Dina Leygerman
10 Ways I Want My Daughter To Be A Better Version Of Me

by Dina Leygerman

It took me 30 years to grow into the person I'm proud of. To realize I should accept people for who they are instead of expecting them to change, to recognize our society is skewed, and self-actualization is a dream afforded to only a select few. To understand only I am responsible for how I feel and no one can make me feel any specific way unless I let them. As a mother, I hope it doesn't take my daughter 30 years to realize the aforementioned. I hope my daughter is a better version of me, instead.

I like the person I am today, for the most part. However, looking back at my life thus far, I would change some aspects of myself. I realize I could never change what happened in my life, but I would change how I handled some situations, how I tackled adversity, and how I responded to certain circumstances. I don't have a time machine, though, and to be perfectly honest, I learned from my mistakes so I guess they were worth making. I know my daughter will be who she will be, but I hope she is better than I am. I hope she is stronger and more secure in herself. I hope she stands tall and she stands proud. I hope she is the best version of herself.

It's so easy for us to get caught up in our own lives and to forget we are part of an entire universe. We are just a speck, a mere grain of sand, and a blurb in the grand scheme of things. The quicker we realize that, the easier it is to live. I hope my daughter pays attention to others and doesn't get trapped in her own head for too long. I hope she experiences and participates in life, rather than be its spectator. I hope she lives instead of just existing. In many ways, I hope she is a better version of me in the following ways:

I Hope She Regularly Breaks Out Of Her Comfort Zone

In middle school I metaphorically said "screw it" to what was expected of me and decided to temporarily delve into grunge. I wore Airwalks, over-sized plaid shirts, and baggy jeans. That lasted about a month. Then, I exchanged my Airwalks for thick platforms, my baggy jeans for short skorts, and my plaid shirts for belly shirts. Throughout my life I experimented with a few different styles and finally decided that I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. I broke out in terms of fashion and music, but still regularly stuck with what those around me were doing. I guess I liked being comfortable and it was uncomfortable to go against the status quo. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized everyone else's comfortable wasn't really my comfortable.

I hope my daughter breaks away from whatever is popular at any given moment and just finds what works for her. I hope she doesn't hide in shame of her music choices and embraces her weird. I hope she finds friends who celebrate her idiosyncrasies rather than force her to fit into their mold. I hope it doesn't take her long.

I Hope She Eagerly Jumps At Leadership Opportunities

As confident as I am now, growing up I stayed away from most leadership roles. I guess I was afraid to fail, anxious about taking on a bigger role, and comfortable with my position. Only now, in my 30s, did I learn to jump at opportunities and push through barriers. I hope I teach my daughter that any opportunity is hers to take and I hope she jumps at any chance to show off her strength.

I Hope She Learns Early On That Mean Girls Are Not Her Friends

While I sometimes hung around some mean girls, I was never one. I was the one who befriended those who did not have many friends. I gave everyone a chance prior to judging them.

However, sometimes mean girls can seem like nice girls and that is how they get you. Sometimes mean girls wear a mask and at those times you may believe their intentions are good. I hope my daughter is able to distinguish a reality from a facade; something that took me a bit longer to grasp. And for the love of everything I hope she is never a mean girl. I hope she also takes the lonely kids under her wing and I hope she fills this world with empathy and compassion.

I Hope She Doesn't Give Up When She Feels Defeated

When I couldn't figure out algebraic equations, I gave up. When I didn't understand oxidation-reduction reactions in chemistry, I gave up. When I couldn't serve the ball in volleyball, I quit. Whenever I felt defeated, I withdrew. It took me a couple decades to realize I had to work through my hardships and not around them.

Unfortunately, I can already see a similar pattern with my daughter, but I am hoping I can convince her that giving up isn't the best approach. According to Psychology Today, girls judge their abilities differently than boys do. In fact, girls are way more harsh to themselves and believe "that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while boys believe they can develop ability through effort and practice." This is one of the reasons girls give up when they don't understand something right away: they believe they never will. I hope my daughter will not be so critical of herself and will struggle through whatever she does not understand.

I Hope She Is Tough

I'm soft. I tried fighting it and I tried putting on a tough act, but I have been and will probably always remain "soft." I forgive easily, apologize quickly, and avoid confrontation. While all of those seem like great qualities, those same qualities invite people to take advantage of me. Sure, I am aware of that fact, but I can't help who I am. However, because I know how crappy it feels to be a rug people wipe their feet on, I hope my daughter isn't quite as soft as I am. I do hope she forgives and forgets, but I hope she does so after she feels truly vindicated and justified. I hope she treats herself with respect and thus demands that respect from those around her.

I Hope She Learns That Her Appearance Does Not Define Her As A Person

As a teenager, I was a rare breed of confidence. I felt good, I looked good, I had multiple friends and boyfriends. I did not pay too much attention to my appearance because I felt great in that respect. Then, in college, I gained weight and my world started to feel way more judgmental. The thing is, I still had friends and boyfriends, but because my appearance wasn't what I expected, I felt terrible. I hated myself and tortured myself with self-criticism. I made self-deprecating jokes about my weight, was uncomfortable in my own skin, and I felt defined by the number on the scale.

I hope my daughter never feels defined by her weight or her appearance in general. I hope she knows she is the person she is because of who she is and not what she looks like.

I Hope She Speaks Up For Herself

As a kid I spoke up for myself in some situations, and the older I got the easier it got. Still, I hope it doesn't take my daughter a couple decades to learn she is important and that her voice matters. I hope she knows to speak up for herself in times of uncertainty and in times of injustice. I hope she stands up for herself often and with confidence. I hope she speaks up for herself as a girl and as a woman.

I Hope She Doesn't Attend Every Fight She Is Invited To

This is something I've had difficulty with until very recently. I've always felt the need to defend my position even when that need cost me friendships and relationships. While I hope my daughter is strong and outspoken, I also hope she realizes not every battle deserves her attention. Not every argument is worth the feeling of victory.

I Hope She Stands Firm For Her Convictions

I've always disliked those who lack conviction. I'll take a stubborn person who vigorously disagrees with me over someone who agrees for the sake of agreeing. I want my daughter to be opinionated and to be uncompromising. I want her to be steadfast in her beliefs and to never change herself for someone or something. I hope she never takes on the persona of her romantic interests and I hope she never adapts to a group of people just to be a part of that group of people.

I Hope She Fights For Those Who Are Unable To Fight For Themselves

Finally, I hope, like me, she stands up for those who are unable or unwilling to stand up for themselves. I hope she fights for those who lack a voice in society. I hope she lifts people up instead of tearing them down and praises people instead of judging them. I hope she will be the best version of herself. The best version of womanhood. The best version of humanity.