Dara Chadwick

Dara Chadwick

You'd Be So Pretty If...

Do You Compete With Your Daughter?

Let go of what was, and embrace what now is.

Posted May 15, 2009

Yesterday, I came across this article that delved into an ugly side of motherhood: moms who compete with their daughters in the appearance arena. Let me just say right from the start that this was never my own personal experience. I never felt that my mom was competing with me in any way, appearance or otherwise.

I was intrigued by this piece because of what the author had to say about how daughters are affected when moms try to, shall we say, hang on to their youth and dress as their daughters do. Her conclusion? These moms tend to raise daughters who either try too hard to meet their moms'  "unrealistic standards" or daughters who simply give up trying. 

It's all sort of fascinating, don't you think?

While researching You'd Be So Pretty If...: Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies -- Even When We Don't Love Our Own, I interviewed several women who grew up with attractive moms who they felt "competed" with them in terms of appearance. One woman remembers being complimented at a shopping mall when she was a teenager by someone who told her mom, "You have a very beautiful daughter." Her mom's response to the complimenter was, "Do you need glasses?"

That woman, now in her 50s, never forgot that stinging remark.

Not all moms feel threatened by their daughters' youth and beauty, of course. But as a mom, there are those subtle moments when you realize that change is in the air -- the first time you notice a young man noticing your daughter comes immediately to mind. For women used to being noticed themselves, I imagine there's potential for that to be quite a disconcerting moment.

Teaching our daughters to love the bodies they have requires us to treat our own kindly. But we're not just talking about the bodies we have today -- we're also talking about our changing bodies and the body we'll live in tomorrow. Aging -- and its accompanying changes -- can be very difficult for women, especially if we've always placed a certain value on -- or felt valued for -- our looks. Modeling a healthy body image for our daughters has to mean modeling a healthy acceptance of aging as well.

Oh, I know it's hard. And I believe taking good care of the bodies we have through good habits and a kind attitude is a vital part of healthy aging. There's nothing wrong with doing all that you can to look and feel good, no matter what your age. But there's a difference between holding on to what was and embracing what now is.

When we celebrate the beauty we have today and embrace what's changed in us (body, mind and soul), we teach our daughters to embrace who they are, in this moment, without fear and worry about what they'll "lose" tomorrow.

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