One Of The Hardest Talks To Have With Your Daughter

It’s early in the morning and my daughters wake up motivated to “get to work.” This is not a rare occurence since I have very self-motivated daughters who have high aspirations to transform the world they live in. I admire that. I respect that. I love that. But not this time.

I felt upset. I felt afraid. I felt like crying. And I did. And though I’ve had thousands of talks with my daughters, maybe hundreds of thousands, I dropped everything I was doing, postponed everything we planned to do, and engaged in what I believe to be one of the hardest talks I’ve had with them, and one of the most important talks any mom can have with her daughter. And it’s not “the birds and the bees” because I call things by their name and I’m as direct as I’m short.

One of the hardest talks to have with your daughter

And the reason this talk was especially hard is because it’s a healing wound that hurts so much when poked.

Elisha and Elyssa are so much like me. I started a business when I was 7, I created my own drama club at 11, and I organized my first event at 12. I always got all A’s in school and my teachers adored me. My English as a second language teachers were amazed with me and I ended up setting a record as the youngest teacher after I graduated. I graduated highschool at 15 with the highest honors. I volunteered in the community, and my peers admired me and always came to me for help, and advice, often paid, too. I excelled at everything.

Except for one thing. And that’s where I don’t want my daughters to be like me at all. I want them to be the opposite of me.

And that’s why I had to have this talk. Because I love that my daughters inherited my gift, but I don’t want them to inherit my curse.

And now I was upset because I felt like a fool. I thought that providing an environment where my daughters could have the freedom to be who they are, I was assured that they would be okay.

I was scared, because amidst all my accolades, the busyness, and the achievements, I was barely 13 when I ended up in the hospital after attempting suicide. The irony is that I was upset because this was the one thing I tried to do and failed, and not only did I feel like a loser, but I was angry that my “unnecessary hospitalization” presented a nuisance to the people who labeled me as “the naughty daughter, always wanting to be the center of attention.”

The truth is, I did want the attention. And that’s why I worked so hard. And that’s why I got the grades. And that’s why I used all my gifts to create fame and fortune. But that’s not why I tried to kill myself: I tried to end my life because I thought none of my achievements were enough to make me worthy. I never felt I was enough.

So the morning of the talk I felt an air of “I need to achieve to deserve” in my daughters’ voice that terrified me to the core. If you’re thinking it might have been in my head, I admit there is a possibility of that being true, because after all, you don’t think straight when your wound gets poked at. You just feel.

The thing is, no one wakes up one day and JUST decides they can’t do this anymore and one more day alive seems unbearable.

It starts with the Cinderella-sized to-do list you can’t seem to ever complete and gets longer with the rollover tasks, no matter how hard you try.

It starts with the long list of goals you set and never seem to achieve.

It starts with the many times you don’t measure up to the ideal standards – which are often not even your own.

Sure it’s great to have a sense of direction in your life, to set healthy goals, and to aim for excellent performance. I encourage my girls to be their personal best everyday and I strive to model that for them in everything I do as a mom, a professional, and human being.

And although we have all sides of the brain represented in my household, I am both linear and analogue and can find the balance between structure and creative freedom, discipline and play, motivation and inspiration.

Self-motivation is not the curse. The curse is what science calls “contingent self-esteem.” Contingent self-esteem turned me into the most successful child in my hometown, and the most miserable.

My unsupportive, perfectionist, unforgiving environment had much to do with it, but it is also self-inflicted.

  • It’s the pressure to perform.
  • It’s the addictive glory of achievement.
  • It’s the competitiveness through comparison.

And just writing those three sentences gave me chills. Because the words pressure, addiction, and comparison are the robbers of peace, freedom, and joy.

I can’t say I wish I knew this when I was a child, because I probably did. The message was embedded in my dad’s words every time he declared he was proud of me for what seemed insignificant to me, like shining my shoes before I went to school. I was too focused on being the best at everything, and for much of my youth, I missed the point.

Every daughter needs to hear these words from her mother: you are enough.

Over and over.

Even when she looks confident and you think she’s got it down.

And I feel every mom needs to tell her daughter those words to validate her own self-worth.

That morning the girls and I had the talk, and we cried together, and we hugged, because moms and daughters can be best friends. This healing concept may have actually just closed my childhood wound.

And every mom, every daugther, every woman and man, would experience more freedom, more joy, and more peace if we understand that our value is not contingent upon anything we do. We are valuable because of who we are… we carry the same worth from the first to the last breath on this earth – yes, even with all the mistakes, failures, and in between.

I’m so happy that my daughters and I are on this journey together, that I can gather the strength to talk the hard talks, and that they are willing to listen. And not only that we can be each other’s friends when things are hard, but that we have each learned to practice what Kristin Neff calls self-compassion: to treat yourself as you would treat your best friend.

Writing this post has been extremely therapeutic to me, and as I peel off the layers, I get more hope to silence the inner-bully, not only in myself, but in my daughters, and the moms I mentor – and their children… because healed people heal people.

I’m going  to leave you with this thought that just occurred to me: the reason we don’t have this kind of heart talks with our girls is because of fear. We fear they will become lazy, they won’t get good grades, they won’t pursue worthy goals… you fill in the blank. I have found that, in a supportive environment, they will still take action and multiply their talents, and they will do it with enjoyment.

With every decision you make about the way you parent and show up for your children, ask yourself: is it based on my fear and worry, or based on how much I love this beautiful being I call my child?  Love is the most powerful force in the universe.

What is the hardest talk you’ve had with your children? I love to learn from you and I’m so very grateful for your contribution to the conversation in the comments below.

Elayna Fernandez - Author - 
Speaker - Success Guide to Moms and Mompreneurs
© Elayna Fernández ~ The Positive MOM

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57 thoughts on “One Of The Hardest Talks To Have With Your Daughter

  1. My eyes are full of tears! Worthiness is something that I believe many over-achievers battle with.

    I’m so glad that you were able to have this conversation with your daughters. Looking back over my teenage years it’s something I needed to hear more of since strived for perfectionism in my studies.

    You really drove these points home that “I AM Worthy” and “God APPROVED me” when we coached together. It freed me on a deep, deep level and was what I needed to elevate my life.

    I’ve had some hard talks with my son and you’ve given me inspiration to write about them and share.

    Thanks for letting your light shine and following your God-given path to heal the world; one daughter, one mom, one of post at a time.


  2. Thank you for sharing this with us. I have always told my son that it is okay if he doesn’t always succeed. As long as he tried his best that is all that matters.

  3. This is wonderful, and yes so important to talk about. They need to feel that no matter what you support them. They need to learn and try, go through the steps along the way but no matter what we got their back

  4. I love that you have that kind of open communication with your girls where you can have those hard conversations. Some parents don’t. All children definitely need to know that their best is always good enough.

  5. My kids are adults but I remember those talks. They never end even when your kids are in their 30s. Open communication and love are the most important things to remember.

  6. I am not sure if it has been the hardest, but tough explaining to all my children that I as their mother I am not perfect. That I make mistakes and I do that because I don’t want them to think that they need to be perfect all the time either.

  7. We haven’t really had hard talks yet. When we do, I’m not really worried about it. I’m pretty upfront straight forward, and open with my kids so I think it will be fine.

  8. This is such a great post. It is so important to tell our kids they are enough. My Son is a lot like your daughters. I had to talk to him and tell him to be a kid while he still can.

  9. Kids seem to grow up to fast. We need to teach them it is okay to be a kid and have fun. It is not just about grades and working.

  10. Wow. I have never thought of it this way. It’s a scary thought that my girls may feel they have to achieve to be accepted. Thank you for the reminder that we are more than what we do. We have value outside of accomplishments.

  11. I never knew I would ever have to give this talk. To be honest this talk is not just for daughters. My son is 7 years old and that is the age they start wanting to make friends. I tell my son daily that he is enough and I plan on doing just that with my daughter. My dad used to treat me like a little princess but when he passed away I felt like that was it. That I was only worthy while he was here. I hope my kids will never feel that way. That no matter where they are in life, they will always know that they are more than worthy.

  12. Race relations has been the hardest talk so far. Trying to explain to him that although he personally doesn’t know anyone who’s racist, there are still enough people out there that could judge him solely on the color of his skin.

  13. I’m so glad you failed. So glad. And you’re right it is a hard talk to have, but it’s an important one too. I want my daughter to know she is enough. And she is. She most definitely is.

  14. This is an amazing post! I definitely agree that children need to be told this. Often we find that we are trying to live up to the expectations of others and into our own. I try remind kids that they are enough every day. Thanks for this great post.

  15. All we really want is to feel like we are appreciated for what we do. If our parents don’t give us that, it feels as if we have to do more to get their attention. It’s hard. But just make sure you make your daughters feel loved and worthy, it will all be alright in the end.

  16. This post is awesome, right on the soft spot of my heart. It is always rewarding to have heart to heart talks with your children.

  17. I think open communication is the best way to go with your child. Let them feel safe to be able to come to you and talk to even on matters that freak you out inside. The more you do that the more they are going to be willing to talk to you.

  18. My daughter had a friend in college that was so depressed she was afraid her friend might commit suicide. It’s a talk we all need to have. Thanks for bringing it the attention the issue deserves.

  19. Wow! This really hits home. I can relate to the idea of “contingent self-esteem”. It is such a difficult road. I think about how I will approach this issue with my own children.

  20. i haven’t had any hard talk or conversation with my daughter, i seem to answer her questions in good way even those awkward questions i thought an 8 yr old will ask me. but yeah, all the best for all the mums!

  21. We keep open communication with our kids so they know they can tell us anything. I think it’s working because they do tell us very personal things that I would never have dreamed sharing with my mom

  22. Such an inspiring post! My mom always has this remark, “I pity you because of all my children, you are the only one that is not successful.” That hurt me when I first heard it from my mom. But I love her nonetheless and even if she keeps on telling me that, I know, deep in my heart she truly, truly loves me.

  23. This was good for me to read. I definitely have contingent self-esteem and hope I haven’t passed that to my sweet daughter. The hardest talk I had with her was when she was 12 and she was going on a trip with her dad to visit his family without me there. I had to tell her about her dad’s brother who was a pedophile (under treatment), so that she would be aware not to go anywhere with him. It was the hardest conversation of my life.

  24. Great post! This really supports my efforts to help parents nurture their daughters to value their authentic beauty and to shun that measuring stick of self worth that society advocates. I am a former school administrator and special educator. I now am an author, coach, parent resource and motivational speaker as I work to empower girls and women to develop confidence and self efficacy based on their inner strengths and beauty.

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  26. I went through the same thing when I was 14 and then again right after I graduated from college. I haven’t felt like that ever since then and I am glad. But, sometimes I feel like I am way too hard on myself and all the pressure I feel is not coming from anyone else but me.

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