We live in a world that wants us to believe we are not good enough. How else would they sell us that endless parade of products we don't need? Do I even need to mention photoshop and the projections of an unattainable body? The thing is, when we are fighting these battles with ourselves, trying to remember our own beauty, our daughters are watching. I don't want to make you paranoid about the little 'spy' in your life but it is important to remember that she's watching and you are helping to lay the groundwork for how she will handle these issues in her own life. Below are 5 ways
you can help give her solid footing.
1. Encourage healthy eating and exercise but never make it about weight.
Being healthy is the part that we sometimes forget. So much emphasis is placed on losing weight and looking better that we ignore the fact that all of those things will take care of themselves if you start with a healthy base. Make eating a proper diet just something you do and the same for physical activity. Encourage her to be active but allow her to find an activity that suits her. Don't sign her up for sports she doesn't want to play. Instead teach her the exercise helps with stress relief and to elevate mood. Don't mention weight or appearance. Doing this will remove the pressure to be thin, that inadequacy that comes from the number on the scale staying the same. Make it a lifestyle.
2. Don’t compliment her (solely on) her appearance
This doesn't mean never telling her she's beautiful, but our societal habits tend towards automatically complimenting physical appearance. Make an effort to tell her she's smart, a good student, a good friend and a good daughter. This is so much more important when it comes to developing a sense of self than telling her she looks cute in her dress or that she'll break lots of hearts when she's older.
3. Don’t talk about your weight or appearance in a negative way
We all have bad days. "Fat days" or days when you just don't look as good as you'd like. If your daughter is in the room when you are commenting on how bad you look, she may be hurt by that. You're her mother. To her eyes, you're wonderful. She doesn't care what the scale says or see you as looking any different than you did 2 days ago. This behaviour can also lead her to question her own understanding of how we are 'supposed' to look. It will distort the lens she uses to view the world, and herself.
4. Periods are not gross or weird
Periods may be uncomfortable or unpleasant, but they are not disgusting. Obviously it isn't a dinner table sort of conversation topic but if you have an open dialogue with her, she won't feel ashamed or embarrassed by her body's most natural process.
5. Don’t talk about other people’s weight or appearance
It might be common for you to tell your friends "you look great, have you lost weight?" but it is a confusing statement for a child. It leads them to believe that you look better when you are thinner and that who you are as a person and whether or not you are happy, don't really matter. And sometimes it is hard to not comment on what a woman is wearing or how much weight she has gained or lost. Some women make a sport out of talking about others. You're kid may hear you and it teaches her to judge people by a checklist of physical items and not the quality of their character.
Raising your daughter to see the best in herself will not be easy. It is natural to have feelings of self doubt and you will not be able to eliminate them for your daughter, but you can give her the skills to more easily navigate these down times. Remind her how amazing she is and how we are all beautiful in our own special ways. You will see her thrive as a strong healthy person. Is there really anything better?