Are You Confusing Your Daughter’s Body Image?

I’m riled up right now because I just read another woman’s blog post that may well have been written in response to one of mine. The title of her post was something like “No, I won’t put on my swimsuit.”

The author attempts to make the point that she doesn’t need to wear a tankini for her daughter to understand that she’s valuable beyond what her body looks like.

Agreed. She doesn’t. . .

But let’s go deeper. That’s not all the post says.

It’s the first part of her post that I can’t get over. This writer provides background on how she just had a baby and used to be really fit, but things look different now. She sags and jiggles. She couldn’t possibly put “this” post-baby body into swimwear. One day, she will get back in shape wear a bathing suit again. Until then, she’s not worthy.

She’s going to tell her daughter that she’s valuable beyond what her body looks like. And, yet, she won’t wear swimwear because she knows her body doesn’t currently meet a certain standard of beauty.

Therein lies the huge contradiction! Do you see it too?

She also claims her children won’t notice anyway.

This may be true–if they are pre-schoolers. But, that won’t stay true forever. What slides by toddlers becomes an object of investigation for first, second or third graders . . . She forgets that little ones grow up.

What happens when her daughter gets old enough to start asking questions?

How will she answer the inevitable: “Mom, why don’t you wear a swimsuit like these other women?”

If she responds with, “Well, mommy’s body doesn’t look like it used to look. Having babies changed things and I’m not as thin as I would like to be.” She dilutes any other message she tries to send to her daughter on the topic of body image.

This is why the cycle continues. . .

(And, P.S. if she gives any other answer her daughter will one day be old enough to google the post and read the truth for herself. Occupational hazard of blogging!)

Do you want your daughter to win her body image battle? (Or, better yet, never struggle with one?)

Use clear and effective messaging.

For over a decade I worked in politics. I planned events, bought billboards, hired field staff, and wrote speeches. I was the campaign manager and I had one job: Keep the candidate on message.

Why was this important? Any campaign expert can tell you. Elections are won by the candidates who have the clearest and most effective messaging.

As moms of the next generation of adults, we are in a battle for our children’s hearts. There are messages all around competing for their attention and affection. If we want our children (and teen girls) to believe us and follow our lead, we need to make sure that we, also, have clear and effective messaging.

So, mom, I ask you: Are your messages about body image clear?

It’s one thing to say you, “Don’t care what other people think!” “I only care what you think” is a default mantra I hear too often. Yet, in some ways that can be just as bad, if not worse than caring about what others think. The Apostle Paul tells us that he should have reason to boast in himself, but he still won’t. He only boasts in Jesus. (Galatians 6:14) Elevating what we think of ourselves to a higher status than what other people think of us isn’t necessarily higher status of freedom.

Trying to please yourself is a form of bondage too.

If we girl moms aren’t honest with ourselves about the roots of the battles we face . . .we’ll never be able to say anything truly transforming to our girls.

Let’s just get real: When has an, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts?” speech ever solved anyone’s body image struggles?

We need clear and effective messaging.

She Sees Your Obsession, Mom

A mom in my town loves her Crossfit. Loves it. I stop and watch every time she posts a video of herself doing pull-ups or lifting some crazy amount of weight. She posts her completed WOD’s. She’s also a runner, so sometimes she posts her run stats and her calories burned. Everyday I can count on seeing something from Sara. She’s an exercise queen.

But now her fifteen year old daughter, Shelby*, has started talking about how fat she is. She’s skipping meals. Running twice a day. Wondering how she can be thinner.

Sara says the right things to Shelby. But, it doesn’t matter. Her messaging is muddy. I don’t even know if Shelby has a social media account to follow her mom, but it doesn’t matter. I already know that if Sara is loud and proud on Facebook about her calorie burns, then she’s likely just as vocal about her workouts at home.

Our daughters hear everything we say. Not just the stuff we want them to listen to.

We need clear and effective messaging.

What Do You Say About Yourself?

Jamie* is just twenty-five. She has a beautiful four-year-old daughter named Olivia*. Last week Olivia muttered that she couldn’t go to Target with her mom because she said she, “Looked just awful.”

Four years old.

Clear and effective messaging.

Dear Girl Mom, How’s Your Messaging?

Like the candidates I used to keep on message, can I help you stay on message today too? Here are some things to consider:

  • Do you tell your daughter that her true value comes from Jesus Christ who saved her and then have vocal freak out sessions when you gain five pounds on vacation?
  • Do you tell your daughter that her real value isn’t found in her size or shape, and then mention that you’ve gotta get back to spin class to shrink your “too big” behind?
  • Have you talked about exercise as punishment or food as reward?
  • Do you tell her real beauty is on the inside, and then groan and moan over your body parts you hate and wearing a swimsuit?
  • Do you pour over your daughter compliments of her beauty (and make sure her dad does the same), but then admire the beauty of actresses, models, and cultural beauty icons?
  • Is your home filled with fashion magazines, movies, and other emblems that send their clear messages to your daughter about  what beauty means?

Dear girl mom: Are you using clear and effective messaging?

Because here’s the truth. Our culture does.

It’s unmistakably clear.

There is a way to be pretty, sexy and look hot.

Work for it.

Use these products.

Buy these clothes.

Meet this standard and then you will find what you are looking for.

Want to feel better? It starts when you look like her, or her, or her . . .

Culture’s standard of beauty has masterful messaging.

How clear is yours?

*Names changed.

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