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Improving-girls-body-image

How I Spent Last Weekend Committing to Reducing Beauty Anxiety in My Daughter

Last month I told you guys all about Dove’s upcoming self-esteem weekend. Well, it happened last weekend – did you join in?  In preparation of the big event, there were, and still are, some phenomenal resources available for moms of girls aged 8-18.

I’m talking seriously useful stuff – not just feel good fluff – here’s what Dr. Nancy Etcoff, Harvard University, Director of Program in Aesthetics and Well Being and author of ‘Survival of the Prettiest, the Science of Beauty’ had to say about them:

Today, young people are growing up surrounded by increasingly unattainable beauty standards. Innovative materials like these offer adults the chance to be positive role models, and to make a significant positive impact on the self‑image of young people when they need it most. This Activity Guide provides an impressive combination of fun exercises and communication tools that encourage conversation on an exceedingly difficult subject: body confidence and self‑esteem.

Clearly my point here is the resources are excellent and I HIGHLY recommend checking them out. But what about moms, like me, of younger girls?  Girls that don’t yet have an inkling of the body confidence pitfalls that potentially await them?

Today I’d like to share with you how I spent last weekend in an effort to commit to reducing beauty anxiety in my daughter before it even has a chance to start.

Let me start by saying that, no, this particular exercise did not take up all of my weekend, or even a large junk of it. But I truly feel that committing even a small amount of time to a little research on the topic can make a world of difference. So here’s what I did…

I started by checking out those resources and toolkit I told you about.  I thought it was really handy how the 1-on-1 activities, as well as the self-esteem activity and discussion guides were broken down by age group.  I decided to take a look at the Self-Esteem Activity Guide for Mothers & Daughters Aged 8-11 because that was the closest age range to my 2 year old.

Once I started reading, I realized there really are things I can do now to affect how my daughter views her body down the road – and they all start with me.

A section titled The Importance of Moms reads:

A mom is one of the most important influences in her daughter’s life. Long before peer pressure has kicked in, a mother’s love and caring sets the foundations for her daughter’s life. Who you are will profoundly affect who your daughter is and can be. Your attitudes and behaviors towards her, and the way you act, are like a script from which she will make choices in her life.

My interpretation – I’ve got a lot of responsibility here so there’s not time to waste in preparing for this momentous role!

Another section, Mothers as Role Models, says:

We need to realize that when we make negative comments about our own bodies or criticize our own eating, these are picked up by our daughters. If we:

• Sigh when we look in the mirror
• Or routinely say we shouldn’t be eating this
• Or how we need to diet more strenuously
• Or if we complain that ‘if only’ we had a different nose/hair/eyes/hips

…then our daughters will believe it’s natural for a girl to be critical of, and unhappy with, her own body.

And that’s when I stopped reading and started making the pretty little graphic at the top of this post. It’s actually a quote from another section of the guide elaborating on how moms can create better feelings about their own body.

My hope is that you guys will pin it and share it with your mom friends.  Or go even further, write the message on a real post-it and stick it on your mirror.  Whatever it takes to get us all to give ourselves a break about our, somewhat, battle-worn bodies. For our own sake as well as the sake of our daughters.

The moral of this story is that it doesn’t take much to make a real and positive impact on your daughter: just a little bit of intention.  I truly hope you will take a little time today to think about how you talk about your own body in front of your daughter and to commit to making a change if necessary.

Ok – deep exhale – stepping down from the soapbox now, thanks for listening. See you back here tomorrow for a special guest post from one of my very favorite bloggers!

*This post was written as part of a paid partnership with DOVE.  All opinions are my own.
 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah October 7, 2012 at 6:43 am

I’m an Army wife and while my husband was deployed, along with most of my friends’ husbands, I made it my personal mission to make sure my friends still felt loved and beautiful. One way I did this was I would take a dry erase marker with me when I would visit one of them. When they weren’t looking I’d write a little note on one of their mirrors, usually that they were beautiful. Another friend and I would wind up at the gym at the same time (though not there together) and almost everything time I’d see her car in the parking lot I’d leave her a “love note” stuck under her windshield wipers. They started doing similar things back to me and I know that a small gesture like one of those had the ability to change my attitude for an entire week, if not longer.
They say that women are most critical of each other, and it can definitely feel true. I think women as a whole need to change the way we react and treat each other. When we can start doing that, maybe the next generation of women will see it and not be so harsh on each other and themselves.

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Kate October 7, 2012 at 9:40 am

Dear Sarah,
what an incredibly kind thing to do. my heart grew bigger just reading your comment. Your friends are lucky to have you in their lives….here’s a little blessing back your way….
May you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering.
much love
Katex

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Steph at Modern Parents Messy Kids October 8, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Sarah,

This is such a lovely act. I whole-heartedly agree that we have the power to influence the next generation of women. Keep up the good work!

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Georgine October 7, 2012 at 9:15 am

It starts at “home” right? I need to remember i need to be what I want in my girls. Very hard when there is no one my critical of me than me. I sing my girls the Carol King song “Beautiful” almost everyday, I need to start following the same philosophy. Thanks for the reminder.

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Trish October 7, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Thank you so much for this, I have 3 daughters aged 19, 17 & 5 years 7 these are real issues in our house for myself & my teenagers!!

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Ihilani October 8, 2012 at 5:17 am

Wonderful post! Such an important issue too. I have a 2.5 year old daughter and every night when I put her to bed I tell her all the wonderful qualities I love about her, both physical and non physical. I tell her I love her hair and her eyes and her smile and laugh, and also how smart she is, how kind and generous and loving she is, how she’s quick to say “sorry” and to forgive, how she gives the best hugs and kisses. I tell her what a good person she is and what a good daughter she is and how proud i am of her. It’s an amazing moment every night because I can see in her face that it means a lot to her that I recognize these things in her, even at this young age, and by telling her all these things, I love her even more. My hope is that she will remember these things and know her value comes from deep within.

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Steph at Modern Parents Messy Kids October 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Ihilani,

I love this idea! Last year for the Dove self-esteem weekend, I made a free printable, “You Are Beautiful Because You:_____________.” and encouraged moms to fill it with their daughters’ non-physical attributes. It’s a very similar idea :). You can check it out here:

http://www.modernparentsmessykids.com/2011/10/getting-ready-for-doves-self-esteem.html

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Neasa February 7, 2013 at 7:56 am

I love this post, as a mother of two amazing girls I will definitely refer back to these resources as we go through the many stages of understanding.
One book I love and recite to my two as often as I can is I Love You Through and Through
http://www.amazon.com/I-Love-You-Through/dp/0439673631 by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak.
Since they were tiny they have done actions along with the book and absolutely love it.
Thanks for the posts!
Neasa

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