Last week, my 13-year-old daughter and I were taking a walk along a wooded hiking path when a woman approached us from the opposite direction. I smiled at her and she said, "You two must be mother and daughter, but you look like you could be sisters."
We laughed and exchanged pleasantries, but as we walked on, I glanced over at my daughter. I could see the wheels turning. She was quiet for a moment, then she said, "Do you really think we look alike, mom?"
"Some parts of us do," I told her. "But I also see your dad and your grandmother in you."
When I was a child, I often heard comments that I looked like this one or that one, but I never paid much attention. I remember full well, though, being a teenager and having somebody say, "You look just like your mother." An innocent comment, right? A compliment, even. Back then, I wasn't so sure. See, my mom didn't like the way she looked -- and I knew it.
That innocent comment became the basis for You'd Be So Pretty If..., my body image book for moms. Having had my own experience -- and talking to so many other women and girls who've had their own experiences with their moms -- I know how important it is to show our daughters that we're happy with who we are and what we look like. Because that comment is coming. Somebody, somewhere, is going to to tell your daughter that she looks like you. And in that moment, she's going to run a tape of every critical comment you ever made about your appearance in front of her and start to point those criticisms at herself.
Though I sometimes struggle with feeling positive about my appearance -- and, if we're being honest, what woman doesn't? -- I've made a conscious effort to speak positively about my body in front of my daughter and to show her, by example, that taking care of the body I have is a priority for me. Because I knew this day was coming. And when it did, I wanted her to know that I don't think looking like me is a bad thing.
I've talked with many moms who struggle with feeling good about their bodies and I'm often asked how you can set a positive example for your daughter, if you're not confident yourself. Here's what I suggest:
- Examine your expectations. Are you holding yourself to a standard that's no longer realistic for you (Like expecting your body to look like it did when you were 22 or before you had children)? It's OK for your body to change. Honor that by taking the best care you can of the body you have today.
- Strive for at least one a day. I'm not talking vitamins -- I mean positive comments. Let her hear you say at least one positive thing about your appearance every single day. You'll teach her to look for the good in herself, too.
- Aim for balance. Let her see you eat your veggies and take a walk (better yet, invite her to come with you). But let her see you treat yourself to a cookie or a cup of cocoa, too. You'll show her that good health means good choices most of the time, but there's no need to be rigid.
- Let it go. Let her see you relax and enjoy doing the things you want to do. Eliminate the phrases "I'm too fat to..." or "I'm too old to..." from your vocabulary.
Simple shifts in thinking and speaking can have a huge impact not only on your daughter's body image, but on yours, too. Try it today!