Those are the words LaTonya Williams spoke to her daughters each morning when they were growing up.
The mother of five girls said that she began building her daughter’s self esteem when they were children because she knew the rest of the world would not. Studies show that African American girls are much more likely to be “adultified” — to “grow up” before adulthood.
While teaching her daughters about their worth and self esteem, she also found herself mentoring women at her job. That led her to found the Hello Beautiful Conference, a organization that promotes body positivity for women of color.
The conference took place in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and virtually. The goal was “just letting women know you’re beautiful, you’re an expert, you’re smart,” Williams said.
When it comes to girls and social media, Facebook’s own research concluded that Instagram may have had a toxic impact on the self esteem of teenage girls.
The news for teens of color was alarming as well. African American girls are not only suffering from low self esteem, they also deal with racial bias on social media, according to a recent Yale study.
“A lot of young girls, especially black girls are killing themselves, they are harming themselves and they are falling prey to people who are affirming them negatively,” Williams said, adding that it’s time for parents to learn about social media and educate their children.
“Let’s teach our children how to address when they’re being shamed, or ostracized,” she said.
Williams said the conference tackled the issue of body positivity by allowing women to tell their stories and provided a safe space for them to redefine their inner worth.
It also offered participants a networking opportunity so that the message lasts far beyond the conference.
“Your going to need those skill sets,” Williams said. “You’re going to need other women championing you.”
Williams is also the CEO of a podcast called “Tonya’s Teatalk.”
This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference in our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. You can read more of that coverage by clicking here.