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Carol Sankar is the founder of The Confidence Factor for Women in Leadership, a global executive leadership firm focused on gender diversity and inclusion initiatives for companies, start-ups and private membership organizations seeking to increase gender equity in the C-suite. Her mission is to give “women the best tools to break the barriers at the top so we can create gender parity in the workplace and in business.”

Sankar is a frequent public speaker who has appeared onstage at TEDxSan Jose State University and SxSW. Previously, Sankar worked for several years in the legal industry in New York and has an American Bar Association Intellectual Property Executive certification from Long Island University. In her spare time, she’s raising her family in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she is an avid real estate investor. She wrote an op-ed for SheReports on how the most important thing you can get for you child for back to school is confidence.

With all of the time we will spend shopping for the best deal on school supplies, new clothes, accessories and book bags, there is one thing that is never on sale or marketed during this time of year: confidence. The summertime brings children the joy of freedom; however, the thought of going back to school can present a level of fear and angst, especially for girls.

Carol Sankar taking a selfie with her son in a mall.

Confidence is a topic that needs to be addressed on a daily basis, and the summer is the best time to create lasting confidence by building rituals and affirmations for girls who are returning to school and might feel nervous about meeting new friends, social media, fitting in with a crowd, fashion and the fear of isolation. I am the proud mother of a wonderful 13-year-old son, and I am always teaching him about the importance of self-belief and self-validation. I especially remind him about how his actions could potentially impact others, especially the young girls in his class.

Confidence is a topic that needs to be addressed on a daily basis, and the summer is the best time to create lasting confidence by building rituals and affirmations.

Today, girls face unique challenges that we did not have at their age, yet they cannot be overlooked. Back-to-school is the perfect time to commence a clear and open discussion about how confidence will affect their success in school and beyond. Today, marketers continue to ignore the social pressures of self-esteem and confidence in their ads until the school year starts. These healthy conversations and images need to happen daily, especially in marketing campaigns and commercials that target young women.

Before the first day of class, here are six conversations I believe are important to engage with the young girl in your life who is returning to school and may need a boost of courage.

Carol Sankar sitting at a table speaking with another woman.

Confidence Is Beautiful

This is a lesson that I wish I learned in high school. I spent years attempting to find a way to imitate the “popular crowd” that I ignored my own unique qualities. Remind your girls every day how beautiful they are, inside and out. Assure them that they are priceless and that inner beauty is often overlooked by people who are obsessed with fitting in rather than standing out.

Confidence Is Valuable

When you believe in yourself, it increases your value. Girls need a consistent reminder that who they hang out with in school must recognize their value to be a part of their inner circle. The value of confidence is underrated by girls who may be striving to be liked instead of valued. Talk to your girls about their value before the first day of school so they can identify their friends by comparable value.

Confidence Is Not Arrogance

A major misconception for women is the false narrative that confident people are “arrogant.” Arrogant people are actually less confident as they believe in a method of intimidation and unorthodox communication principles. However, this can have an adverse effect on girls, which will lower their self-belief. They will feel isolated and alienated when attempting to form friendships. Remind them to remember that confidence is not arrogance, it is just confidence. It has the ability to radiate in a room when you believe in yourself.

The value of confidence is underrated by girls who may be striving to be liked instead of valued.

Confidence Stands Out in the Crowd

Go ahead and rock some pink hair and mismatched sneakers! This may be a little bit of a hard affirmation to sell to your daughter, but it will be useful in difficult times. Remind her that confident girls attract favorable attention without trying. Standing out in a crowd is a sign of self-awareness. The willingness to ignore the opinions of others is a great leadership skill.

Find Confident Role Models

It is imperative to align your child with role models and mentors each school year. The invaluable guidance and support from others will hold them accountable. There are numerous programs at your local library, the Boys & Girls Clubs of AmericaYWCAGirl Scouts, faith-based organizations, local universities, sports organizations and even in her school. Talk to your student’s guidance counselor to learn more.

It is imperative to align your child with role models and mentors each school year.

Focus on Being Respected More Than Liked

This is a concept that women leaders continue to struggle with in adulthood. The urge to play small and/or sacrifice their beliefs to be liked rather than respected. Today, girls are facing pressures on social media that impact their confidence in school. Discuss the importance of respect and how to ignore the urge to listen to the criticism of others — including cyberbullies who try to force them to change. This is an important lesson that will be more valuable later in their career. Make sure she knows that respect is a key leadership quality that never goes unnoticed.

While we are in the final stretch before the doors open for a new school year, commence a series of affirmative conversations with your daughters and/or young ladies in your life to remind them how necessary their presence is in the world.

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