Teaching Your Daughter About True Beauty

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(This post was written by Heidi)

Week 9 of 10 in the Raising Girls Series

(See Raising Boys Series here)

We live in a culture that constantly advertises to girls – billboards, magazines, TV adverts, movies – they show images of apparently perfect women and paint that as ‘normal’, and although we as adults know that they are not the ‘norm’, that their pictures are airbrushed and enhanced, most young girls don’t.

They think that those images are what women naturally look like, and as they feel that they fall so far below that standard or level of beauty, they begin to feel that they are inadequate, ugly or unattractive.

Teaching Your Daughter About True Beauty - raising girls series

If you’ve seen the model photoshop transformation on Facebook a while back, you’ll know what I mean. Here’s a less provocative one, if you’re showing younger girls:

What can we as mothers /parents do and teach our daughters, so that they see through this incorrect portrayal of women, and grow up with a healthy and realistic self image?

Talk about Barbie
Yep, haul her out of the bottom of the toy box and talk about her. Compare her to real life people, friends and relatives. Then ask if your daughter thinks Barbie looks like real people. Explain that most people do not look like her, and that they shouldn’t. That we were all made different and unique, and just like we love plump Aunt Margaret and awkwardly tall music teacher Carol and flat chested Lily from the library, each person is deeply unique and special just as they are, regardless of their outward appearance.

My daughter doesn’t have a barbie, but I imagine that when she does get one in the next few years, I will sew her some fake fat clothing and make five barbies all with different figures. Haha! If I even get her one..

We will love them all and talk about their differences and their inherent value as people and women because of who they are, not what they look like. (And then we will chat about how shallow and misleading media is today, things we value in ourselves and each other, over a slice of mom-daughter date cheesecake)

Teach the habit of seeking & seeing the best in other women
Talk about each woman that is significant in your daughter’s, or your family’s, lives. Discuss each person’s qualities and personalities, point out key values that you admire and respect about each person, write them down, and show her that people are valuable, regardless of appearance. And that some people may not have personalities or values that stand out or are readily apparent, but that once you get to know them, you can look deeper at that person and begin to look for, and notice positive traits in them that make them beautiful. Teach that every woman is worthy. Of love. Of acceptance. Even ones that are angry or hurtful.

Beauty through the ages
Go for a ‘walk’ through history and look at the different shapes and sizes of the ‘ideal’ highly ‘sought after’ women. Notice how she changed from rounded to slim to skinny (think Kate Moss). Note how fickle that is – that entire cultures bend and change their opinion on what ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ and ‘sought after’ is.

Teach her her own unique values and worth
As a family, make a list of the values you want to live up to & hold yourselves to. Kindness, honesty, integrity. Whatever values you VALUE, make a list of them. Cherish them and hold them with great regard in your home. Make a family crest with them if you  like.  Teach your daughter that these things matter most. When she is old enough, begin to help her identify values that she would admire in herself.

Teach her love & respect for others
Out of a place of self-love, teach her a love for others – to be kind to everyone, and to those who are handicapped or disabled in some way. Take her to a Downe’s Syndrome home, paediatric oncology unit or a burns unit, and offer to help out there, or visit weekly. Take her to an old age home and make friends with women who have accomplished much, who have overcome amazing obstacles in life, who have stories to tell. Make relationships with people there, and teach her that to God, and fundamentally, these women, and EVERY woman is beautiful, precious and worthy of love.

Get an ‘entitled’ teenage girl serving
Getting your daughter involved in community service – at an old age home, or as above, in a home for disabled children or people, gets her out of her own head – away from an entitlement mindset, away from her mirror and self obsession over make up, gossip mags and her appearance. It gets her helping others in a practical way and she will form friendships with the most ‘unlikely’ people, by culture’s standards. Get her out of herself and into real life relationships.

Every day our culture affects our girl’s self esteems. It incessantly preaches a message that she is not ENOUGH, not beautiful enough or just enough unless she looks and acts a certain way. Fight back moms! Teach her to see inherent beauty in every woman and person. Suggest solid values to live by. Guide her in seeing inward beauty in herself. And let her find it in real life relationships as proof for herself.

Last week: Keeping Communication With Your Daughter Easy

Next week: 5 Important Conversations You Should Have With Your Daughter

Teaching Your Daughter About True Beauty - raising girls series on powerfulmothering

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