Are you raising a little Princess?
In the West, the physical appearance of the body defines and characterizes what kind of person you are. A recent Time magazine study found that men and women who are thought to be attractive make 17% more money in their lifetime than men and women who are thought of as unattractive. This means that employers are judging a person’s strength, fitness, and ability to do their job and interact with people on the basis of their physical appearance.
The excessive focus on beauty harm your daughter´s self-worth
We live in a youth obsessed society. We cannot watch a TV show, enjoy a movie, walk through a store or read a magazine without seeing or hearing something about altering our face, bodies or changing our style of dress in order to look younger or sexier. We know that the beauty industry works hard at marketing to women in particular to alter their bodies into an image that is not realistic. We know that young girls are exposed to this on a daily basis and that this great over-stimulating society that we live in affect their self-esteem and self-images that they hold for themselves. So how, do we raise girls with a healthy sense of self-worth?
The mentality of a Princess
All though it’s often easier to point the finger at someone else and blame the media, celebrities and fashion industries for the effect they have on our daughters self-image we shouldn’t ignore the responsibility we hold as parents as well. Mothers who go to great lengths to pick out her daughters outfit and to style her from a very early age are often attempting to make up for her own failed dreams or lack of attention.
Some parents see their children as extensions of themselves, rather than as separate people and may want their children to achieve the dreams and acknowledgement that they themselves have not achieved.
When the children’s glory reflect on the parent, the feelings of regret and disappointment about their own lost opportunities may gradually resolve, and make way for pride and fulfilment. Unfortunately this pattern lead to a false sense of self and a fragile identity which makes the girl an easy target for the powerful and manipulating fashion media world.
The importance of being a role model for your daughter
Mothers are their daughter’s first role models. This is part of discovering who we are and trying to find our place in the world as women. This is fine if you have a strong female role model from which to emulate yourself after. But what happens if you don’t? Unfortunately there are many girls today that do not have strong female role models so they turn to the television as their guide to living their life and making important life choices.
One of the rites of passage for girls is painting your nails, playing with makeup, and dressing up in your mother’s clothes. All of these things are typical childhood activities for young girls. But it is not the nail polish or the brand or design of the clothes that creates the problem it is rather the lack of guidance that goes along with these things. There are some things that are just inappropriate for young girls. For example, there was some recent controversy about a push up bathing suit for tweens. The argument was that this is creating a sexual image of seven and eight year old children and drawing attention to parts of their bodies that have not even developed yet. However, the power is in the parents' control. It is your choice to spend your money on this type of merchandise or not.
Self-image, Self-worth, Self-esteem
So what does it mean to have a positive self-image, a healthy sense of self-worth and a high self-esteem?
Self-image is the perception that one has of oneself.
Self-worth is the value that one places on oneself.
Self-esteem is a combination of these things along with the confidence that one has to have a strong, positive sense of oneself.
There are many external forces that create pressure on girls today. They even include the inner circle of your daughter's friends. Girls can be manipulative and caddy. If you do something to offend one of them, you are likely to see a very passive, manipulative transformation of what were once friends.
Building Positive Self Images
So how do we work to grow young girls into women with a strong sense of self that will lead them to have a positive, successful life?
Monitor the programs that your daughter watches. Make sure that your daughter is watching shows that show girls and women that are not overly focused on body image or that create a character that is ditsy and brainless.
Examine the role that you are modelling for your impressionable child. Do you talk about your dislike for your body in front of your daughter or talk about dieting? Try saying things like, “I’m exercising or eating to keep my body healthy and strong.”
Encourage your daughter to participate in non-traditional girl activities. Encourage your daughter to like and be good at math or science. Have her play a sport. Prompt her to do something that interests her, not just what is “cool.”
Have conversations with your daughter. You will never know what your daughter is thinking unless you ask her. Keeping communication lines open will help your daughter to feel safe in coming to you when she has a problem. Don’t be judgmental or it will shut her down. Help her to understand that it is normal to have some discomfort about changes that her body may be going through but that this is part of the normal cycle of life.
Be Honest. Talk honestly with your daughter. Whether it's during a tough conversation or when your child asks if her lopsided cake is beautiful, be honest. Many children have an overinflated ego today because no one tells them when they are not good at something. Everyone gets an award at the end of year banquets so that no one feels bad or left out. Unfortunately this tendency is misguiding young people. Reality is that not everyone is good at everything and it’s our duty as parents to say it in a way that is kind, but honest as well.
Know your daughter's friends. Sometimes you will be able to head off a potential problem if you know who your daughter's friends are. If you notice that one or two girls in particular are not behaving in a positive way, you can talk with your daughter about what she is attracted to in those particular friends. Help your child to have several circles of friends. Allow your child to have several circles of friends. This may be people at school, sports teams, church organizations, etc. That way if your daughter is having conflict with one group, she can always turn to another.
Role-play. Practice different scenarios of things that could happen in your daughter's social life. This is not just limited to sex, drugs, and alcohol. Practice how she would handle taunting and teasing about her looks, weight, or any other potential bullying.
Don’t get to attached to beauty
Growing up in today's society is very tough on young girls. The images that they receive in the media are often life shaping for them. As adults, it is much easier for us to see how silly and unrealistic these images and expectations are, but for young girls, they are not often able to discern the difference. A lot of problems and suffering derive from identification with our looks and outer appearance. To refrain from this useless identification does not mean to neglect, ignore, or hate your body. If it is robust, strong, and vigorous then enjoy and celebrate those attributes. Right exercise and nutrition are also quite valuable. If you don’t equate your looks with who you are on the inside, when these attributes fade it will not affect your sense of worthiness in any respect.
It is our job as Mothers to serve as positive role models for our daughters and to be there for them when they need us. Accept our girls for the uniqueness within them. Celebrate the beauty of our young girls, both inside and out. In fact, as the body weakens and grows older, a deeper dimension within begins to shine through more and more predominately and our true beauty will surface.