Monday, March 8, 2010

You'd Be So Pretty, If...

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I’d like to remind you again of Dara Chadwick’s book, You’d Be So Pretty If: Teaching Our Daughters to Love their Bodies—Even when We Don’t Love Our Own.

Chadwick told us: “I grew up listening to my mom bemoan everything from the size of her thighs to the shape of her eyes.

So you can imagine my dismay the first time someone exclaimed, ‘You look just like your mother.’”

Chadwick’s message struck home because I am that mother who doesn’t love her body. Hard to write it, but it’s the truth. I pledged not to pass that message on to my daughter. My plan was simple. When she was in my presence I didn’t talk about my appearance or desire to lose weight. If I was going to be on a diet, which I did often when she was young, I called it a new health plan.

So far this tactic has worked. Now that she’s older when I do slip up occasionally she’s surprised by my self-deprecating words.

The best way to help our daughters love themselves as much as we wish we loved ourselves is to model self-love even when we might not actually believe it.

Chadwick’s subtitle tells it all: “Teaching our daughters to love their bodies—even when we don’t love our own.” It’s important to watch the words we direct toward our daughters.

In You’d Be So Pretty If… a fourteen year old shares, “I hate it when my mom calls me a lumberjack because I’m tall and sort of strong. It’s just a joke, but it gets old fast.”

These words, whether in jest or not, drive home the point that this child is bigger than the cultural ideal.

Mothers have a tremendous influence, but what Chadwick calls the “X factor” also comes into play. Comprising the X factor are the men in your daughter’s life: boys, brothers, dads and husbands.

I remember in graduate school meeting a beautiful girl who believed she was ugly. She had an older brother who repeatedly called her names and told her she was a “train wreck.”

As I wrote in my first book, it was the boys in my life that impacted me the most—the boys who would be, could be or had been boyfriends. I listened intently to their comments/evaluations and I absorbed them all.

Chadwick told us: “Being teased and tormented about your physical appearance in childhood and early adolescence is often how a lifetime of body image struggles begins. Like pulling weeds from the garden, it’s our job (as parents) to nip that kind of meanness in the bud.”

Chadwick offers many suggestions on building a healthy body image. One I thought particularly helpful: Help her feel good about how she looks. Take her to a professional hair stylist. Many still charge children prices until girls are 13. When she wants to start wearing make-up, show her how. Or take her to an expert. Department stores in malls and hair salons will usually do this for a minimum fee or product purchase. Find a store or stores that sell clothes within your price range that are flattering for your daughter’s body type.

Not all girls can wear skinny jeans, and although they are a popular thing to wear, there are many other stylish choices out there. Watch TLC’s What Not to Wear with your daughter. You’ll pick up tips for all types of bodies, and your daughter will see a wide variety of shapes, sizes and looks.

As Chadwick says, “Make it your goal to help her feel confident among her peers.”

Allyn Evans
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