4 Ways to Empower Your Nieces
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By Libby Koultourides
Savvy Aunties, do you want to help your nieces feel empowered to discover their true beauty rather than the idea of physical perfection that is offered by mass media? Would you like them to be brimming with confidence no matter what issues they may face at school or in the future?
Four years ago, I found a book that captured my 11-year-old niece's imagination, so much so that she finished the book in a ten hour span. The book is titled BeYOUtiful: The Ultimate Girl's and Young Woman's Guide to Discovering Your True Beauty, Gaining Higher Self-Confidence and Developing Personal Success in All Areas of your Life (Julie Marie Carrier, Positive Role Model Press, 2008). A tall order, for sure. However, the book is written in an easy-to-read, interactive format that helps young women understand the power of self-respect in a very personal way.
The author, Julie Marie Carrier (also a Savvy Auntie), shares her unique story of overcoming bullying and low self esteem at age 14 to successfully starting her own business in high school. She suffered from a growth hormone problem that caused her to be the height of an average fifth grader in tenth grade. She went from never being asked on a date in high school to becoming Miss Virginia USA in her twenties and being hired as a Senior Management Consultant at the Pentagon at age 23. Her story of confidence and overcoming obstacles is sprinkled throughout the book, along with behind-the-scenes tales of what happens to "create" a beauty queen in the pageant world and on TV. No wonder my niece couldn't put it down.
I mention this book not only to recommend it for your nieces but because I think aunts can be powerful role models by sharing our own stories of successes, disappointments, and obstacles overcome with our nieces, like the author of this book does with her young readers. It is wonderful to spend fun time with my nieces—going to movies, getting manicures—but I also want them to know what strong women they can become—and I want to be a good role model of that strength. Reading a book like BeYOUtiful can be a great springboard for conversation about developing inner confidence but so can consciously making a point of sharing life lessons to help guide our nieces to become kind, smart, and savvy women themselves. Here are some ideas of how you can model success and self-respect for your nieces:
1. Choose a book, such as BeYOUtiful, to read with your niece and discuss.
I suggest buying two copies and completing the worksheets in the book yourself, too, to show your niece that building self-confidence is a lifelong project.
2. Sprinkle your conversations with your niece with examples of women who have overcome obstacles to achieve success.
Find age-appropriate movies (such as The Miracle Worker about Helen Keller's life), so they understand that true success doesn't usually come without a price tag.
3. Help your nieces understand that there is no cookie cutter way to be beautiful.
Find ways to ask questions about what they think defines beauty. Do they think beauty comes in a certain size, or is beauty something that can be seen in a smile, a positive attitude, or a kind word?
4. Redefine traditional ideas about maternal role models for your nieces by sharing your perspective on being an aunt with them, when appropriate.
For example, one of my younger nieces has asked me several times why I don't have kids. Instead of ignoring her questions, I answer, "Well, some women have children and others don't. If I had my own children, I might not be able to spend so much time with you, so I'm really blessed." This glass-half-full attitude has helped me and may help her as well someday.
Published: February 20, 2013