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Dear Dr. Robyn,

I’ve heard you talk about “assets” and that, the more our children have, the better they do in life. My daughter tends to suffer from low self esteem and I’d like to do whatever I can to help her. Can you recommend some ways that I can help her see she is amazing just as she is?

—Steve S, Tuscaloosa AL

Dear Steve,

It can be both heartbreaking and frustrating to see the children we love feel badly about themselves. We see that they’re special in so many ways…why can’t they?

We live in a world where there is a lot of competition. We are inundated with images that have been retouched to look perfect.  We are told that to be worthwhile, we must be extraordinary in every way. Even if what we see isn’t real, studies show that these images can have a profound effect.

You are correct–in my book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite it, I discuss a series of assets that people who thrive seem to possess. My theory is that in order to build confidence and feel worthwhile despite the negative messages out there, we must help our young people develop their assets. For example;

(1) Volunteerism & Service:

Nothing provides us with perspective and pride like contributing to those in need. We do something that matters which in turn, reaffirms that we matter.

(2) Positive People:

When we surround ourselves with positive peers, powerful role models, and people who care for and support us, we feel better about ourselves. When children and teens are exposed to people who work hard, set goals, and stay committed, they are more likely to do the same.

(3) Positive Talk:

So many children and teens get in the habit of bashing themselves in conversation in order to lift someone else up or fish for a compliment. Whether it’s about weight, intelligence, athleticism, or other skills, the outcome is similar. “I’m so dumb” is answered with “No you’re not, I’m the dumb one.” This kind of predictable conversation only breeds toxicity. We need to teach our children to speak positively about themselves and others.

(4) Powerful Activities:

Children do best when they are involved with activities that give them a sense of accomplishment. When they stick with these activities, master the skills and receive well deserved praise from teachers who challenge them, that’s when confidence is achieved.

There are more- but this is a start!

Here’s to your success!

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