Enjoy the Journey: Conquering Low Self-Esteem with Laurel Handfield
In this episode, you’ll also hear:
- Laurel’s childhood struggle with low self-esteem, and her mission to reach young girls who struggle the same way she once did
- How to start having conversations with the young girls in your life, to help them with their confidence
- Why you should stop trying to force the publishing process – and what to do instead
- Laurel’s advice on taking action, even when you feel like your writing isn’t good enough
Be sure to read all the way to the end for a FREE guide and giveaway, important links, and more!
Have you ever felt like you weren’t attractive or didn’t fit in? What we see on TV and social media can easily become a message that we don’t fit in or that we aren’t beautiful – and that message can have devastating impacts on the rest of a person’s life.
Laurel Handfield knows exactly what that feels like. As a result, she’s made it her mission to offer encouragement to young girls who struggle with low self-esteem the same way she once did. Her publishing company, Happy Island Press, publishes picture books, coloring books, and more to reach young girls with the message that they are beautiful and valuable just the way they are.
Like Laurel, you can have a positive impact on people who need to hear the message God has given you. But it’s not always easy to move forward with that message. Fortunately, Laurel has some advice to help you get started, keep going, and finish that book.
Growing Up with Low Self-Esteem
As a young black girl growing up in the 70s and 80s, Laurel’s self-esteem suffered from a lack of role models. Trying to compare herself to her peers in all-white schools was, as she describes it, “comparing apples to oranges.” She never felt pretty enough, good enough, or confident in herself, so now she’s on a mission to instill high self-esteem and confidence in young girls as early as possible – so they don’t have to go through what she did.
For Laurel, lack of confidence had far-reaching consequences. By the time she was 13 years old, she had developed an eating disorder that lasted until she was 19, compelled by a desire to fit an impossible standard of beauty. “I knew what people saw as attractive, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with that,” she explains. “It was so difficult for me, and I don’t want that to happen to anyone else.”
Low self-esteem can have many other consequences, too. It can also leave young girls more susceptible to addictions or other harmful behaviors. Because low self-esteem can have such profound negative impacts, we cannot afford to be passive on the issue. We have to be proactive, to make sure it doesn’t manifest itself in ways that harm young girls and jeopardize their future.
Where Does Low Self-Esteem Come From?
Over time, Laurel worked through her self-esteem issues on her own. It wasn’t until she moved to the Bahamas as an adult that she realized she wasn’t alone in this struggle.
In the Bahamas, Laurel was struck by all the beauty she saw. The young girls around her were all so pretty, and it was a mostly black nation, so she was sure they wouldn’t have to deal with the same kind of comparison she dealt with as a child. But she soon realized that wasn’t true.
Young girls today are held to an impossible standard of beauty by what they see on social media. Those same feelings – of not being pretty enough, of not fitting in – are the same today as they were in the 70s and 80s.
Laurel’s hope was that her daughter would never have to go through the low self-esteem issues she faced. After all, her daughter was growing up in a different place and time than Laurel did. And yet, Laurel’s daughter, like so many young girls today, struggled with the standards of beauty and comparison that social media creates.
That’s why Laurel started Happy Island Press. She wanted to reach girls at an early age, to affirm their inner and outer beauty while they are still young. And at the same time, she believes it’s important for mothers to have open, honest conversations with their daughters about confidence and self-esteem, because young girls don’t always express that they’re struggling with this. Just because your daughter isn’t talking about it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
The Irresistible Call To Write
Although the topic of low self-esteem has always been near to Laurel’s heart, identifying her mission as an author and publisher didn’t happen overnight.
While she had always loved writing, as Laurel got older, she didn’t see writing as a career in and of itself. After earning a degree in Marketing, she spent about 10 years drifting from one corporate job to another. “I was miserable, to say the least,” she recalls. “I just wasn’t interested. I kept moving, trying to find that thing I wanted to do, not realizing that it was still writing.”
Fast-forward several years. Laurel went to the Bahamas for vacation and met her now-husband. When they moved to the Bahamas together, her objective was to get a local job in marketing. But finding that job turned out to be harder than expected, and so she started writing again. As she shared her writing via social media and received positive feedback, she decided to stick with it – temporarily, at least. She still believed she would only write until she found a job in marketing.
Needless to say, she never found that marketing job in the Bahamas. So she’s still writing – and loving every minute of it!
Finding the Mission
When Laurel first started writing, she wasn’t sure what her mission was. All she knew was that she liked writing, not what she wanted to do with it. But as time went on, and as she watched young girls struggling with low self-esteem, it broke her heart.
She recalls seeing a viral Tik Tok a few years ago, in which a beautiful little girl – only about three years old – nonchalantly called herself ugly. The video broke Laurel’s heart, and made her decide to reach girls as young as possible to affirm that they’re not ugly – they’re beautiful, strong, and confident.
And Laurel believes it’s important to remember that by the time something like “I’m ugly” comes out of a child’s mouth, it has been embedded in their psyche for a while. That may have been the first time that little girl spoke the thought out loud, but it probably wasn’t the first time she thought it to herself. As the years go by, those negative thoughts can take a huge toll on a child’s mind and heart.
Having conversations with our children, to help them work through and change those negative thoughts, is essential. And that’s exactly what Laurel is hoping to do with her coloring books and picture books: to spark conversations and bring about positive transformation.
Stop Trying To Force the Publishing Process
Once Laurel had identified her mission, it was still a long and arduous journey to getting published. Laurel faced a number of challenges despite having published other works previously, but she says what held her back on a broad scale was a lack of faith.
For a long time, she tried to succeed on effort alone, and nothing seemed to work out. It was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. But when she finally stepped back in faith, and let herself be guided in the right direction instead of trying to push through in the direction she wanted to go, everything fell into place.
As an example, Laurel shares the story of a book series she spent a lot of time and money trying to get published. She was so proud of it, but no matter how hard she tried and how many people she contacted, it just wasn’t going anywhere.
At that point, Laurel was ready to give up writing altogether. But instead, she decided to put that book aside and work on something else. She accepted that it just wasn’t that book’s time yet. The result? About 3-4 weeks after she stopped trying to force it into the hands of agents and publishers, someone called her wanting to publish it.
Laurel believes that success finally came because she relaxed and let herself put that project away. Now, she carries this philosophy with her and applies it to every book she works on: “If it’s not quite working, then that’s ok. Just put it aside, and come back to it later.”
While publishing her books is still a journey, the difference is that now Laurel is enjoying the process. “Previously, I did not enjoy doing that,” she says, “and it showed. It showed in my work. It showed in my sales. But this time, I’m actually enjoying this journey. And I think that is key. You have to sit back and have faith, and you have to enjoy the journey.”
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. Maybe you dipped your toe into the water and published something, and it didn’t turn out the way you anticipated. And maybe that’s just it – maybe you need to just take a step back. Stop trying to force things, and allow yourself to be guided to the next best step.
Sometimes you have to let go in order to receive. So if you aren’t enjoying the journey, it may be time to take a step back.
Laurel’s Biggest Challenge: Learning To Relax
It all comes back to confidence. In Laurel’s publishing journey, the marketing aspect – especially on social media – has presented her with some of her biggest challenges. She used to get flustered and upset when things didn’t work out exactly the way she wanted them to.
But, as she continues working on overcoming those challenges, she’s learned to relax into them and actually enjoy them. “I’m learning to just live in the moment and enjoy the moment,” she says. “To live in the present, and just have a good time with it. And it makes the experience much, much more enjoyable.
This mindset of coming at challenges from a place of joy instead of frustration is key. The past is past, so stop worrying about what has happened and what didn’t work. The future you can’t predict, so stop worrying about things that are probably not going to happen. All you have is the present – enjoy that present!
Overcome Low Self-Esteem with Faith & Action
It’s one thing to know you want to make a difference. But it’s another thing to actually take action, especially if you’re wrestling with doubts and lack confidence in your ability to succeed as an author.
Laurel’s advice is just to take that first step. That’s all you have to do. That first step could be having an idea and writing down the first chapter. Or it could just be brainstorming. You don’t have to see the complete picture. Just take the first step, be in that moment, have faith – and watch how the next steps come to you.
FREE Guide & Giveaway!
Do you know a young girl with low self-esteem? Visit Happy Island Press and sign up for the FREE Girls’ Empowerment Guide, which contains tips, strategies and even coloring pages to help affirm your child’s inner and outer beauty.
But that’s not all! If you sign up on Laurel’s website, you’ll be entered into a contest to receive a copy of Laurel’s new picture book, President for a Day. On Wednesday, February 8th, one lucky winner will be contacted through their provided email to receive a free paperback copy (or Kindle copy, if you prefer) of the book. Laurel will ship out the book via Amazon that day, or forward the Kindle copy.
Laurel Handfield is the owner and creator of Happy Island Press, a publisher that creates coloring/activity books for children of color. Her work has been featured in Highlights for Children magazine, and the award-winning apps Farfaria.com and Readabilitytutor.com, To date, she has written over 50 children’s stories.
A vacation to the islands turned into an unexpected romance when she met and fell in love with her now-husband. After two years in a long-distance relationship, she decided to move to the Bahamas permanently and continue her writing.
Today, she still calls the Bahamas home and enjoys the laid-back island life with her husband, three children, and two dogs.
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