After a long journey of potty-training, allowing your daughter to wear her favorite tutu or fire chief costume to school every day, and helping her deal with her first fight with her best friend, you've finally become the mother of a young woman. And as your girl gets older, her world will get more complicated. But before she asks to buy makeup or wear revealing clothes, or hits you with the vague question, "What do boys (or girls) like?," it's time to reach out to her first and talk about body image. So, where do you start?
Remember What You've Gone Through
When it was time for me to have this talk, I had to reevaluate my own thoughts on body image. I asked myself, "Do I love my body? Am I always on a diet and complaining about fitting in my jeans? Do I wear clothes that are comfortable? Can I walk out of the house without makeup? Is my partner in life supportive of the fluctuations in my own body?"
I thought about the pressures I went through as a teen and how I became an avid dieter at 13 years old. Was that necessary or healthy? No. Did I feel unattractive because I was overweight? Unfortunately, yes. I couldn't neglect the reality of how I felt about myself as a young teen if I wanted to give my daughter honest and solid advice. My words needed to come from a place of understanding and acknowledging the pressure and confusion of what it is to be a young woman.
Shut Down the Idea of "Pretty Girls"
I listened when she told me about the "pretty girls" at school and how they're treated better, get better grades, have more friends, and get all the attention from boys. She said they wear short skirts, glitter, and makeup and that their appearance is all that matters. I explained to her that if those girls got good grades, it's because they studied. I said that by wearing things like short skirts, some people will only want to look at their appearance and not get to know who they are as people. I said that everyone treats them differently because they have confidence — they know they're pretty. And I looked her right in the eyes and said she should know that about herself, too. Everyone is different, and it's OK to not want to dress or act how someone else does. There's also no set definition of what it means to be pretty. Being different is what makes life fun, and it's also what makes people interesting.
I've always told her that being kind to herself and to others is the most important thing. It's a way to make friends, bond with teachers, and just spread some much-needed love into the world. The body can do so many amazing things, and it changes all the time. As long as she feels strong, healthy, and comfortable in her own skin, that should be all that matters.