I've read a few posts and studies recently about the challenges girls face in our modern, "equal opportunity" nation. The latest debate has been sparked by a recent study by the University of Central Florida which shows that half of girls ages 3 to 6 think they are fat. This is chalked up to the collective impact of a multitude of images of women sizes 0 to 6 which proliferate the media: billboards, TV, internet, you name it, there they are, those skinny, photoshopped women whose beauty is not even possible in the real world.
One parent's response was to praise her child's intelligence and talents, and to not praise her for her looks. Her belief was that if girls, like boys, were praised for their skills then they would value those skills and wouldn't care if they were "pretty" or not.
And while I agree with one on one part, praising girls for their talents, I do not believe in the other, which is not praising them for their beauty.
Because until we can get the photoshopped models off the billboards, off TV and out of our girls' lives, it won't matter what we say to them, they will see what the world values in women. I believe the worst thing a mom can do is comment on the beauty of those images in a jealous or wishful way.
"Did you see the legs on that model? My legs could never be that thin." "Look at how gorgeous her eyes are."
You may hear me say things like: "Honey, her skin isn't really that perfect, they used a computer to make it seem that way."
So yes, praise them for their intelligence. But also praise them for their beauty. Because it doesn't matter if they are beautiful; if they feel that they are it will give them a confidence they can draw from.
I have always looked in the mirror and seen a pretty girl, because that's what my parents told me they saw. I know my nose is big. My eyes are small. And don't get me started on my complexion. But it doesn't matter. My belief in my beauty (mistaken or not) has helped me be confident in situations when I didn't have much reason to be, when I was trying new things I'd never done before, or in the company of people smarter and more experienced than me.
Here's the best thing moms can do for their daughters: love ourselves in the skin we are in. Our own self-confidence will translate to our daughters. They will do as we do and not as we say. If we spend our days "tsking" over our poochy tummies or sagging chins, our daughters will watch us. They will see the standards we hold ourselves up to and will hold themselves to the same.
Accept ourselves as we are: love the way we look, and our daughters will love themselves.