Tag Archives: confidence

Enough! What Are We Teaching Our Girls?

I heard a commercial on the radio the other day. It started out sounding so empowering and encouraging. A nice young woman began by saying something like, “Do you struggle with insecurities and low self-esteem? Do you sometimes feel bad about yourself?” My ears instantly perked up. I was so excited that my favorite topic, healthy self-esteem, was finally being addressed—that someone was bold enough to advertise and advocate for self-confidence right there on the radio! I eagerly awaited the name of some tremendous life coach or a mentoring program for girls. I just knew something great was coming. And then she said, “Have you considered breast implants?” I could not believe it. I was in shock. Then she went on to sell the wonderful sense of empowerment that comes from breast augmentation. Then, the plastic surgeon came on to really drive the message home.

AM I ENOUGH?

I’ll be honest, it hurt my heart to hear them use ones deep feelings of insecurity—their deep-seated belief of, “I am not enough,” to sell breast implants. Imagine a young lady who is struggling with her sense of self-worth, hearing this commercial, opening herself up in anticipation of a solution to her insecurities, only to be offered another reason to look in the mirror and wonder to herself, “Am I enough?” 

What are we teaching our daughters? How will she know she is enough?

Of course, from a business perspective, I get it. The radio stations need advertising dollars so they’ll air the commercial. And I have a bachelor’s in advertising so I know that the plastic surgeon’s ad agency did an amazing job of getting to the core issue that will, no doubt, lead to A LOT of consultation appointments… But my heart still hurts.

It is hard for me as a mother of a beautiful little girl, who is beginning to notice differences between herself and those around her. She is at that point where meanings are placed on those differences. I can’t help but think, “My daughter could have been in the car when that commercial came on.” And what would I have said to her to combat that message? I mean, we listen to that station every day, and the way that the commercial started, I was eagerly expecting something good and empowering. I would have totally let it play to “see” what was coming next.

What new belief could I have possibly introduced to my daughter’s impressionable mind? Without thought, I could have unintentionally poisoned my daughter’s self-concept, and left her questioning if she is enough. What about all the preteen girls… and high school girls… and college girls… and even adult women who will hear that commercial and actually begin to believe (if they don’t already) that bigger boobs will be the cure for their low self-esteem?

YOU ARE ENOUGH

For me it’s always more about the message than anything. Despite my outrage, I am not completely against plastic surgery. Honestly, someone dear to me has breast implants and I totally supported her decision. She chose to have her surgery based purely on a fact, not on a hope.  She did not have some unrealistic belief that if she had the surgery, she would feel better about herself. She already felt great about herself. She is far from insecure and purely wanted bigger…. ones. This is why I was able to freely and honestly support her.

What I don’t support, is selling plastic surgery, or fake hair, or tanning, or bleaching, or contouring, etc. as a cure for low self-esteem. I’m an advocate for first learning to love the skin that you’re in. Because no amount of surgery will help a person to feel that she is enough. If that underlying belief is not cut away first, and replaced with “I am enough,” she can nip this and tuck that until she is grossly deformed and will still never feel beautiful. And ultimately isn’t that what it’s all about?

Marisa Peer is an internationally known therapist whose work I’ve come across recently. She teaches that looking at yourself in the mirror while repeating the affirmation, “I am enough,” can have a tremendously healing effect on one’s self-concept. I recently added my own version of this exercise in my S.I.S.T.A.TM Girls’ Empowerment Workshops. One young lady came back to talk to me after our session and told me that was her favorite part. In my workshops, I have the girls affirm each other, then affirm themselves. It is such a powerful time. I really get to see how uncomfortable it is for some of them to accept the attention and the words, “You are enough.” So, of course, I’ll keep doing it until they are comfortable saying it and hearing it.

Blessings!

If you would like Author Marlene Dillon to visit your institution, please shoot us an email at events@improudtobenaturalme.com!

Mommy I Want My Hair Straightened

What are the six words you don’t say to your mother when she’s the author of a children’s book about loving your natural hair? “Mommy, I want my hair straightened.”

Has she even met me? I was clearly having a Twilight Zone moment. I could’ve passed out! I mean, after all our conversations about loving our hair, and all the workshops I’ve held teaching parents and children to celebrate the beauty of our natural beauty, my child had the nerve to say those words to me TWO DAYS AGO!

I’ll be honest, when I first heard those words come out her mouth, I panicked. I started to frantically question myself. “Where did I go wrong? Am I a fraud?” I thought, “I wrote this book and my own child is having identity issues… Oh, God, maybe I shouldn’t have put her in this new school. She never had these issues at her neighborhood school. Did I make a mistake?” My mind was going 60 miles per hour, with question after question. And, of course, while I’m having this full discussion in my head, she—in true 5 year old fashion—was repeating in her most endearing whine, “I want my hair straightened. I want my hair straightened. I want my hair straightened….” I needed some answers before I could respond…

Seek understanding before seeking to be understood.

I stepped out of my haze, temporarily, and asked her, “Why do you want straight hair?” (There was definitely a slight hint of irritation in my voice.) She, not the least bothered by my tone, sang the praises of the tresses she longed for…. “straight hair is sooo soft and it’s sooo beautiful…” I could’ve thrown up. I’m just being honest. It’s not that I don’t believe straight hair is soft, but curly hair is soft, too. I am not one to go on a “Black is beautiful” rant, to the exclusion of other “races.” I think we’re all beautiful. With that said, I strongly believe that it is essential that my child knows her hair and all other features are just as beautiful as anyone else’s—that her classmates’ hair textures are merely different, but not better (or worse) than hers.

Think before you speak.

So many things were running through my mind, and I had heard enough. I blurted out, “Your hair is beautiful and I’m not straightening it!” Oops. Wrong move. Immediately, hysterical screaming pierced the silence her tears began to flow. My little girl was having a meltdown at 7 o’clock in the morning, blubbering and begging me to take her to Target to buy a flat iron before school. Can you imagine? Did I mention SHE IS 5 YEARS OLD?

Shift from fear to curiosity.

I took a real long, deep breath, and thought to myself, “What have I told the parents at my workshops when they ask about this?” This topic comes up all the time, but in the moment, with my own child all of it went out the window… initially. I thought about it a little harder, then remembered. I told them to celebrate the benefits of their child’s hair texture, to teach them about their own hair and the great qualities it has. And that’s what I did. 

Reconnect.

I snapped out of my moment and reminded myself that right then was really about her, and what she felt was a real need. Straightening her hair is not debatable at this age. I knew for sure that was not going to happen, and I needed to help her understand why. As she continued to chant through blubbering tears, “I want my hair straightened,” I dramatically grabbed my chest like Fred Sanford, slumped over, and pretended to pass out. lol I needed to break the tension and shift her energy. She laughed, even though she didn’t want to. This gave me my “in” to tell her how I really felt… 

Tell the truth. 

I said, “Your hair is beautiful.” She responded, “No, it’s not!” I said, “Your curls are so pretty.” She replied through tears, “I hate my curly hair. I want it straight!” It wasn’t working, but I kept going. I told her that her hair texture allows her the flexibility to do so many different styles. I explained to her that “natural hair” does things that straight hair doesn’t. (I told her this as a fact, without making it seem as if curly hair is better than straight.) She began to calm down. I shared stories with her of former co-workers who asked me to two- strand twist their hair, and how I told them that their hair wouldn’t be able to hold the style. She began to ask questions about other experiences like that…. I talked to her until she began to feel blessed to have her hair texture and was no longer envious of anyone else’s….

I did such a good job that she now wants me to do this style!  

 

Photo Source: hairstylepictures2015.com

Lord, help me. lol

 

Although it caught me off guard initially, it is not uncommon for our children (or for ourselves) to desire to look like someone they admire, or to want to “fit in” by looking more like their peers. I believe it is our job to help our kids see value in being themselves—to teach them that “we are ALL beautiful as is.”

Marlene Dillon,

Author of I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!

5 Easy Ways to Boost Your Child’s Confidence

selfconfidencekids1

It’s fair to say that every healthy parent wants their child to be confident. Self-confidence is not taught in school (if anything, it’s eroded there). So it’s our job as parents to build our children up so they can face the cruel world out there. 

Here’s a list of 5 simple things you can do to boost your child’s self-confidence.

1) Look them in the eye. 

eyescloseup

Far too often, when we’re really upset with our children, we tell them “Look me in the eye,” and begin to tear into them about how disappointed we are in their behavior. This creates a lasting visual in our child’s memory.  So every once in a while, switch it up. If you catch your child doing something good, use the same technique. Call her into the room, using all three names. When she gets close (probably wondering what she did wrong), get down on her level, tell her to look you in the eye, smile, and say something like, “I am so proud of you. I saw what you just did. You made a good choice and I just wanted to let you know I appreciate that and I love you very much.” 

2) Tell them who they are. 

dancingwithmom

Affirm the natural talents you see in your child. It does something special for your child to hear positive statements about their abilities directly from you. No one’s opinion—no coach, teacher, friend, classmate, or neighbor—matters more than yours. If you notice that your daughter is excellent at throwing a football, tell her. If you walk in as your son is nailing an arabesque, say, “Wow, you’re an amazing dancer.”  And calling him by the title “dancer” allows him to picture being in that actual role. Now, rather than just thinking, “I like to dance,” he can see farther down the road, and think, “Hey, I could be a dancer.”

3) Be honest. 

baby-eyebrows

We all know the phrase “kids can be cruel.” Children don’t really have an edit button. They are blunt, they point out the obvious, and sometimes they can be pretty mean about it. To be clear, this point is not about being honest with your child. Be honest with yourself. Take the rose colored glasses off and look at your child. If little Jimmy has one gigantic nostril and one he can barely breathe through, you might want to start reinforcing his self-confidence in this area. I’m not saying that you should point it out to him, but maybe you should go out of your way to point out cool unique traits on other people. “Wow, Eddie Murphy has a really nice smile. He has a gap. That’s pretty cool and unique.” It may feel weird, but you’re building a foundation of comebacks for your child. So when Billy’s classmate says, “Your eyebrows are crooked,” his response will be, “Yeah, but I like them. Their unique,” instead of immediately bursting into tears and running home. 

4) Seek to Understand Before Seeking Understanding. 

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Our kids intentions are often far different from the outcome of their actions. Many times their attempts at independence, kindness, and scientific discovery, just look to us like a huge attempt to destroy our work or our clean home. Few things can crush a child’s self-confidence faster than getting yelled at for doing something they thought was a good thing. So as tempting as it is to immediately fly off the handle when you see red and yellow flowers drawn all over your work presentation, it will serve you well to train yourself to breathe before you react. Even if it’s through clenched teeth, ask, “What were you trying to do?” Trust me, when she replies, “you had a sad face when you were working so I thought the flowers would make you happy,” you will thank yourself for taking the time to understand her intentions.   

5) Avoid limiting keywords.

nevertooanything

A great way to boost your child’s self-esteem is to eliminate the words “just” and “too” when describing them or others. These words undermine truths about a child’s value and identity, and quickly turn a compliment into criticism. Hear the difference between, “Maurice is smart,” and “Beatrice is too smart.” By simply adding “too” it implies that maybe being smart isn’t such a good thing. Imagine what happens internally when you say to your son, “You’re too little to pour your own juice; you’re just 3.” In my house the rule is “you’re not too anything, and you’re not just anything.” This rule is applied outside our home, as well. I always immediately correct adults who say my daughter is “too tall.” I smile at her and say, “Yes, she is beautifully tall.”

There are many more ways that I will add in the future, but these should give you a good start. Test them out and let me know how it goes. If you have any to add, feel free to respond in the comments. 🙂

Giving Back

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! author Marlene Dillon, is looking to host empowerment workshops in schools, community, and religious institutions.

Last year, I did a workshop at a public school in Chicago. It was my first time doing one of that sort and honestly I was very nervous. I sat in my car all the way “down to the wire” contemplating never booking myself to “do something like this ever again.” Truth is, I have one of these panic moments before every single event I do, whether it’s vending, a workshop, book signing, or even just a networking event. The terror of wondering if I am prepared enough and the unknown of what the experience will honestly look like is unnerving for me. The thing that gets me out my car is my purpose and the belief that this is bigger than me—the knowledge that there is some young person, or parent, that I am to touch… and they are inside waiting for me.

Order this tee today at www.zazzle.com/naturalme

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! teaches that we are ALL beautiful as is.

Last night I watched a video on Facebook that touched my life. It was so powerful to see these girls tell their stories of how close they came to giving up, and how many times they tried, and how they now believe in themselves and found something to live for. I thought about the fourth grade girls I spoke to and how their beliefs changed in that room, in that short time I was with them. They learned the power of their words and how it is our duty to uplift our sisters and not tear them down. They learned that they are beautiful, each and every one of them. They learned how to build their self-confidence and to love themselves… lessons many of us still don’t have fully in adulthood. I saw my impact as the girls began to apologize to each other voluntarily, one after the other. “I’m sorry I called you ‘black'” and “I’m sorry I didn’t sit with you at lunch.” It was so powerful.

Honestly, I had NO IDEA that it would turn into that. I just wanted to teach them a little bit about self-esteem, but hearing them one after another speak on what they felt was beautiful about themselves was so awesome. I always recall the powerful moment at the end of my workshop when this beautiful dark chocolate girl said, “I used to believe I was ugly, but now I know I am beautiful.” It hit me in the car, it hit me weeks later, it hit me all over again right now, in this moment, I have a voice to give these girls a voice. I want to touch more lives in this way. It is my purpose, and greatest desire, to impact lives for positive change on a grand scale. There is no greater satisfaction than knowing that my words, my time, my effort helped to change the course of a child’s life in some small or large way.

I am reaching out to you because I would like more opportunities to speak in a similar manner at schools and community organizations. This is part of my purpose—a VERY large part. If you would like to host a workshop at your institution, please contact me at improudtobenaturalme@yahoo.com.

Thank you.