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Most women (and girls) have found themselves trapped in a negative mindset, criticizing their imperfections, the flawed put on a spotlight, or have even made a thoughtless remark about someone else. Carving out more reason to distrust the good and the beautiful still there in the mirror. This is where to seek mindfulness, learn to push past that negative voice, and accept the beautifully imperfect and love the soul beneath! Cherishing it slowly and with time, heal the misconception that only outward beauty determines respect and esteem.
There are far greater treasures found in the qualities of strength, kindness, love, understanding, and compassion. How can women and mothers not only guide but model a balance between beauty and character?
A friend of mine, a mom to a four-year-old, messaged me with a concern that opened up a raw truth.
"I've always been so determined to make sure *Jess loves her curly hair (because I hated mine) so I’m always telling her how beautiful it is... but now today she woke up with her crazy fluffy hair and came to me with the brush and detangler and was crying saying she needed me to do her hair because she didn’t look beautiful...."
"It got me wondering if I’ve put too much emphasis on outer beauty for her without realizing. I tried to explain to her that it doesn’t matter if we have messy hair or no nail polish or no makeup it only matters if we are nice and kind and happy and that that makes us beautiful."
*Named changed for privacy purposes.
This may echo other mothers' stories you have heard or even your own—That pit in the stomach feeling that your child has fallen into a very real personal dilemma and wondering how to fix it.
Questioning the Reflection
Many praise their daughters on how they look—makeup, hair, that cute outfit—yet we still see them questioning their self-image. It is a momentous reality that outward looks can never outweigh what we have trained ourselves on the inside to believe. Where does the insecurity stem from?
There are many possible factors on the causes of low self-esteem (environment, bullying, negative talk, media, a parents insecurities and etc.) but what stood out from a recent study is something most parents are unaware of—praise. This 2017 study via the University of Amsterdam: "Self-esteem in kids: Lavish praise is not the answer, warmth is" brings out evidence on social relationships and the overvaluing or over emphasizing behavior parents may model. The simple warmth and interest a parent gives to a child play a positive and fundamental role in children feeling valued. But when there is an overuse of praising everything a child does, accomplishes or has, it can lead to a lower self-esteem.
"Such inflated praise may give children a sense of grandiosity but at the same time also make them worry about falling short of the standards set for them."
On the other hand via "8 Psychologist-Backed Tips for Improving Communication with Kids," there is a balance to praise such as thanking them for help or saying they did a great job accomplishing a task. These types of comments encourage their capability towards responsibility and growth. It just comes down to if there is lack of attention or too much of it —in their skills, looks, academics and so on.
A Balance to Self-Image
Wanting to be feminine and pretty is a natural instinct and very well can add a sense of confidence in itself—that extra lip color for a romantic date night, those dark eyes for that killer party or that lovely natural look. But, the dependence on being perfect (or good all of the time) strips away meaning this life already deprives of us. A balance between highlighting the beauty of our appearance, doing well and living our lives with the will to keep striving beyond our imperfections truly matters.
This article titled "Physical Beauty" focuses on a reasonable sense of self by showing awareness and not just focusing on ourselves. Taking into consideration other people's feelings can teach our daughters to not automatically gravitate towards something negative about themselves or others. Also, by not being overly concerned about looks/material gain (or how our daughter should look), a mother can encourage inner qualities that make a much more outstanding and lasting impression.
"A healthy attitude toward physical beauty can mean the difference between happiness and unhappiness."
How can women find that balance and model it for their daughters? To train how to seek out endurance when life is tough and to live out kindness in a world that needs it most.
You can be beautifully imperfect! Growing and not being afraid of who you are but proud of what you have accomplished is a journey and once the good inside has been found there is no need to perfect an ever-changing outer appearance. Accepting this is the first step towards showing young women that a true sense of self is far beneath the skin. Guiding their journey towards becoming a better human should show in the way we live our lives.
Seek out inner strength, balance, and integrity with these helpful suggestions and resources:
- Pay attention to your body instead of focusing on appearance. Taking a few moments to focus on what is going on inside, such as counting your heartbeat, has been a proven way to help navigate thoughts towards inner strength rather than on a poor self-image.
"The more accurate the women were in detecting their heartbeats, the less they tended to think of their bodies as objects." - Public Library of Science via medicalxpress.com
- Watch how you speak about beauty, weight, and health—it is a direct social environment where children learn. Experts say modeling healthy choices instead of discussing weight or beauty adds a more balanced view of body-image for young girls and teens. Becoming more mindful of what you focus on can greatly make a difference.
"Stokesbary encourages moms to replace talk about outer appearances with compliments on the 'math facts she aced or that she delivered a funny joke successfully.'"
"'Take away the external focus,' she said." - via USA Today
- Model qualities of contentment and happiness. An example of this would be putting a love of others ahead of appearance, academics, and material gain.
- Find ways to a balanced view of body-image. This article "Am I Obsessed With My Appearance?" gives a great self-assessment for anyone young and old encouraging contentment in who you are and being balanced in health and exercise.
"When you have a balanced view of your body image, you will feel (and even look) your best."
- Give the gift of encouragement! This beautiful article on "10 Things My Mom Told Me as a Kid That Give Me Confidence as an Adult" brings out the simplicity and true guidance everyday affirmations can have in a young girl's emotional journey.
"You are beautiful.
She said this mostly when I did something kind, made good decisions, or showed independence and strength of character. She also said this when I was sweaty, dirty, messy, and working hard. She taught me that true beauty lies inside and in my positive actions, not my appearance."
Remembering real-life moments like my friend and her daughter's hair dilemma is a great example that what we focus on as parents can promote confidence or an expectation to live up to. And as a mother, that balance can be difficult to find and model. You are not a bad parent in figuring out that balance but rather a better one by taking on awareness and using it in those moments children question themselves, their appearance and their worth. Who else can model the very standard of a beautiful soul to our daughters but our own selves? What helps you to keep a balanced self-image?
Inspiring Video by Julian Lyons on Young Girls and Body-Image
*All resources linked in the article.