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Hey all! I'm Courtney Macavinta, co-author of the best-selling book for teen girls RESPECT and founder of Respect Rx, which is devoted to empowering girls, women and their advocates to boost self-respect, sisterhood, and social change in their lives (and our world). We make the respect connection through books, blogs, coaching, consulting, media appearances, nationwide special event and speaking programs and partnerships.


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Advocates, Parents, Respect Makeover, Self-Respect + Self-Esteem

5 Ways to Boost a Girl's Self-Respect

Sure, respect is an inside job. Every girl has to commit to finding, building and keeping her self-respect. But we can throw our support a sistah's way. We can encourage her that she’s worth the effort. We can be there for her when disrespect has got her down. That’s what this sisterhood thing is all about, right? Here are 5 ways to help a girl (or woman or friend) invest in her self-respect:

1. Point out her strengths
Forget dishing advice about a how a girl can improve when it comes to her weaknesses. Instead, compliment her on her strengths (she already has many, guaranteed!). Let her know how amazing she is and how impressed you are by her talents and gifts. Highlighting her strengths (daily if necessary) is essential: She might be focusing on what’s wrong with her and not see all that's special about her.

But it’s important not to attach pressure or a prescription to your compliment like: You’re so great at math, you should become an engineer. Here are the colleges you should apply to but they’re very tough to get into, so you should... Instead, plant a seed so she can grow by using her strengths, like: You’re so great at math, do you enjoy it? If the answer is yes: If you want to spend more time flexing your math brain, let me know. Would you want to help me balance the family’s checkbook? It’s an important job and you’d be awesome at it if you’re interested. Whether you’re a parent, coach, supervisor at work, teacher or mentor, give her tons of opportunities to play to her strengths so she can boost her confidence, skills and self-respect along the way.

2. Encourage her passions
You have your dreams, and the girls in your life have theirs (even if they don’t know it yet). Behind every poster child for self-respect is a long list of passions that are being pursued, fulfilled and never ignored. Cheer girls to go after their passions. Coach them about to explore their interests and balance their passions with their responsibilities. Support them however you can—whether it be a ride to lesson they never want to miss, packing them a snack to keep their energy up, or just asking them about their passions and how they make them feel. Share with them the limitless potential we all have. For inspiration, offer examples of your heroes and role models. Ask them who they admire and why. And accept when their passions change. Allow girls the flexibility to grow out passions and into new ones—always encourage them to try new things and that mistakes are lessons in disguise.

3. Tell her she can do it (but don’t always tell her how)
Every girl already is creative, resourceful and whole. The question as her advocate is: How can you draw out her power and gifts? No matter what challenge lies ahead, encourage her that she *can* do it. Then ask—not tell—her how she thinks she can achieve her goal, dream or task. In a supportive way (and when neither of you are frustrated) ask her open-ended questions like: How would you go about getting into that college? or What are some ways you might raise the money to go to music camp?

As you take the time to ask powerful questions, her own intelligent plan will unfold. Be patient. This approach can take longer because she is new to exploring options and making action plans. If you hang back but let her know you are there for her, she will likely ask you for some advice and support—and then you can give her the benefit of your wisdom and experience. By telling girls they can do it, and then letting them figure out how, they start to see how smart they are, take more ownership over their plans, and think more deeply about the possible outcomes of their choices.

4. Listen and respect her boundaries
Girls tell me that the No. 1 way they feel respected is when people listen to them. Sounds easy, right? When girls are sharing their feelings, dreams or disappointments, press your lips together, open your ears and lean in. They are giving you a gift. When girls share, it’s the chance to see inside their hearts and pick up clues about how you can support them in becoming who they are supposed to be. When you are truly listening to them (without butting in or offering advice or discounting their feelings because they scare you) they are seeing respect in action. Also, listening to their thoughts and ideas is part of coaching them about how to make self-respecting decisions. It reinforces that they and their feelings count (isn’t this what we all need?).

Girls say they need to be able to talk without fear or judgment. Otherwise, they start to shut out their advocates, stop asking questions and don’t ask for support. So it’s all about listening. Young people have things to teach us too! And when they set boundaries, listen harder than ever before. Because if a girl can’t set boundaries in the safety of her own home, how is she going to enforce her boundaries to protect herself and not be doormat out in the real world? Like if she says: Mom, can you not ask me tons of questions right when I get home from school? Or, It hurts my feelings when you criticize how I do things. Listen and then negotiate an alternative that works for both of you. She’ll feel respected, you’ll feel like you can still positively influence her...and respect will start to rule under your roof.

5. Respect yourself, too
Respecting ourselves is a life-long practice. Show the girls in your life how it works for you. Learn and live The 7 Respect Basics—from following your passions to listening to your gut.

Show her (even if you’re still working on it) how you take care of and appreciate your mind, body and soul. Show her how you value yourself based on more than what you have or how you look. Show her how you support other women and don’t put them down. Show her how you do things that you love and that enrich your life. Show her your integrity by telling and living your truth. Show her how when you are dealing with disrespect—unhealthy relationships, negative self-talk, too much stress, depression, addictions, etc.—how you’re not afraid to get help. Show her how you surround yourself with people who respect themselves and want you to be yourself. Show her that she doesn’t have to be perfect and how to learn from mistakes instead of letting them define her. Show her that you are forgiving of yourself and others. Show her how to treat people equally and not violate others' rights. Show her that even if we’re not always set up for success, that true respect starts on the inside.

If you work toward loving and respecting yourself and others in her presence, she will learn how to do it too. Mission accomplished.


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