In a culture that is highly saturated with digitally altered images of thin women, raising a daughter with high self-esteem can be a daunting task.

What you need to know, however, is that; as parents, you are the most influential people in your daughter’s life. You may not know it, or even believe it, because most teenagers rarely want to hang out or even talk to their parents, but it’s true.

You influence your daughter both by what you do and what you say. This is not always easy, because as human beings we fail often, but you have to keep trying until you achieve your goal of ensuring your daughter is a self-sufficient and strong individual. 

In the month of January, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and this is a man we can learn a lot from when it comes to self-esteem and self-respect.

In one of his most famous quotes he says “As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery.”

He was trying to say that self-esteem is a battle for the mind, if your mind tells you that you are not beautiful, you are fat, you are not smart, you are ugly, we tend to believe this, and it becomes our reality.

For teenage girls, the biggest enemy to their self-esteem is peer pressure, social media and the magazines they are reading. These are all geared towards portraying a specific sized woman as the most beautiful, and changing this mindset is where lies the challenge.

Here's What We Can Learn from Martin Luther King

  • If we believe in ourselves, there is no limit to what we can do

This is a man who had a dream, and he never gave up on it. His famous “I have a dream…” speech is one of the most popular speeches in the world, and one that still gives us goosebumps.

If we learn to teach our daughters how to believe in themselves, there is nothing they cannot be able to accomplish.

  • Love yourself

He believed in himself more than anything else, and this is evidenced in how he carried himself. He did not let the color of his skin or his other “inadequacies” discriminate him from being exactly who he wanted to be.

As mothers, we must teach our girls that they can never find greater love on the outside, they must accept themselves as they are right now. Every part of them is beautiful, and once they learn to accept who they are, they can learn to love themselves.

  • Stand up for your self

He saw the injustices that his people were facing, and he chose to take a stand. He talked about how he wished to see the future because he was not happy with how things were.

When you teach your daughter how to stand up for herself, then this goes a long way in boosting her self-esteem and ensuring that no one takes advantage of her. Most cases of girls being mistreated and disrespected stem from low-self-esteem and their lack of ability to stand up for themselves.

  • It is okay to be different and to stand out

When you realize that you are not like other people you tend to stand out, and this is what he used to spread his message. Martin Luther King Jr. was certainly different, and he chose his battles and stood up for what he believed in.

He chose not to accept what his peers had conformed to – a life of slavery but instead chose to be the odd one out in believing that there can be a change and an end to segregation.


“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

— Martin Luther King Jr.

For teenage girls, what they need most is to blend in. They want to look like so, hence they want to act like them.

We need to teach them that it is okay to be different and it is okay not to do what everyone else is doing. This is peer pressure, and it can seriously damage one’s self-esteem.

You must tell your daughter that when everyone is acting in a specific way, they do not have to act in the same way as well. Be different. Be your own person. Stand out from the crowd.

What Causes Low Self-esteem?

Low self-esteem is hard on teenage girls especially when starting high school or when joining a new school, or even when they are trying to make new friends, and it can seriously damage their social lives.

Here are a few reasons why some girls have low self-esteem:

  • Lack of supportive parents

If as a parent you are always busy with your career or other duties and you do not spend enough time with your daughter, then, chances are that she will start to feel neglected and unloved, and this will also open an avenue for her to believe whatever other people are feeding her.


Remember earlier we said that you are the most important person in her life even if it doesn’t seem like it. Show her that you love her and sacrifice your time for her benefit.

  • Peer pressure

Sometimes teenage girls will just get involved with the wrong crowd, and this will undoubtedly lead to a change in character. If these new friends are not helping in boosting her self-esteem, they are probably bringing it down.

As a parent, you should always be aware of who your daughter is hanging out with, as they are crucial to her self-esteem.

  • Negative atmosphere at home – domestic violence

If your home is not safe for your daughter, then she is likely to feel bad about herself. Domestic violence may involve many different things such as parents who do not get along, a spouse who is abusing the other or even harming the children, or children who are being abused by a caretaker.

You must always be in a position to protect your child against all forms of domestic violence, as this plays a crucial role in their self-esteem.

  • A traumatic experience

If your daughter may have suffered a traumatizing experience such as sexual abuse, then it is likely that she may develop low self-esteem, and proper counseling is required to help her through such a situation and also help her build her confidence.

Others include:

  • Unrealistic goals from parents and poor performance in school;
  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Loneliness;
  • Bullying;
  • An ongoing medical condition

Ten Ways to Encourage / Boost Self-esteem and Self-respect

According to Nathaniel Branden book The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, self-esteem is not an affirmation or an idea you put in someone’s mind, but a practice. What determines your self-esteem is not what you say, instead, what you do.

This should be your guiding principle. Do more, say less. Here are some things you can do to help you out.


Body image

Teenagers think a lot about how they look, and they are always comparing themselves to others. Having a positive body image is extremely important for a healthy self-esteem, and it is up to you as a parent to try and ensure your daughter achieves this.

Do not ask your daughter the most common phrase “do these jeans make me look fat?” or obsess about food. Do not put your appearance down either, because she needs to see a confident woman in you.

Talking too much about food and how bad it is for you could be the beginning of your daughter’s eating disorder. Most people will say “I was bad today, I ate pizza, I can’t do that again”. This is not right. Eating food is not a bad thing.

Why not try to teach her how to make better choices when it comes to food, and encourage her that eating healthy is not about being fat or thin, but instead taking care of your health.

You should never tell your teenage girl that she is fat, or overweight because that is probably what everyone else is telling her in school. Take time to reassure her that at any size she is still beautiful and teach her the benefits of healthy eating.

The media

It is normal to be worried about the influence of media on your daughter. There is so much out there that is negatively impacting teenagers and parents need to step up in order to save them.

There is an increase on sexualization in advertising, television shows, and even magazines, and these encourage teenagers to believe that they are supposed to look and even talk the way they see on the magazines filled with beautifully thin women.

 Here is what you can do:

  • Check what they are watching, and talk to them about it. Let them understand that it is not right to dress in a certain way, and even speak in a specific manner, as it doesn’t portray them positively.
  • Watch their favorite TV shows with them in order to have a discussion afterward.

It is important for teenage girls to understand that what they are actually seeing in the media is not necessarily the best definition of beauty, and let them know that beauty comes from deep within, and they are in fact drop dead gorgeous.

Do not raise them as people "pleasers"

People pleasers are people who don’t make their own decisions. They always follow what others are doing.

Encourage your daughter to stand up for what she wants and who she is regardless of the consequences. Create for your teenage daughter opportunities for her to speak up and use her voice even in the house. Ask her ” what do you want?”. Allow her to make a choice and then go ahead and honor it.

This is what we call taking healthy risks, and it makes you step back and allow your child to shine. As a result, it builds confidence.

They must feel loved

Self-esteem, as we mentioned earlier is not so much what you say to your teenage daughter, but rather what you do.

Telling her you love her is not enough. She should be able to feel loved. She should also feel safe, that if she comes to you for help, you should help her, and never judge her, regardless of how disappointed you may be.

Girls need a sense of security from their parents in order to be confident.

Do not over praise your teenage daughter

Overpraising kids does more harm than good. This is because you are in fact lowering the bar for them.

If you keep telling your daughter that they are already doing a fantastic job, this means that they no longer need to do more, or push themselves.

Confidence comes from doing, trying, failing and from trying again

When you compliment your daughter too much, you erode her self-esteem, and they start thinking that they are perfect.

What you should do is encourage her to challenge herself, that even if she is doing well, there are others doing better, and she is just as good as they are. This makes her push harder and work more to achieve everything she wants to achieve.

Let her do chores around the house

When building your daughters self-esteem, you need to let her demonstrate her confidence by contributing value to the household.

Ask them to help with cooking, setting up the table, taking out the trash and even cleaning up.

Encourage them to pursue their interests

This is a surefire way of boosting confidence.

When you encourage your daughter to take on tasks they show interest in, that will ensure they follow through to completion, and there is nothing greater than accomplishing a task that was your own idea.

It doesn’t really matter what it is. The point is that, they should stick with it from the start to completion. This will help them feel the hit of pride at the end.

Deal with failure

This may be a little hard when it comes to teenagers, and you must handle it very carefully.

If their self-esteem plummets as a result of failing at something, here are a few ways you can encourage them to get out of this terrible feeling:

Make it clear that your love is unconditionalSo many parents get it wrong by praising their kids only when they do well and showing disappointment when they don’t. It should never be that way. Your child should feel loved whether they succeed or not.

Let your daughter know that you love her whether she made the wrong decision or she flunked out in school, then encourage and help her to do better.

Make sure you set achievable goals – The truth is that you know your daughter better than anyone else, and you are at a better position to know what she can and cannot do. Telling her that she must get A’s in all her tests, yet she is a B student, will only make it hard for her to achieve these goals.

Offer appropriate praise – Praise her even when she has failed, because clearly, she made an effort. Do not make her feel worse than she already does by telling her she should have done better.

Don’t worry too much about it – While you are not suggested to show her that you really don’t care whether she succeeds or fails, you must understand that teenagers believe that failing will hurt their self-esteem, but in actual sense, it is an excellent opportunity to build it. They just don’t know it yet.

Writing letters to your daughter

If you are a parent, and you have gone through that phase where teenage girls tend to not like themselves and especially how they look, you know how hard it is to watch them degrade themselves in that manner, knowing full well how beautiful they are.

You can try to divert the “I am ugly,” ” I am too fat,” talk, but to be honest, it is sometimes hard, and your compliments may seem to fall on deaf ears.

We have a suggestion: writing to her positive and affirming letters. Here is an example:

My dear lovely daughter,

When I see you look in the mirror and not like what you see, it fills my heart with pain, because you are beautiful, you are significant, you are unlimited, you can do whatever you want, and you have the perfect figure….

This is just an example. You should aim at doing this often, so it can keep resonating in her who she is, and keep showing her just how much you love her.

Appropriate dressing

Research shows that the clothes we wear can tell a lot, on how we feel about ourselves.

As much as teenagers dress to conform to the culture and fashion trends, it should also reflect who they are and how they feel about themselves.

The media is filled with virtually naked women, who are said to be very beautiful and some teenagers may feel that this is how they should dress. Do not allow this, and it is okay to be firm at times and put your foot down on how she should dress.

A woman was recently criticized for dressing her 4-year-old girl in a Hooters outfit for a beauty contest. Most people reacted negatively towards this as the mother was indirectly showing the daughter that it is okay if she goes around half naked, yet, as mothers, we should be instilling good morals and values to our daughters.


Dressing appropriately should not be something you take lightly. It may cause you to fight with your daughter occasionally, but it is essential for her to understand that she must always be appropriately attired, regardless of where she is going.

Final thoughts

No matter how hard it is, NEVER give up on your teenager. Teenage years seem like they go on forever and your daughter seems to be moody all the time, but within no time she will be a grown-up, and all that will be over.

Take time and be a positive influence in her life. Be firm, but also understanding, and do not try to be their friend too much, it may backfire on you.

As fathers, you are advised not to treat your teenage girls like damsels in distress just waiting for a prince to rescue them. No. Let them be independent and self-sufficient.

When your daughter understands the value of hard work, self-discipline, self-reliance and the fact that life is not a romantic comedy, then, you will have molded a well-rounded individual that is able to handle life even when you are not there.

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