The Truth About Low Self-Esteem and How We Can Help Our Daughters Overcome It

June 13, 2012  |  

When one hears the term “low self-esteem” their minds frequently take them to the extreme images of a woman who walks around with her head held down or the woman with a eating disorder. Our minds rarely go to the well-dressed woman sitting across from us on the subway or the no non-sense businesswoman we see gallivanting around the office. These false assumptions are where our society has failed us in some ways. The truth of the matter is that low self-esteem knows no race, social class, or age group, nor does it hit a specific kind of woman. Even the woman who looks like she has it all on the outside could be doubting herself a great deal on the inside.

It does however, seem to be familiar with gender because it appears to impact women at a higher percentage than men. Studies show that 90 percent of all women want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance. But, why? The blame for poor self image among women in the United States can be blamed on a variety of different factors from pressures from the media to sexual objectification to internalized negative comments, and the list goes on. However, the true question should be: What is being done about it?

One thing that we should not overlook is that low self-esteem rarely just shows up during adulthood, but is something that is deeply rooted within many of us from childhood. According to a study conducted at the New York University Child Study Center, Dr. Robin F. Goodman writes, “Girls’ self-esteem peaks when they are nine years old, then takes a nose dive.” Studies show that 75 percent of eight and nine year olds like their looks; however, that figure drops to 56 percent once girls reach ages 12 and 13.

What happens between the ages of nine and twelve to make these numbers drop so drastically probably varies by case, but what we do know are the high-risk behaviors commonly associated with low self-esteem. These behaviors include but are not limited to drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, eating disorders and the list goes on. But what can be done to protect our girls? How can we somehow intervene and somehow rescue our girls from bearing the same burdens and battling the same demons that many of us have battled for large portions of our lives? While building up a child’s self-esteem by letting them know how important, smart, and beautiful they are is important, it is also imperative to communicate. Don’t just tell your child what you think of them, but also find out what they think of themselves and why. If you are able to uncover what the culprit is early on, chances are you can reverse its effects. Often times children are impacted by low self-esteem before they are old enough to even grasp the concept.

I was about 20 years old when it finally dawned on me that I had some self-esteem issues. Sadly, these were issues that I had been grappling with since I was about four years old. My mother whom I always shared just about everything with was shocked when I shared this revelation with her. She and my father had always been sure to share with me how important and beautiful I was, yet, somehow low self-esteem still crept in. There are many credited groups and organizations that are dedicated to the building up and empowerment of girls, but the truth is that the war on poor self-esteem begins at home. According to, “Girls are craving better communication with adult figures as they struggle with challenges in their lives. The top wish among girls is for their parents to communicate better with them, including more frequent and more open conversations, as well as discussions about what is happening in her life.” So, the next time you look at that special little girl in your life and think about how great she is be sure to share that with her, but don’t hesitate to get in her head and find out how she feels about herself. Start asking the right questions such as what she likes about herself, what she doesn’t like about herself, what she believes others think about her, etc. and listen closely. The first step to solving a problem is uncovering that there is one.

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  • Nope

    I didn’t realize that females started to sh*t on one another at such an early age.



  • concerned

    this would be a good time to tell you about prettybrowngirl …there is a facebook, a twitter, and a website dedicated to helping brown girls and their self esteem.

  • Psaxanw

    You can also get a self-esteem ebook written from some professionals 🙂

  • Mischa34

    For whatever reason, I didn’t really struggle with self-esteem until I was in my early 20s!!



  • fitnessforlife

    Mine started in my late teens after I turned to my mother for help in dealing with issues normal for someone my age. It turned out that she had severe low self-esteem (of which took me years to understand the root of) and unloaded a lot of her resentment onto me as a result (“you don’t know how easy you have it” kind of thing). How was I supposed to know or conceive the type of uncommon life she had if I didn’t know or understand?

    That brings me to my question. Can mothers with severely low self esteem help their daughters on a path to high self esteem? Does that happen? Because I know it didn’t with me. I think I would have fared better had I not even gone to her for advise/counsel, but someone else, instead, like a teacher.

    • Negress

      If they are honest and take the journey together.

  • Toya Sharee

    I love this article. In my work I meet so many women who have relationship and sex issues and at the end of the day the main culprit is usually low self-esteem. Many of the women (no matter how young or old) are unsure of their values, expectations or standards. They settle for what’s given to them instead of demanding what they want all because they seek validation outside of themselves. They worry that being alone is the worst thing that could ever happen, so they choose being in an unhealthy situation with anyone over being alone and learning to be in love with themselves. The best quality our young girls and women need is the knowledge that they are somebody special with or without anyone’s approval. When you can look inside yourself and know that you’re the ish regardless of if you have a man, a certain kind of car or look a certain type of way, no one can tell you any different. We also can’t keep blaming the media for our problems. I agree that we need more positive examples of black woman, but we also need to show young women that these role-models exist in the flesh. Point out the older girl in the neighborhood that is working at McDonalds and going to school. If needed, go out of the neighborhood and find a positive mentor that they can realistically interact with regularly, not Nicki Minaj. Change your circle, change your life.

  • Vic

    Not watching TV helps.

    • I agree and disagree with your statement. Since tv plays such a large part in the lives of children today it’d be great if parents would have open discussions with their children while watching tv. Many shows, esp. reality tv clearly show men/women still struggling with low or broken self esteem and validation issues. I think better and more purposeful communication is needed all the way around.

  • psylocke_2001

    Low self esteem really came to ahead with me when I got to middle school. Kids can be so cruel. I’m good now but man…..I would not want to go back and relive that all over again. I feel so bad for the girls coming up today, it’s gotta be amplified this day and age.

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