One day, I took my then five-year-old daughter, Abbie, shopping with me. I needed to check out some new clothes and didn’t want to pay for a sitter. My youngest little girl has a kind and loving heart, so I can always count on her to have sweet and supportive things to say. After we arrived at the store, it took a few minutes for me to choose some clothes to try on in the dressing room. As we went entered the hallway of the dressing room area, I realized that there wasn’t a place for Abbie to sit. So, I brought her inside of my small dressing room and settled her on the little perch in the corner of the room.
Promising to be quick, I handed Abbie some crackers and turned to disrobe. Since the dressing room can be a judgment room, I mentally prepared to get half-naked and try on clothes that may or may not fit. What if it doesn’t fit? I should have worked out more. I wish that I was 10 pounds thinner! My little cherub munched on her crackers as I slipped out of my coat and turned to remove my top. Then, her munching stopped and her little voice piped up: “It’s OK, Mommy. I won’t laugh.”
So much for thinking that I had kept my insecurities to myself!
I was wrong. Somewhere along the line, my five-year old daughter picked up on my frustration over my size, shape or style, otherwise known as my “ugly struggle with beauty”.
“Why don’t I ever look good in anything?”
“My feet are SO big! Goodness, someone could use these for a boat!”
“Look at these hips! Nothing ever fits right over these hips!”
I never wanted Abbie or my other daughters to sense my discomfort with my body. Yet, I had passed my negative thinking and feelings about my size and shape onto my daughters.
In October 2013, I surveyed over 500 women about the topic of beauty and how beauty has impacted their lives. Many women reflected on how their mothers’ ugly struggle with beauty was passed along to them. Here’s one woman’s story:
My mother is a beautiful woman by anyone’s standards, but she does not see it that way. To this day, she works to support her beauty habits. She’s had breast augmentation, countless peels and laser resurfacing and practically lives at the salon. This was my model. I remember my mother telling me that I was beautiful, but I also remember her worrying about what I was eating, and how my hair looked and what other people would think about me. I scrutinize every imperfection on my face. I have long, full hair that other women compliment me on, but it’s fake. I shop a lot. I constantly size myself up against other women. It is honestly exhausting at times.
Clearly, her mother never intended for her daughter to inherit her ugly struggle with beauty, but our words and actions influence our daughters more than we realize.
Protecting our daughters from our ugly struggle…
Moms, we never want for our daughters is to experience the same sadness and frustration that we encounter in the mirror, right? If our daughters express a beauty-related struggle, we’re quick to go out an buy something to help. We make sure they have acne-free skin, pay for nose jobs or by them stylish clothes. Yet, trying to address their physical struggle doesn’t matter if our girls are also carrying around OUR beauty-related pain in their hearts and minds.
So, what do we do to influence our daughters away from our ugly struggle? The best way to keep our daughters from inheriting our ugly struggle with beauty is for us to win OUR ugly struggle with beauty!
There are three things that we need to do in order to win our ugly struggle or reduce our struggle’s impact on our daughter’s lives:
1. Understand your “beauty narrative” – What’s your beauty story? Talking about beauty is more than just talking about how we look, it’s about understand it’s impact on how we think and live. Are there nicknames or painful memories that you’ve carried around since childhood that whisper back to you each time you look in the mirror? When we don’t acknowledge the things that happened to us, we carry them around and give them the power to influence our thinking, feelings.
2. Re-Think Your Body – Your relationship with beauty begins in your mind. What you think drives how you feel and behave. If you struggle with you’re a certain body part or facial feature, then a practical tip would be re-frame how you think about that feature. How does that body part bless your life? What purpose does that body part serve in helping you love and care for the people around you? I struggle with the gap between my front teeth. Yet, my mouth affords me the opportunities to speak with women and encourage them. I know that my voice and smile would not be as effective without my two front teeth. So, those teeth are a blessing because they allow me to encourage others.
3. BE Beautiful! Beauty isn’t about our size, shape or style. Instead, we are beautiful when we recognize ourselves as creations of an Almighty God. We are not doomed because our hips may be too wide or our skin isn’t youthful or smooth. We are beautiful because God created us. Period.
When our daughters see us smiling at ourselves in the mirror, our daughters will remember and mimic that behavior. When our daughters overhear blessing our bodies, in spite of what our culture says about beauty, then our daughters will learn to bless their bodies in spite of what culture says about their beauty.
While we can’t protect our daughters from their own ugly struggle with beauty, we can protect them from inheriting ours.
QUESTION: How did your mom influence your opinions about beauty? What beliefs or attitudes have you carried from childhood into your adult years? Share your story by leaving a comment below.
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