Lisa Leslie, a girl who hit 6-feet tall in the 6th grade, wore a size 12 shoe when she was 12 years old, and got her share of "how's the air up there?" jokes could have ended up with a less than stellar sense of self esteem. But Leslie credits her healthy sense of body confidence—and her desire to see all girls develop one themselves—to her 6'3" mom (and a 6'4" dad) who said, "we've been blessed enough to grow on the inside and the outside."
We caught up with this three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player and four-time Olympic gold medalist at The Women's Conference in California, just after a panel hosted by Dove on self esteem. Her tips for confidence building:
1. List your assets—and believe in them
"Some people have great voices, and I can't sing at all," Leslie says. "That's not my talent." To get your self esteem in the right place, she says, "you need to own up to what you have. Acknowledge that you've got certain hair, certain eyes, certain lips and it is what it is." Find the things you do like. Capitalize on them. Leslie could have felt funny about her height. Instead, she says, "this body got me some trophies."
On the same panel, Katherine Schwarzenegger described a meltdown tween "I hate everything about myself" moment and the thing that got her out of it. Katherine's quick-thinking mom, Maria Shriver, had her make a list of everything she liked and disliked about herself. "By the end, the list of likes was longer than the list of dislikes," she said. You could feel the room making notes to make the same list themselves, tweens or not.
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2. Get a mentor, even from a book
What if your family didn't value what you had, like Lisa Leslie's did? "Girls without that support really suffer for love. For those young girls, I think seeking out self-help books can help. I'm not trying to pump up my husband [Michael Lockwood], but he is the author of a book called Women Have All the Power, Too Bad They Don't Know It and it helps teens understand their power at a young age. Another thing girls can do is seek out a mentor from other people's moms."
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3. The biggie: Set goals
"The key that helped me is that I started writing down my goals. In the 9th grade, I started writing short-term goals that I wanted to achieve within the year and then long-term goals, which were the ones I wanted to achieve in 5 years." On the short list that year: Getting a 3.5 GPA and becoming the best player in the nation (done, by the way). Long-term? Representing the USA in the Olympics. "Because I had these guidelines I was so focused on, that pettiness of people talking about me was so secondary to my life. I had to focus on other things." She and her husband still set financial goals, individual goals, goals as a couple, and goals for their children. Up next? Finishing those last two courses of her MBA while doing everything else—including teaching her two kids to keep their self esteem high.
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