Is This The Key to Self Esteem?

Yesterday, I spent about 30 minutes of my work day in a live web chat talking about cheerleading with Varsity and The Motherhood.

Oh, yes, I did.

  • One – I was paid to participate and promote the talk beforehand via Twitter, etc.
  • Two – I used to be a cheerleader and I loved it. I was also awesome at it. So awesome, in fact, that I was convinced as an adult that I could still do it. And then I peed myself.
  • Three – The conversation was to be focused, in part, on how cheerleading and other sports can build self esteem in young kids, especially in girls.

I have a daughter and I am terrified for her teenage years.

Specifically, I’m terrified of how the state of her self esteem will affect her teenage years. And I’m worried that it will take her a long, long time to undo any damage that her messed up self esteem causes in those teenage years and early twenties.

I’m worried, of course, because my self esteem when I was young was crap.

I’m also fascinated by the evolution of self esteem. I’m in awe of the way one woman seems to come by hers so easily while another wrestles for decades with her perception of herself. As a woman, I’m amazed by the stories and differences. As a mother, I’m obsessed with figuring out what determines which path a girl will take.

I want to know the secret, the magic words that will ensure my daughter is spared the insecurity and self destruction that plagued my teens and twenties.

“the dichotomy of wanting to stand out and fit in”

The expert host during yesterday’s web chat used this phrase to describe the challenge facing many teenage girls today. She was talking about teenagers and that funky place where you want to be your own person but you also want to fit in.

She was talking about me for most of my life.

Except I never really wanted to stand out. I just did. And while part of me was proud of the traits that made me unique, a bigger part of me wanted so, so badly to be able to fit in. I hated not belonging so much that I struggled to accept anything and everything that made me different.

It’s only been in recent years that I’ve found places to belong, groups in which I could be part of something bigger than myself and completely myself. After hearing the description of this dichotomy yesterday, I wonder if that’s what has made the difference in my self esteem.

I wonder if that’s the magic key that I can give to my children.

I’m not going to make my children sign up for cheerleading, obviously. But I think I will focus on doing what I can to show them what they’re a part of – family and community both intimate and extended. Perhaps if I foster that sense of belonging they’ll be more comfortable with embracing their individuality.

I think, too, that I need to make an effort to meet both of those needs for myself on a regular basis.

There are places where I belong.

There are people who effortlessly get me, and I them.

I don’t want to spend my whole life in a comfort zone made up of easy conversations and people who are just like me, but I often swing too far in the other direction and abandon my safe harbors all together. I rebel against the childish need to “fit in”, berating myself for needing external validation about Who I Am.

And then I turn into a ball of guilt and insecurities and bitchiness.

I am not too good for comfort zones. I am not too evolved for fitting in or too mature to benefit from a sense of belonging.

I am, I think, just human enough to need it.

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