Hands up, who has daughters?
Why is it that when we meet a little girl we often comment on her hair, her dress or how she looks? But when we meet a little boy, we almost never talk about appearance. Instead, we will maybe ask them what sports they play, what their hobbies are or something along those lines. For way too long, a woman’s appearance has mattered way too much and it’s ingrained in us. I mean, how often do we still look in the mirror and criticise what we see?
When George at Asda asked me to collaborate with them on talking about a positive body image, I was happy to do so especially as I have a daughter and I know how important this is. They conducted a survey of over 1000 women and found that 41% of women are unhappy with their bodies and only 13% find compliments about their bodies to be believable (do take a look at the survey as the results are quite eye-opening). Having a daughter has meant that I’ve often thought about how I could help her develop a positive body image in a world where appearance matters so much, but as she’s still young I hadn’t really considered it fully. This survey really got me thinking and realising it’s never too early to start reinforcing positivity and confidence about the way you look.
While researching for the post I came across this article which immediately put a lot in to perspective for me. A group of young girls aged 4-8 years were asked about their bodies and they all instinctively focused on what their bodies can do rather than what they can’t.
If I think back to when I was 6 or 7 years old, I know I never had any body image issues but yet, as I grew older I started to have them. So what changed? Society, influences, expectations, pressures to look a certain way and everything in between. But still, I consider myself one of the lucky ones as I’ve never suffered any major issues and over the years I’ve gotten better and tend to be even less critical than I used to be. But how do I know what my daughter will go through especially in those delicate teenage years? And what can I do to give her the best chance at confidence? She’s growing up in an age where everything is so much more in your face and there are things like social media popularity, cyber bullying and so many more things to consider than we had when we were growing up. I wish I had a magic answer to this but I don’t. Instead here’s an idea borrowed from those little girls.
What if each day when we look in the mirror, we ask ourselves – what can my body do? Maybe the answer will be my body has birthed kids, my body gets up every morning and is often several things during the day – a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur, a cook, a friend, a daughter… the list goes on. Sure, it may have unwanted flab around the middle but hey, you gave birth to a beautiful child. Isn’t that far more important than a bit of flab? Perhaps our legs aren’t as long as we’d like them to be – but amazingly they will walk miles today to the school run, to the supermarket, to that meeting. Perhaps our skin looks tired – but maybe we got up at 2am and comforted our child and then got up at 5:30am to make sure we delivered on a work deadline.
What if we did this everyday? What if we started by asking a positive question instead of a negative one and consciously started being kinder to ourselves? What if we did this with our daughters? Even if we don’t criticise ourselves in front of our girls, we all know that kids are intuitive and pick up on so many things that are unspoken. So ultimately, I think the way to raise girls with a positive body image is to show them by example.
And you know what, in time I think we will learn to love our bodies more than we do now, while giving a positive message to our girls. Also, the next time I meet a little girl, I’m going to focus on her interests and not her appearance.
What do you think? What are some of the things you are doing to help your girls grow up feeling confident with what they have? I’d love to hear in the comments.
*Anya wears a striped maxi dress by George at Asda.