From the time we first meet our daughters and hold them in our arms, we love them. From the tops of their heads to their tiny little toes, we love every single inch of them.
To us they are perfect.
We love them and we want others to love them too.
And most importantly, we want them to know that they are perfect.
If only we could protect them from the harsh words and influences that will chip away at them as they grow.
Because children are like sponges and what they hear from others they absorb.
It is so very important to think about the language we use in terms of positive imagery around the body. As a family, we have always ensured that we steer clear of negative body terms.
But children absorb a huge amount of information from others very quickly and they test it out.
There have been times when my daughter has made comments about my body and I shrug it off. But she is probably only playing out what she has heard others say. There are days when I might not feel my best self when I look in the mirror but she doesn’t need to know that. I find it’s always better to have a bit of a giggle and acknowledge the fact that actually it was a bit of a bad hair day or that an outfit wasn’t really for me.
It is as our children grow that they start to take notice of and compare themselves to others. It is all to often the societal norm to look towards others as role models and aspire to be just like them. As we know, the traditional role models share a trait in that they are generally tall, slim and beautiful. For many years, this has been presented as the way we should all look. We often fall short of this.
Comparison has always been the theft of joy and it is little wonder that we are left wanting if we try to compare ourselves to those we see in the media.
In recent years we have seen more ‘real’ women enter the arena. Dove is a very good example of a brand that strives to include ‘real’ women. Women that are all shapes, ages and sizes. Just like you and me.
As I am writing this, it occurred to me that we don’t often compliment others on their bodies. It can often be seen as inappropriate or worse still – offensive.
People are afraid of giving compliments about the body – wary of the repercussions. Wondering if it will be perceived as inappropriate. There is a fine line here between what is perceived as a sexual remark and a genuinely innocent compliment that may just boost someone’s day. A very fine line.
And so we don’t do it.
And we also need to protect our daughters from unwanted attention too.
Beauty as the cliché goes, comes from within. And it is so very true. We receive information from others both positive and negative. Unfortunately, it is often the negative that goes deeper. It wounds and can make us self-conscious.
Also, negative feelings towards ones self is often projected outwards on to others. If we are unable to see our own beauty, we are unlikely to be able to acknowledge it in others. Or worse, we make them the focus of our attention and our words reflect this.
Quite often, it is the most beautiful of souls that are the most harshly criticised. Unable to see through the criticism, their self-esteem is crushed.
Children learn very quickly a range of emotions that they have to makes sense of – jealousy, anger, sharing, kindness, empathy – the list is endless.
We have truly made great strides forward in education in encouraging our children to embrace the difference in others but let’s take this one step further.
Let’s encourage our children to focus on liking and accepting themselves too. To know that it’s OK to feel good about how you look and who you are.
A little comment here and there about how good they look goes a long way. A child may seem not to receive a compliment but this can often be because they don’t know how to respond. I guarantee they will reflect upon what you have said and if you stick around, you will see a beautiful smile appear as they acknowledge your words.
I take great pleasure in complimenting my daughter. She is at a very impressionable age as she starts to enter her teenage years. If I can make her smile a million of those inward smiles just by given her a compliment, then that I will happily do.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of being ‘real’ and the wonderful peace and contentment that comes with being happy in our own skin irrespective of how others may perceive us.
We just need to share the love.
I have written this post in support of Dove and their part in the #PledgeToBeReal campaign.