How Mothers Affect Their Daughter’s Self Image

Today’s post is by Belinda Hudson. Belinda is a full time teacher who has taught in schools in Australia and England as well as spending several years as a youth worker.  Since her own experience in high school, Belinda has been passionate about helping young women accept who they are and develop a healthy self image. One of Belinda’s biggest achievements is putting up with her husband!

I have been working with teenage girls for many years now.  I am always fascinated when I get the chance to listen to girls talking about how they view themselves and each other.

Recently, while Gathered around mirrors applying skin care products, I was able to listen to some girls during a skills week activity at a local high school. The girls who were in junior high were asked to remove their make-up in order to apply the products. I was amazed at some of their responses:

‘Do I have to remove my eye make-up…If I do, could you give me some more?’

“I can’t be seen without make –up on at school.’

These were beautiful girls, who let’s face it, probably have the same attitude about make-up as many adult women do.

Dissatisfaction with their own appearance seemed to be accompanied by admiration of their peer’s appearance. As the afternoon progressed I heard girls comment on each other:

‘You have great skin. I wish I had great skin.’

‘You have long eyelashes. Mine just look short without mascara on.’

It left me wondering about how young girls become fixated on image and what, or whom, in their life influences them besides the magazines?

As I considered this, one of the thoughts that struck me was how adults, and particularly mothers influence girl’s self-image.

What dialogue, or indeed monologue about self-image are you having with or in the presence of your daughter? Are you happy with your self-image? What are you saying about yourself in front of your daughter? It appears that while we may often tell our daughters how beautiful they are and how it’s what’s on the inside that counts, we are constantly on a diet or being negative about some aspect of our appearance.

In her book, ‘The Butterfly effect”, Danielle Miller gives suggestions about how we can assist in helping our daughters to have a positive self-image, some of which involves how we see ourselves.

We can:

  • Be a good role model. “There is a lot of research that shows girls are mostly influenced by their mothers,” Miller says. “Teen girls say to me: ‘I’ve never known my mum not to be on a diet.’ Girls get a very mixed message when Mum says, ‘Darling you’re gorgeous. If I looked like you I’d be happy.’ What we have to do for our daughters is to show them that we love ourselves. This is important business. It’s not just about healing us; it’s about healing our daughters.”
  • Consider how we talk to our daughters about self-image. If your daughter is overweight, don’t focus the conversation on changing her body shape or parts of her body, focus on encouraging a healthy diet, fitness and involvement in sport.
  • Empathise with the struggles your daughter is going through with self-image.
  • Look at what the media is projecting. Help your daughter to navigate the media in a helpful way.
  • Encourage your daughter to appreciate her body and to focus on the positives.

Comparing physical features with others is rarely helpful.

If we are going to help our teenage girls to grow up having a healthy self-image, perhaps we need to start to monitor and correct our attitudes about ourselves.

Image by edenpictures

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