My daughter is only 3 and I see the way she admires princesses. While I think it’s more about liking the dresses, on a deeper level I worry about the “princess thing” and try to teach her other important values. I believe what I do everyday from a very early age sets the tone of how she views herself, her self-esteem and definition of beauty. Our Guest contributor today is Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.-a registered yoga teacher and life coach for girls. She shares six ways to build a positive self esteem in your daughter.
Six Ways To Build A Positive Self Esteem In Daughter
Today, more than ever, young girls face an overwhelming pressure to be beautiful. For many young girls, and even most adults, the media shapes their definition of beauty. Girls are drenched in images that suggest beauty is entirely about outer appearance and that in order to be beautiful, you must be thin and sexy, wear trendy clothes, use certain beauty products, and make all this appear effortless and natural. Young girls have little idea that most of the images they see on TV or in magazines required a team of make-up artists, hair stylists, wardrobe consultants, lighting specialists, talented photographers and photo-shop experts who edit a photo to perfection.
These digitally enhanced images have a powerful influence on how a girl feels about herself. For example, according to the NYU Child Study Center a survey of 5-12th grade girls,
-59 percent were dissatisfied with their body shape.
-47 percent said they wanted to lose weight because of photos they saw in magazines.
-Dove’s global study, The Real Truth About Beauty, showed that 72% of girls feel pressure to be beautiful.
-Another study, titled Teens Before Their Time, found that satisfaction with body image decreases as girls progress to adolescence.
-While 75% of 8-9 year old girls say they like the way they look, only 56% of girls between 12-13 years like their appearance. Even more alarming: girls as young as eight talk about dieting and count calories.
This preoccupation with looks undermines a girl’s confidence and devalues her inner-beauty. When girls start placing a greater importance on how they look rather than on how they feel or what they are capable of, their sense of self-worth weakens. When they start comparing themselves and striving toward an unrealistic, and therefore unattainable, ‘ideal image’ their self-esteem plummets. They feel bad about themselves when they can’t meet an idealized expectation, When a girl’s self-esteem drops, it negatively affects her behavior at school, at home, and with her friends. She is less likely to speak up in class. She is more likely to be reactive or defiant at home. She is also more likely to engage in harmful activities with friends, such as experimentation with drugs and alcohol.
Another bit of evidence from Dove Research: Rebuilding the Foundation of Beauty Beliefs: When girls feel bad about their looks, 70 percent disconnect from life—avoiding normal daily activities like attending school or even giving their opinion—which can put their dreams on hold, and jeopardize their potential as future leaders, decision makers, and role models.
So what’s a mom to do?
1. Examine your own beauty beliefs. You are one of the strongest influences in your daughter’s life. Your attitude and actions contribute to her inner dialogue and inform the choices she will make in her life.
2. Cultivate your own strong, confident attitude toward your body and model that for your daughter. When she hears you sigh when you look in the mirror, or make subtle complaints about an extra pound, new wrinkle, or what you “really shouldn’t have” eaten, she starts to normalize self-criticism. Teach her to accept rather than criticize. Remind yourself and your daughter that each day is different and our bodies are always changing.
3. Talk with your daughter about her body and the changes she will go through. Discuss those changes with a degree of excitement and wonder. Remind her that she inhabits an amazing, extraordinary body! She should honor and respect all that it’s capable of!
4. Help your daughter make sense of the media. Talk to her about the images she sees and remind her that they are fantasy, not reality. Talk to her about all that it takes to get “picture perfect” and that it is impossible to live up to something that is not real.
5. Embrace the uniqueness of each other- both inside and out. Celebrate the quirks and laugh off those bad days.
6. Get moving with your daughter. Dance, run, hike, or take a yoga class. Practice non-competitive, energizing activities together and talk about the amazing benefits of exercise.
One great way for moms to get the conversation started is through Mother Daughter Yoga Workshops. These are designed especially for 8-12 year olds and their mothers. In each class, we dive into issues concerning self-esteem and media in an age-appropriate way. These workshops provide moms an opportunity to plant the seeds for deeper conversations while having fun!
Older girls may like Girls Only yoga. This series is designed for girls between 10-14. These classes include yoga, guided conversations, and thoughtful activities that encourage reflection, self-awareness, and inner and outer strength.