Research shows that 9 out of 10 women are dissatisfied with their bodies. It is common for many girls and women to have trouble looking in the mirror. Their eyes dart across the reflection to judge their “flaws” and criticize the parts that are not magazine cover-worthy. They feel insecure and judge themselves because they have not learned how to love themselves yet.
However, it is vital for women, young and old, to soften a critical eye and see their true selves. Girls must practice loving themselves, and one of the best ways is to be taught and modeled by their parents. This article offers advice for parents, especially mothers, to help their daughters love their bodies and cultivate healthy self-esteem.
- build self-confidence by supporting your daughter’s individuality
- compliment her on her attributes—other than her beauty
- establish healthy role models
- teach your daughter to talk positively about her body
- create a safe environment for communication
- forget to lead by example when making food and fitness choices
- model the art of self-criticism
- try to make your daughter someone she is not
- express judgmental or hateful language about other women
- idealize women in the media
It is extremely important to allow your child to express herself. Whether this is in the way she wants to dress or the extracurricular activities that she gravitates toward, helping her establish individuality will help her build confidence.
Pay your daughter specific compliments regularly. Beyond her beauty, it's just as important –if not more important–to acknowledge her intelligence, courage, creativity and strength. This will help her value her accomplishments and feel confident about her personality beyond her looks.
Share stories with your daughter about powerful and impactful women who are doing great things in the world. These can be national figures or community members. Use these role models to demonstrate that looks are not what is most important in life. Celebrate women for their intellect, courage and contribution to society.
Talk positively about your own body in front of your daughter. When you are feeling emotional, choose your language carefully to express how you feel. For example, “I feel tired” or “I feel stressed” is better than saying, “I feel fat” or “I am such an idiot.” This way you can challenge your daughter to express herself more accurately if you hear her criticizing herself.
Cultivate a safe zone for honest communication with your daughter. Let her tell you about her life, friends and feelings. Sometimes, all you need to do is listen, even when you want to give advice. Try to save your input for important topics, so she can feel safe and supported when talking about the simple things in life.
Healthy choices should be normal–and not considered “good behavior.” Provide healthy food options at home and prepare them in ways to make them easy and delicious to eat. And the same goes for exercise. It should be fun and accessible–not a way to lose weight.
Notice how you talk about yourself when you are getting ready to go out, getting dressed in the mirror or when you and your daughter are shopping for new clothes. If you criticize yourself, your body or how you look, you will teach your daughter to do the same.
You can try to force your daughter to do things she doesn’t want to do. But as a result, she will not only feel uncomfortable, but she might lose trust in you. Of course, you can guide her, but you must acknowledge her individuality, even if it is not exactly what you had in mind for her.
The way you talk about other women in front of your daughter will impact how she sees them and herself. If you use hateful language about how they look or what they are wearing, you will unconsciously send a message to your daughter that this is an appropriate way to behave–and it is not.
It is no secret that images of women in the media are often manipulated and represent unhealthy body weights. Consequently, it is vital to resist the temptation to put these women on a pedestal and compare yourself, or anyone, to these unrealistic images.
Girls must stop viewing themselves as imperfect pieces, but rather as unique and a one-of-a-kind creations. They must be taught to practice self-acceptance in each moment, and to stop hating themselves for not looking like a magazine cover girl.
Additionally, they must redefine beauty to include themselves and appreciate their form, rather than obsessing on what they want to change. It’s important for girls to become happy with what they see in the mirror and feel grateful for what their bodies and minds are capable of.
Above all, adult women have the responsibility to teach the next generation by example. We don’t need to be supermodels, rather we should strive to be good role models, because whether you know it or not, the way you treat yourself influences those around you. Be kind to yourself. Be loving. You deserve to be happy, and other women need you to show them how.