Like many of the working mothers reading this blog, I too have a daughter. She is in 6th grade and I am constantly worrying about the tipping point of self-esteem that not only do we read about, but I can vividly remember at her age.
I happened to watch a Ban Bossy campaign clip just after returning from a meeting with my daughter’s teacher. This campaign was initiated by Sheryl Sandburg in partner with Condoleeza Rice and the Girl Scouts of the USA. Wow – timing is everything! The purpose of the meeting was to discuss tactics to get my daughter to work to her potential – yes, I am a finance person and we measured her potential through testing outside of the school, therapy for a later date. During the discussion, the teacher commented on how she had just been telling my daughter, who we have nicked name Don Corleone (Godfather, more therapy), that she noticed that she is smiling more lately and that she has such a nice smile. Think about that for a minute…
On the surface it is a kind comment, truly. But what my eleven year old, and many of my working mother clan, heard was that she must not be normal if she doesn’t smile often. It is one of the little seeds that begins our ‘I’m not good enough’ syndrome that follows us until we check into therapy or coaching. And because my daughter really likes this teacher – the impact is all that more harmful. I am a pretty serious looking person (thanks dad), and often can look angry even when I am not. I can remember my mother telling me often – like a broken record – that “you look pretty when you smile” and on other occasions “you always look too serious”. What I took going forward was that there was no beauty in seriousness, so what did that make me? (And just in case my mother is reading this – I know you said this out of love, not knowing how my little brain was wired.)
After watching the clip and a couple of related ones, I really began listening to myself with my children, my son included. What things could I be saying that could be planting little seeds that are growing weeds when I intended them to grow sun flowers? Don’t get hung up on the title of the campaign, Ban Bossy, watch some of the clips and get to the root of it – or to the seeds of it, after all the root comes from the seed.
I urge you to watch this clip from ABC News and share your thoughts. What kinds of things can we, working mothers and all working women, do today to help our young girls grow into confident leaders?