Navigating The Heart Of My Daughter

Late Saturday afternoon I walked into the girl’s room to put away some freshly laundered clothes. The sun was shining through the window, drowning the space with beautiful golden light. Bella was up on the top of the bed, she had her head bent over a pad of paper and her eyebrows were furrowed in deep concentration. It isn’t an unusual sight to see her up there. She often seeks alone time away from her siblings and the rest of the world to write, read or draw. If she can’t find refuge in her room, she can be found taking an hour long shower to escape. She is my dreamer so that takes into account for our water bill.

She is also very talented. I am always amazed with the stories and songs she writes, and the art she painstakingly labors over. She is and always has been my joy. I am so proud of her. She is a really good girl with so many amazing qualities. She is kind, helpful, and so loving. She is very responsible and very unorganized. Yep, that wasn’t a typo. The girl is unorganized and that is ok by me.  She is extremely smart, and very beautiful. She loves to be silly and be loud with those she is close to. She is passionate about whatever she is interested in, whether that is dance, music or a new subject at school. I could go on and on, clearly I am crazy about her.

I asked her what she was doing, and as soon as she looked up at me I could see how sad she was.

” I am trying to write a list of things about me so my friends at school don’t think I am lame.”  was her quiet response.

I sat there with her, my heart breaking, and just listened.

She explained how she didn’t think people thought she was smart enough. Talented enough. Pretty enough. Interesting enough.

After some coaxing, I eventually narrowed it down to three girls in her class that she was desperate to be friends with. She believed that if she showed them her list they would change their minds about her. My determined little girl.

I tried to encourage her that she was smart. She was talented and pretty and interesting.

But that wasn’t the issue she said.  She knew all of these things to be true.

The problem was THEY didn’t believe that.

Oh how my thirty year old self resonated deeply with her nine year old self. I ached with her and for her in a way I have never before.

I asked her why it mattered that these three girls didn’t like her, especially when so many other people do.

“It just does Mom. I don’t know why. It just does.”

It just does. It just does. It just does.

How can I explain to her that her value isn’t dependent on what other people think? That she can do everything in her power to convince these girls otherwise and she still may face rejection? That not everyone in the world is going to like her, and that it is ok?

Oh my.

Honestly,  I stumbled over all these words desperate for her to really hear me, and I’m not sure she did.

Navigating her heart, is a lot like navigating mine. It isn’t always easy.

I would love your insight and suggestions on how to encourage my little girl. Perhaps you have a daughter a lot like mine? How did you walk her through this? Or is this just a life lesson she will eventually learn on her own?

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45 thoughts on “Navigating The Heart Of My Daughter

  1. Oh Car, this hurts my heart too. I wish I had easy answers. I am navigating something similar with my little buddy. Identity is such a hard thing to navigate. I am desperate for both my kids to navigate it better then I did myself. I find myself praying often, asking for the Lord to give me wisdom for the day to speak to the issues. Lately I’ve been wondering if I need to pray that God will help me see clearly the non-crisis moments where they are listening, so I can lay that truth as a foundation. I don’t know. It’s a tough one, but so important. Love you and will be praying for you!!

  2. Oh, how my heart breaks reading this – for Bella, for you, and for all the times our girls will fail to see that they are enough. Praying the Lord gives you wisdom in your every parenting moment. Goodness knows our own wisdom is rarely enough!

  3. Christine says:

    I, too, stubbled upon your blog. I happened to read your entry about your daughter. I’m a first grade/sp. ed. teacher and have appreciated parents contacting me about such issues. It’s difficult for a child to believe heir parents when it’s just not “enough”. So, that’s when I/we step in @school. I’ll get all the info about the situation and discuss w/the parents, then have a lesson on, for example, “Enough”. I’d never single out the child, but they begin to understand that they are not alone and the others begin to understand empathy.

    Though, if she is homeschooled…that’s another entry. 😉

    Good luck….and I’m sure what you do, will be “Enough”!

    ~Christine~ NJ

    • Thanks so much, and if it continues to be a concern you can be sure we will contact her teachers. 🙂 It is nice to know that teachers love our children as much as we do!

  4. I totally understand the “heart-breaking” reaction… but perhaps her desire has less to do with self-esteem and is more about more superficial relating to others. These are just thoughts from a stranger, but I think this might come down to two things. One, reminding her that her most meaningful friendships are the ones with people who will like her for her and will need no explaining. Two, that the desire to have others think you are super-awesome is a natural desire and something we all want if we are being totally honest with ourselves. Nothing is inherently wrong with that, but the problem comes when our own self-esteem gets wrapped up in it or we let this desire overpower our own values. Some simple things like tips from Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” may be helpful. For instance, statistically people feel more positive after a conversation with someone who predominantly asks questions about the other person. Very often, getting others to “like you” (or feel positive about their interactions with you) is as simple as listening to them and asking them questions about their life, interests, etc. Remembering that might help take the pressure off of someone like your daughter. It sounds like she might think that the other girl’s reaction is a reflection of her. Oh to the contrary! Keep in mind, small talk skills important in talking to strangers or acquaintances. Your most meaningful friendships are the ones that develop into so much more than one person listening to another… but small talk is an important and powerful life skill and perhaps those skills would help her feel more confident in her social interactions.

    • You could have been describing me in this post! As an adult version of that person, I can tell you that Andrea probably has part of that right. More on that in a second.

      I can tell you that for her, this feeling may never go away. Dreamers like us are often tough nuts to crack! I can relate to desperately wanting people to see how fun I really can be, but until they enter my inner circle of friends they probably won’t see more than a quiet girl/woman. I wish I had an answer for how to solve this problem, but I’m almost 30 myself and still wish I could just make a list for people.

      The best thing I’ve done is to focus on developing my best friendships to a point where others can see how much fun we are having. Still, some personalities are just less likely to notice certain other types of personalities. Those outgoing girls (as a group) may never notice the dreamer. But, she might be surprised how well Andrea’s tips might work in a one-on-one situation with those girls. Now that I think about it, my best friends and husband are all fun, attention-grabbing extroverts who happened to meet me one on one. I can remember very clearly how I met one of them, and I spent most of the first few interactions asking her about herself (it was a really specific situation where I was expected to do so, but nonetheless it worked out).

      I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that I’m never the life of the party, people often don’t see the reasons why I’m not lame, and not everyone sticks around long enough to see the deeper parts of me. I try to spend my time focusing on being the best version of myself and honing the friendships I do have. Having a sense of humor about my outward “lameness” helps too!

  5. Sabrina says:

    Hello, I am also a new follower (BTW, beautiful blog). Wanting to be noticed and included is something that we ALL go through.
    Just be honest and say that being a good friend shouldn’t be a hard job. Therefore you shouldn’t need your resume (apply) to get one. Can you try having her write down what makes this group of girls so special? Maybe this exercise can help her to realize what type of friendship is important. What characteristics we should look in others.

  6. New to your blog (via a FB share on your “We can’t be friends” and just remind her to keep reading that list she is making, even if those three little girls don’t. I remember being so sad when my daughter (now a Freshman) had that happen for the first time because it seemed so much younger than when I remember it starting. Encourage her to interact more with her “super bestest forever” friends that she already has, maybe have them over after school or on a weekend so they can have fun together away from the peer pressure. Good luck, it only gets harder!

  7. Hi, I too am a new follower thanks to your “We Can’t Be Friends” post shared on Fb. I feel for your daughter as I have the same personality as she does. It’s hard to want everyone to be your friend and everyone to like you. I’ve learned over time that I have many acquatences, but only a handful of close friends. Those close friends are who matter most. If she really wants these girls to like her, maybe pray with her for these girls. Try and find something in common that all of them like, or invite them over for a playdate so your daughter can see who these girls are outside of school. They may be a lot nicer to her one-on-one. Some times young girls, or just girls in general, tend to be more judgmental or sarcastic in groups. But not so much when you get to talk to them alone. Your daughter sounds like an amazing young lady. I’m sure she’ll have some very special close friends one day, if not already. 🙂

    • I agree with you, I don’t think these girls are going out of their way to be mean to her. I think Bella feels largely misunderstood and unheard in a group of girls. I like your suggestion of having them over for a playdate one on one.

  8. I can completely understand the heartbroken feeling, I cannot imagine my daughter dealing with something like that, but I imagine it is going to happen at some point in time, it always does, it seems. All I can say is try and encourage her the best you can, unfortunately there are times where life lessons will happen, and it might be something that she has to learn. I hope it is one of those lessons that does not hurt, though. Of course, I am sure we all wish that as well. All I can say is help her through this moment, not everyone is meant to be in their lives, but when they are… they will be. I just hope she can learn these lessons without getting hurt in the long-run, because some kids can be so ruthless.

  9. Ashley says:

    I also stumbled upon your blog, and I just had to comment on this one. I also have this introverted, creative personality. I have a 9mo old daughter, and I can already see signs that she will be a lot like me, and I have been preparing for when I go through this same thing with her. I completely empathize with your daughter, I went through all these same feelings from probably her age until I was in my early 20’s. I think you were correct when you said it is just a life lesson she will have to learn herself. We all have the desire for everyone to like us and think we are wonderful, not-lame people. Dreamers like her want to be dreamers and smart and talented and keep to themselves, but they also want to be the “cool girl” that everyone thinks is so beautiful and sparkling. This is a hard thing when, in her case, there is a group of outgoing girls that she wants to like her.
    For me, I always thought I was just strange and nobody wanted to be my friend until I learned about different personality types, that I am not alone in the way I am and the way I think, and that just because I can’t seem to make myself a social butterfly doesn’t mean I am doomed to live alone with my thoughts. I think because introverted people are naturally quiet and extroverted people are definitely not, introverts feel like they are alone and strange. I can remember many social outings when an outgoing person felt the need to tell me how quiet I am, like that meant something was wrong with me.
    Even though your daughter may know that her family loves her and thinks she is wonderful, she will always crave the approval of her peers. Even though we may KNOW our good qualities, we secretly want to have a moment in the spotlight.
    For me, I was fortunate to find a couple close friends and a spouse who appreciate me and my talents and make me feel loved, and now that I am comfortable with myself they are enough for me. Not everyone is so fortunate, though.
    My advice to you is just to be there to listen to, build up, and encourage your daughter, and pray for her to meet the people that will become lifelong friends who accept every part of her, and encourage her to find and hold onto the confidence that will give her the strength to accept and like herself.
    Sorry this was so long, I hope I helped and didn’t waste your time!

  10. I was just introduced to your blog. This is a heartbreaking and beautiful post.

    My now 25 year old daughter is outgoing, wise, caring, accomplished and other young women love her words to them. The thing is – this culture we live in – the incessant emphasis on fitting in, looking right, being the wanted…is devastating the bright futures of our daughters. To some extent our sons – except that the things devastating our daughters are the things encouraged in our sons.

    My daughter has struggled with it. All of it. I am an accomplished woman – who has insecurities because of what is promoted in our culture.

    It’s up to us – as moms – to change this. Invite men into our lives who love women genuinely. Invite women into our lives who will uphold us; who reflect that our core is our worth. Invite other parents and families into our lives who insist their children genuinely see the people their peers are instead of passing on the degradation that a commercial they see 20 times a day reinforces in them.

    My 2 cents. I love your blog – keep sending this message out into the world. We need your voice.

  11. Cari, I’m going to try this again – I posted comments to the former blog entry, and I don’t see that it “took”. And on that note, might I add (again!) that it was nice meeting you at the TCMB launch party! And within 24 hours of meeting you I had at LEAST 4 facebook friends share your blog on their feed (I was like, whaaaaa? I know her!), including a friend of a friend from TN. Way to go, girl! You are obviously resonating with moms across the country- thank you, and congratulations!
    As for this post, I just wanted to add a quick resource if no one’s beat me to it – Dannah Gresh (follow her – she’s passionate about raising daughters), author of Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl, and 8 Great Dates for Mothers & Daughters… the “Secret Keeper” books. You’d love them! My 9-year-old is looking forward to turning 10 soon, because that’s when I promised we’d get started on the mother-daughter dates. Hope to connect up with you again! Warmly, Stacia

    • Hi Stacia! I loved meeting you too! I haven’t heard of Dannah Gresh, but I am going to look her up now. Sounds like a wonderful resource and just what we need! Please stay in touch!

      • Cari, off the record (though shameless plug), it’s ultimately what my blog “platform” will be… of course, now just warming up with getting stories out there. I would love to ultimately share on modesty, beauty, and raising daughters. I share this book and a few other resources on my “favorite things” page!

  12. GreenVespa says:

    You never quite realise growing up that your parents are really there with you, thinking all around certain scenarios on how they can best help you find your way and guide you. You know they are there of course, but the way in which you are developing and how your parents go beyond their natural instincts but to seek out a holistic course of support – through research, books, trusted opinions and now in our technology age, blogs like this. As I’m a fairly new parent with a 16-month old it has really struck me the amount of energy, both physical and emotional that parents give to allowing their children to grow in a safe and well nurtured environment.

    Maybe understanding different personalities could help you support Bella. A friend of mine is reading a book called “Quiet” which has helped her understand her own introverted personality and how it relates to others. She now feels more comfortable that she is not the loud, extrovert, life of the party – and that’s ok, whereas before she was upset at herself for not being so as it was looked upon as an ideal, by herself and perhaps to an extent by society. It’s easy to be around those people who are always making you laugh and telling great interesting stories. However, perhaps we do learn that sometimes the best parts of people take a little longer to come out and its worth taking the time to find out and seek below the surface. Maybe updating your understanding of the intricacies of different personalities and how they relate to each other, can help Bella understand also. Good luck and thanks for posting, it’s good to be thinking about this stuff already, even though my daughter is so little, I’m sure it will be something we will navigate in some way or another as she seeks to understand identity. I’m actually really keen to explore personalities again as I watch my little one develop!

  13. Oh my, tears in my eyes! What a heart-breaking, stop-in-your-tracks moment….I just know that my mind would have gone completely blank because the thing is, I struggle with the exact thing! Even if SO many people affirm you and admire you, if certain ones don’t, it cuts deep. And it shouldn’t matter, but “it just does”. Beautiful post, beautiful daughter, beautiful blog, and I’m so glad I found you. -Blessings

  14. Jenn says:

    Going thru the exact same thing with my 6.5 year old daughter. It is the toughest thing I have ever had to do. I hope I am doing it correctly. I just started reading your page and there must be a camera in my house somewhere that we have mirrored many same situations. Thanks.

  15. Jos. says:

    My girlfriend just sent me this, because I also have a dreaming, thoughtful six year old who can’t understand how a few girls at school wouldn’t want to be her friend. My heart sunk immediately, and I want you to know I know exactly how you feel. You have to be the louder voice in her head, because those mean girls can easily replace her “list” of awesomeness with mean and hateful words. Make that list into post-its and stick them to her bathroom mirror. Have dance parties in the morning before school, and remind her that she is awesome without the validation. Most of all, and this is the hardest, don’t get overly involved. I know as a Mama Bear, we want nothing more than to fix it. Resist, and remind yourself that the very things that make her who she is will get her through this.

  16. jaime15 says:

    My heart goes out to your little girl. She sounds just like my 4 year old – a dreamer. I had the same conversation with her the other day. I hope she finds some resolution. She is so beautiful by the way..

  17. When I read these posts I feel less alone. I know there are lots of sensitive and brilliant little girls out there and we just need more of a safety net. I have a two year old and am in that blissful time before she has any awareness of social hierarchy. I guess you could tell your very bright girl that humans are inherently social creatures, and that this has a dark side: we want approval because our need for social acceptance is a survival trait since evolutionary times. But that need does not have to be “literal” with these people. We want people to like us. We hurt when they don’t. That’s because being social has its rewards and its downsides. Would this cheer a young girl? Maybe it is too abstract. I am not ready for school, clearly. I bristle when my daughter, happily skipping in her pre dance class is scolded and told to return to the conformist circle. There will be much time for discipline and conformity, that is what our schools seem to enforce. Tell your daughter that her specialness will keep her safe always and loved by many always…

  18. I don’t know if anyone mentioned yet the book, “The Introvert Advantage”. From experience with introverts and dreamers I know, they are far more popular and respected than they feel! A friend today told me that her seven year old girl comes home saying she doesn’t have any friends but when the mother asked to school, they said she has a whole following! Another thought: introverts have a different idea of what friendship is and expect it to be more meaningful and significant whereas extroverts (and I am one) have many friends but are less concerned that each interaction be significant. It is also possible those girls have no idea how they are affecting your daughter by ignoring her (but I’m sure it has nothing to do with how smart she is!). Hugs xo

  19. I read this for the first time couple days ago. Since then I have come back to it a few more times and visited your blog. Your post resonated with me. As a mother of two young girls… Ages nine and five, this is something that I struggle with on a daily basis. As my oldest gets older we have more conversations like the one you had with your beautiful daughter. It’s so difficult navigating the world with a young heart. Let’s face it, girls… Even little girls, can be mean. I still struggle with mean girls in my life on occasion but for us it’s easier since we are adults and can put it in perspective. For the younger set unfortunately this is not always the case. Her words are correct because let’s face it sometimes it does matter. I think the best thing you can do for her and clearly you’ve already done this is be there for her so that she can talk to you and you can lend your support and advice whenever needed. Build her up whenever you can, constantly encourage her positive qualities and remind her of how proud you are whenever possible. Sometimes I like to take my daughter out to a special lunch so that we can just have some girl talk. I think the fact that you wrote this post and brought attention to this subject speaks volumes. As a society we still have trouble navigating the world between women. Maybe if we constantly trying to build our girls up eventually it will read them to a world I don’t have to deal with it for the rest of their lives or at the very least we’ll have enough confidence to laugh in the face of the mean people by the people that make them feel inadequate. Another resource that I have used in the past some of the American girl books they have some really great resources about how to be the best person you can be, how to deal with friendship troubles, how to believing yourself and how to navigate the world of friendship. My daughter and I also found a great journal that we pass back-and-forth between one another you could find it on Amazon. It’s called Just between us. It’s a collection of prompts and you and your daughter would pass the book back-and-forth. I found it’s a sounding board journal and have been able to have great conversations between my daughter and myself by utilizing this. Good luck my friend. I’m so happy that I found your blog and look forward to continued reading. Thank you for bringing attention to this important topic.

    • Tears. Thank you. I am going to check out that journal you mentioned. I think it would be good for both Bella and I. Also you aren’t the first to mention the american girl books. Looks like we need to go to the library. Thank you for being encouraging and supportive. Your daughters have a great mommy!

  20. Laura K. says:

    This sounds just like me at her age. I am now in my late twenties but when I was younger I struggled with friendships with girls. I was bullied horribly and I thought that girls just were not going to be my friends. I was a pleaser. I thought I had to please everyone my parents, friends, teachers, etc. Finally in college it hit me like a ton of bricks that the only person I needed to please was God! That everyone else in this world would some how not be able to fill that void of wanting to be accepted. Dear Mother in Christ encourage her to want to serve God and make Him her number one priority. He can fill us with so much love and peace that only He can provide. My daughter is only 16 months old but I am learning very quickly that the Lord is the only one who can fill my heart with the love and peace that I need. May He Bless you and guide you. I will pray for the many Mommies who read and have the same prayers as you. We can all relate to this post I think. Thank you for being transparent!

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