This morning I received an email from a friend asking about how to talk with her daughter about body image. Actually, the request was more urgent than I’m making it seem.
I feel her pain. Having a 13 year old daughter myself, I’m familiar with the lament of “am I pretty/skinny/popular/attractive enough?” Middle school can be traumatizing! The thought-provoking email brought some of my own teenage thoughts back and reminded me of how far I’ve come and how far I have to go.
My thoughts on body-image are simple.
Number 1 – often times what I hear my daughter say is simply what she’s heard other girls say, therefore she feels that is what is expected at this age. When this appears to be the case I don’t give much feedback. I do this because I trust that she will learn her way and develop a good sense of self without me telling her “No you’re not!” or “Stop saying that. You’re beautiful just the way you are!”
Number 2 – if my daughter truly believes she is fat I empathize with her by saying, “I’ve felt that way too. What would help?” If she doesn’t know but wants ideas I use my own life as an example. Exercise and eating well. If she does know what she wants to do, I support her in her healthy decisions and get help for any unhealthy patterns that could develop.
Number 3 – I model healthy self-image. My mom has been saying “I’m fat.” or “I need to lose weight.” or “I let myself go.” for as long as I can remember. Though many of us can relate, it’s hard to comprehend if you are built like the woman who is complaining, while at the same time she’s telling you how beautiful you are. It’s confusing! Simply put. Love your body. Treat it for the beautiful creation it is. If you have body image issues, talk with someone (other than your daughter) about it.
Number 4 – My favorite (self-image) passage in the Bible comes from Genesis when Adam & Eve are in the Garden of Eden and tell God (their creator) to look away because they are naked. God responds by asking “Who told you, you are naked?” He’s asking them, “who brought shame to you?” If God created us perfectly in His eyes, then who gets to bring shame upon us? Shame is direct from satan. Anytime your daughter doesn’t feel good enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, popular enough, or smart enough you have the opportunity to teach her about shame and the beauty of honoring her Creator through positive self-mage.
Respond to your daughters thoughtfully and without judgment. Let go of your middle school identity and recognize the underlying need. We don’t need validation (positive or negative) from outside sources.
We simply need to be seen & understood at a deep level.