look like or are, that you feel are of value.
2. How did you decide the 10 things you listed were of value? Where they based on other’s opinions, how they look to others or on personal values you have chosen to adopt as your own?
For example, does your weight or figure make you feel of value, or does the way you choose to take good care of your body and health give you a sense of self-worth?
3. How do you measure the world? Do you look at what others have or look like, or do you look at what others do?
Our children are always watching and listening to us. If they hear us chat with friends about how much weight someone has gained or how awful their car is, they will learn to measure others by weight and possession. If they hear you talk about other accomplishments like completing education or volunteering at a shelter, they will believe those are important and measure people’s worth by a list of actions, rather than pants size.
Be an example of high self-worth
There is a difference between self-worth and self-esteem. Self-esteem is based on the appreciation we have for our abilities. Self-worth is the value we assign to ourselves and hopefully the deep sense of our innate value.
How do you measure self-worth? If you measure your worth by kindness to others, your interactions with friends and family, your integrity and sense of fairness then your child will too. Be a living example of what is important.
Travis Bradberry, best-selling author of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” says, “The best way to avoid falling prey to the opinions of others is to realize that other people’s opinions are just that-opinions. Regardless of how great or terrible they think you are, that’s only their opinion. Your true self-worth comes from within.”
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will really hurt you. Help your child build an armor of self-worth. Help them find their value by praising their kindness, integrity and compassion. Choose measurements for worth that will protect your daughter from bending to the opinions of others.