When I was a teenager, I would have minor meltdowns from time to time over what now seems like trivial nothingness. A teenage girl that goes to tears over tiny things? Shocking, I know. Those face-scrunched-up, trials of frustration usually happened standing in front of bathroom mirror three minutes past the time I was supposed to leave for school. God forbid my hair didn’t crimp as neatly as I wanted it to or a bump popped out halfway down my French braid. My mom still enjoys teasing me about my “bad hair days.”
But those bad hair days weren’t really about my hair. They were about wanting to be perfect, pulled together and pretty, and about pressure – a distinctly feminine kind of pressure. When I was a teenager, I had five magazine subscriptions and plenty of examples of what my looks needed to live up to or more accurately, how they fell short. My boobs were too big, my arms too chubby, my skin not clear enough, my lips too thin, and it went on and on depending on what article I was reading.
While my complaints, and those of every teenage girl, are superficial, the affects of self-criticism in young women is not. According to a Dove Global study, over 70 percent of girls avoid certain activities like parties and social clubs, giving an opinion, or even going to school, because they feel bad about their looks.
It breaks my heart to think that my little girls will one day fall into this same wounded way of thinking. That’s why I’m trying to frame their perceptions of what matters most now to keep their God-given self-esteem intact in the coming years. I previously mentioned how encouraged I am by Dove’s groundbreaking campaign to broaden the standard definition of beauty by featuring women of all shapes, sizes and colors into their advertising and their Women Who Should be Famous campaign.
Beyond that, Dove also offers some awesome tools for moms and daughters to talk about body consciousness and what it means to be beautiful. While the activity guides are geared for girls 8-12 years old, I found a few tips that I could apply to my preschoolers. (Better to frame self-worth early than try to undo damage later right?) Below are some of the Dove activities coupled with few of my own ideas and some I’ve snagged from friends.
Self-esteem activities for young girls:
1. Ask your daughter what’s your favorite thing about yourself? Get some insight into what she’s proud of and share with her what you enjoy about her. You can also share your favorite thing about yourself with her.
2. Create a book that bolsters her confidence. Decorate a notebook or sketchpad together and keep a log of inspiring quotations, compliments and positive comments other people have made about your child. Tuck in a few favorite photos or mementos that remind her of moments when she felt confident and beautiful or just had a great time. Whenever she has a moment of uncertainty, bring out the book to get her self-esteem back on track.
3. Point out beauty wherever you see it – in flowers, a sunset, a picture, a dance, etc. so that they she understands that beauty is more than how a person looks.
4. Let your gal teach you a new skill. Ask her to show you how to do something that she feels especially good at whether that’s drawing stick men, making Playdoh snowmen, or doing somersaults.
5. Teach your child to notice the good things about other people, and then compliment them on it. For example, they could comment on a beautiful smile, eye color, a bright outfit or how funny their friend is or how well he/she shares.
6. Besides her beauty, mix in compliments of other attributes you love about her–smart, kind, helpful, strong, fast, loving, brave, etc.
7. Most important of all, be the person you want your child to become. “Do remember yours is a body that has lived, worked, given birth, brought up a child and run a household. Bodies change as we age and it is fiction that they could ever look like the ‘perfected’ images in the media.” – Dove Global