Low self-esteem… We have all been there…
But what do you do when you find out your stepdaughter has low self-esteem and doesn’t like herself?
What started out as a normal day took a turn for a teachable moment for my stepdaughter, but more for Mike and myself. It started out just like any other day, Mikayla did her chores and asked for her phone to chat with her friends on Snapchat and watch TikTok. Boy did the day take a turn, I didn’t think it would end with us finding out that my stepdaughter doesn’t like herself.
The only reason we found out about her low self-esteem was that Mikayla kept sneaking her phone when I told her to leave it on the charger. Mike got fed up with it and wanted to put a password on her phone. While we were doing that we kept getting notifications for Snapchat messages. The short version of this story is that her “boyfriend” who lives in New York was blowing up her Snapchat and accused her of something she didn’t do and then decided to say some things he shouldn’t have said to her. Nothing that an 11-year-old should be saying to anyone else.
(Side Note – she is no longer ALLOWED to talk to that boy.)
Social Media and Children
I know social media is big for children and more apps are being created for the younger generation. I read a great article about Social Media and Self-Doubt in teens. Definitely check it out. For instance, after this whole Snapchat thing, I decided to look at Mikayla’s TikTok. She had 4 of them because she can never remember her password. So she just creates a new one. What I found on there was a bunch of kiddy posts tagging her friends, but there were a few posts on one profile that broke my heart.
She had some videos on there where she was pointing to the wording on the screen that said “Ugly or Pretty”. She chose ugly. It then said, “Love yourself or Hate yourself”. She chose to hate yourself. I started getting teary-eyed. It killed me knowing she had such low self-esteem.
This is a new situation for Mike and me because Mikayla is always so happy and goofy. She acted like everything was okay, which broke us even more. She didn’t think she could talk to us about this. I took the lead on this situation because let’s face it Mike’s a guy and just doesn’t get what girls go through. Using this situation as a learning/ teachable opportunity for all of us.
Be her friend.
I didn’t want to make her feel worse. I approached it with gentle hands. This made me reflect on what more I could do for her. She was in need of a huge ego boost. She feels this way and walks around like everything is okay, which breaks my heart even more.
I told her the next day I saw her TikToks and some of them broke my heart. I told her that she was beautiful and if people didn’t think so screw ’em. There are plenty of other people in this world who think she is amazing. We had a little chat about it. Right then and there I told her I would be her cheerleader.
I should have been this whole time, which I was, but I wasn’t showing it as much as I should be.
Listen to her
It broke my heart, even more, when she was telling me kids are calling her trans for shaving half her head. Calling her a boy, emo, depressed. All these names. Because of these kids, she has such low self-esteem. I told her from looking at her TikTok I could see why they would think she was depressed. I followed up with “I am confused though because what you are posting online is not how you are in real life?”
She replied, “ I am one way with my friends, but I am my real self with my parents.” I asked her why?, but she really couldn’t give an answer, which I understand.
Ask her what she doesn’t like and be honest.
I wanted to know what she didn’t like about herself. So when I asked her “what do you honestly don’t like about yourself?” Her response was “I think it’s all the things the other kids say.” I told her I didn’t want to know what they didn’t like. I wanted to know what SHE, herself did not like.
Her response: I think I am the ugliest girl in the world.
Relate to her about the things she doesn’t like.
I explained all of us women think at a point in our life we are the ugliest woman in the world. We are criticized for everything, our hair, our weight, our height, the clothes we wear, and our make-up. Literally everything… and it’s bad when a woman feels so poorly about herself. It’s even worse when it’s a little girl who is 11 years old. We need to build each other up and motivate each other to be the best versions of ourselves with our rolls and all.
I had to make a joke to lighten the mood. I said, “The only people who are allowed to call you ugly are us (your family) because we have seen what you look like in the morning!”
Talk about how you grew up and your insecurities.
I told her how I grew up thinking I was fat, ugly, and unloveable. One thing I always did was I sought attention from anyone who would give it to me. I also threw in that I think that’s what she was doing with her Snapchat “boyfriend”. We have talked about the abusive relationship I was in and how other guys I dated have cheated on me. Those experiences added to the insecurities I already had. This is my little buddy and never did I think I would be having these conversations with her.
Talk about how you worked through it
Talk about how you worked through it or how you are working through it now. For every bad experience I had I also countered it with a positive one. Letting her know that once I started to love myself for who I was rolls and all things got so much better. Once I gave up on men who didn’t see me for long-term/wife material I let it all go. I took a year to be by myself and learn about myself, what I liked and who I was as a person. So that the next time I was in a relationship I knew my worth.
I always referred back to my relationship with her dad. That although we have our ups and downs he has never once called me fat, made me feel ugly, or put me down in any way that would affect my self-esteem.
Have a self-care night.
We haven’t done this yet, but I have music for a dance party, a face mask, some popcorn, and some girlie rom-com movies with our names on them. We spent this last week’s social distancing watching Love is Blind. I don’t think she nor I have ever yelled at a TV more than when watching this show.
I know she dresses like a tomboy, but I want to show her you can be boyish, but still girlie at the same time. Also, it’s really good to take care of your body and do things for yourself that make you feel good. It’s important to have a self-care night.
Help her find something amazing she is talented at.
This one I thought was clear to her, but apparently, it is not. She is getting better and better every day with her drawings. Yet, she still says they suck. She is a very creative person and needs a reminder she is badass. I have made it a part of her chores to color, draw or write.
She used to write such amazing stories that would make no sense to us, but she loved them so much and she needs to continue that. She reads so much that should she write her own book.
Be 100% real with her.
Since day one and I have always told Mikayla I would keep 100% real with her. I could not stand by while my stepdaughter had such low self-esteem about herself. There will never be a day where I don’t tell her the truth and I will never sugarcoat things. I don’t dance around subjects, I tell her exactly how it is. She never seems to be upset with or gets angry. I think they appreciate it more that when it comes to a topic like this you are straightforward.
Leave post-it notes with compliments/motivational quotes.
It was no joke when I said I going to be her cheerleader. I knew I was going to write a post about this because this is not right for any child to feel this way. Being on my own self-improvement journey and I decided to bring Mikayla along for the journey. I hope from here on out I can know that she is moving away from this mindset and I don’t have to say my stepdaughter doesn’t like herself.
On Pinterest, I saw an inspirational quote that I thought Mikayla could benefit from. It said “ you are too pretty and smart to be acting like you are not,” I wrote it on a post-it note and wrote love you at the bottom. I just walked past her room and smacked it onto her wall. It freaked her out but got her attention. I walked back to my desk and wrote 10 more. Every time I walked by her room, I would bring a post-it with me and slap it on her wall.
Trying to make her feel good
I told Mike what I was doing to boost her low self-esteem and he asked her if she liked them. She said Yes. He replied, “Do they make you feel good?” Again she replied “Yes”. It made me feel good to bring her some joy.
By this time I have like 20 written. So while she was watching Youtube videos in the living room I took the rest that I had written and moved the first 3 I slapped them on her wall and put them all on her closet door. I recorded a video of me putting them on her door.
I came back into the living room and 10 minutes later she “had to go to the bathroom”. Wanting to catch her response on camera to the quotes on her wall and when I turned the camera on and walked around the corner. I found her looking at her door and she turns to me with tears in her eyes.
I didn’t mean to make her cry.
Have long talks.
I turned off the camera and we had a chat that turned into a motivational and quite funny speech. It was gold and I should have recorded it, but it was such a personal moment between her and me with a lot of hugs.
We need to build each other up and motivate each other to be the best versions of ourselves with our rolls and all. Now one should ever have low self-esteem.
I told her I have a Pinterest account and the inspirational quotes are endless. I will be posting more and more on her wall. Her response “ I feel like my whole room is going to be covered.” I replied “If that’s what I have to do to get you to love yourself and boost your low self-esteem. That is what I am going to do.”
Have her write a letter to herself about the things she loves.
I ended our conversation with a request for her to write a letter to herself and to write about the things she loves about herself, as well as the things she needs to work on to love herself more. I told her I would keep the letter with our important papers and give it back to her in a year so she can reflect on the things that have changed.
This was a little bit harder. She couldn’t think of anything she loved except her eyes. I asked her “do you think you are funny?” Her reply was “I never considered myself funny.” This kid is hilarious. Her facial expressions, her impressions, her witty comebacks. She is the complete package.
Build her up. Mind, Body, and Soul.
From all of the above, I think we have built up her mind, body, and soul, but it doesn’t end here my friend. There is a long road ahead. I will be reminding her of her worth. That she is worth so much more than what people are giving her. She is made for SO much more than she is giving herself. I will do everything I can to make sure she knows it and I will be doing this for the rest of her life. Never again do I want to see anything like this.
Where do we go from here?
It’s been 4 days since this happened. She and I have had a lot of conversations. I shared with her my experiences of my struggles with low self-esteem and hopefully, it made her realize she is not the only one who goes through things like this, but I didn’t have that friend that would help kick that habit. My low self-esteem is something I have worked on for years and now at 34 I am just now excepting myself.
I encourage you all if you have daughters, hell even boys please make sure you are encouraging them and showing them how to self-love. Show them how to believe in themselves and that they are beautiful just the way they are. I never want to hear someone’s daughter or stepdaughter has low self-esteem. Even sons, it breaks my heart for these children.
Until the next time, Have a great day.