I am acutely aware of the frailty of a teenager's self-confidence. I have witnessed first-hand in the counseling room what happens when young girls have a distorted view of themselves. With that knowledge, I try very hard to ensure my daughter has a positive self-image. Remember that I said positive and not inflated! Raising a self-confident young woman in a world where their eyes are assaulted daily with advertisements of Photoshop models and unrealistic body goals can prove difficult. Many of you mothers are noticing that regardless of how much you tell your daughters they are enough, they still don't appear satisfied with just being themselves.
Over the last few months, my preteen daughter has constantly stood in front of a mirror poking on her little belly and asking me if I think she needs to work out. My daughter actively plays two fairly intense sports that require a lot of physical exertion. She couldn't be overweight if she wanted to but for some reason, she is very self-conscious about how "big" she is. It concerned me enough that I began asking the opinions of friends with daughters around her age. I got varying answers. Some said it was just a stage that all girls went through while others made no mention of having issues with their daughters. I do believe that little girls hit a certain age and their focus shifts from playing in the dirt to playing in the makeup. But an alarming thing I am discovering, at least in my own home, is that sometimes the negative messages are not coming from a magazine or television screen, but from me.
Here are three ways mothers can help their daughters develop a positive self-image. It might be different than you actually think:
1. Develop your own positive self-image
We tell our daughters they are beautiful and in the same sentence, tear ourselves down. The message is unclear and it is harming the very ones we love. All mothers want their daughters to grow into confident young ladies but little girls learn from example. If all they hear you say about your body is negative, how are they to develop a positive body image? Mothers, we must embrace ourselves and learn that differences don't make us ugly but beautiful. You cannot tell your daughter that she should accept herself when you don't accept yourself. If you are curvy, slim, plain, tall or short, embrace it and let your daughters see that you are happy with you. In turn, your daughters will become confident in themselves because they've had a great example to follow!
We can be the most beautiful women in the world and still be ugly based on what comes forth from our mouths. Mothers, stop slamming over women. I am sure all of us have been on the receiving end of some nasty little comment. It hurts and it deflates our self-confidence. We must remember that there are little ears listening to us. If we are constantly talking negatively about other women, our daughters will most likely think that in order to exalt themselves, they must criticize others. Our daughters need to understand that it is never OK to tear someone down in order to build themselves up.
3. Beauty goes beyond skin deep
This is the most cliché but holds the most truth. If all we emphasize to our daughters is the importance of outward beauty, we have failed. Some of the most beautiful people I have ever met were not beautiful by media standards. What made them beautiful was their kind spirits, their intellect and their love for others. Don't believe me? I share this story often with people. In high school, I was absolutely in love with a classmate that could have been the cover model on a magazine. As beautiful, physically, as he was, he had the depth of a shallow puddle. The boy that I once was so smitten by because of his external beauty no longer held the same appeal to me. Beauty truly must go beyond skin deep or all you have is a pretty shell.
Starting today, let's lead our daughters by our own positive example and set the standard for them to follow. Mothers, YOU are beautiful, inside and out. Don't forget that and neither will your daughters.
Sarah is a Christian Author and Speaker. She wrote the parenting book, "Walking the Talk: A Parent's Guide to Intimacy and Healthy Relationships" and maintains the blog A Life Inspired. Her passion is to equip the next generation of families to speak boldly and walk confidently in their faith and charge as parents. You can stay up to date with Sarah on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.