Monday 16 July 2018

'Unreliable, surface or insecure friendships can be highly anxiety-provoking'

Building self-esteem

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Stock image
David Coleman

David Coleman

Last week, I looked at the nature of girls' cliques, those almost mystical social groupings that confer acceptance and belonging on the chosen and rejection and social isolation on those less favoured.

Whether your daughter is part of a clique or not, she will be intensely aware of her friendships and the intensity of those friendships. Strong, emotionally intimate, friendships can be wonderfully sustaining for girls. Unreliable, surface or insecure friendships can be highly anxiety-provoking.

One of things most teenage girls will be seeking from their friendships, along with belonging, is a sense of validation. They will want the feedback from their peers that they are "OK", normal and accepted. As a consequence, it can be really tempting for them to mould themselves to what others expect of them, rather than what they believe about themselves.

Helping your daughter to build her self-esteem is a central part of giving her the inner strength and resilience to cope with the fluctuations that can occur with her friends.

Either falling into, or out of, a friendship can be challenging and requires your daughter to maintain her sense of self.

The difficult thing about self-esteem is that we do often base it on how others seem to esteem us (or not). We determine if we are lovable and capable (the two main underlying constructs in self-esteem) based on how others seem to see us.

Her friend group may not overly affect your daughter's sense of capability. A strong sense of being capable is more likely to come from achievement at sports, in school or in extra-curricular activities. If some of her talents are criticised by the group, that may impact her. For example, she may doubt herself if her previously acclaimed singing voice is dissed by her friends.

Building up capability again is about showing her what she is good at. It is about giving her plenty of opportunity to make decisions and then to review, but not criticise, those decisions if they don't work out. It is about acknowledging the efforts she makes, not just the things she achieves.

Our sense of lovability is the aspect of self-esteem that may have taken the greatest knock if a girl has been excluded by, or rejected by, her peers.

Lovability is all about feeling acceptable, wanted, loved, and respected by others.

Naturally this will be hard to sustain if a girl feels pushed to the outside or if the messages from the clique are that she is not welcome, or not loved and accepted.

Supporting your daughter's sense of lovability is all about loving her unconditionally, showing her that you accept her for the person she is.

It is about speaking to her with respect and showing her that her opinions are valued and that they matter.

In next week's article I'll be showing you ways to talk with your daughter to both build her self-esteem and to help her to understand and navigate the turbulent waters of her friendships, without falling into the dangerous trap of just telling her what to do!

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