We’ve all heard the old saying: when you smile the whole world smiles with you. But have you ever thought about who you’re affecting when you’re not smiling? You may tell your daughter she’s beautiful every day, but if she hears you constantly criticizing your own body, she is likely to feel the need to judge herself in a similar way. This could lead to her developing poorer confidence, lower self-esteem and worries about her looks.
When it comes to beauty, women remain their own worst critics. The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report shows only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful. Mirror, Mirror, a review of research published by the Social Issues Research Centre, also shows women are much more critical of their appearance than men, and much less likely to admire what they see in the mirror.
“We need to become more aware of the negative comments we make about our own bodies or the way we criticize our own eating patterns, as this insecurity can be picked up by our daughters,” says research health psychologist Dr. Phillippa Diedrichs. “Feeling comfortable and valuing your own body might be tricky in today’s culture, but the more positive and caring you can be to yourself and the way you look, the easier it will be for your daughter to develop confidence about her own body.”
If you’re not one of the magic 4% who believes they’re beautiful, then it’s time to think differently and consider the impact your default body-bashing might be having on your daughter.
“Many women make these kinds of comments without even realizing, but they can pass on a subliminal message to our daughters, making them believe it’s natural, even encouraged, for a girl to be critical of, and unhappy with, her own body. It also makes us feel worse about ourselves and makes it difficult for us to maintain a healthy body image,” says Dr. Diedrichs.
A recent UK government inquiry, Reflections on Body Image: Report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image, found that comments like these can be picked up and mimicked by children. The Adverse Effects of Social Pressure to be Thin on Young Women: An Experimental Investigation of the Effects of “Fat Talk” research has shown that women only need to hear another women talking like this for 3-5 minutes before their own body confidence decreases. It’s easy to see this attitude is being passed on to tomorrow’s women. So what can we do to help our daughters avoid this?
It’s not always easy to show a positive or confident attitude about your body all the time in front of your daughter, especially if you don’t feel it. But by making a conscious effort to improve your own outward body confidence you will help your daughter to feel positive about her own body too.
So get positive. Once you’ve mastered dropping those negative comments, it’s time to go one step further and say positive things about your body. If you like the shape of your hips or how strong you feel after a gym session or exercise class, say so. If you think your new haircut or dress suits you, or that you’re a caring and funny person, remark on it. You may feel a little self-conscious at first, but the new assured you will work wonders on your self-esteem – and your daughter’s too.
Think about how you usually talk about and critique your body in front of your daughter and drop those negative comments. Start by becoming more aware of all those throwaway comments about your own size and shape:
Be kind to yourself: Purposefully smile at yourself in the mirror and find at least one thing every day that you like about yourself and the way you look.
Get positive: Start saying positive things about your body and your personality out loud. The more you say it, the more likely you are to believe it.
Write yourself a letter: Write positive messages about how you look and how you’d like to feel on sticky notes and stick them all around your house. Messages like “Hello Gorgeous” or “What’s cooking, good looking?” or “You are perfect just the way you are” are great reminders for both you and your daughter.
The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report
Mirror, Mirror report
Reflections on Body Image: Report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image
Adverse Effects of Social Pressure to be Thin on Young Women: An Experimental Investigation of the Effects of “Fat Talk”
Media Smarts: Body Image website
Article date: 26 June 2013
Review date: 26 June 2014
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