One of my facebook "friends" posted this the other day. It is a heartfelt letter from a daughter to her mother sharing her thoughts about self-image and how her mother's unknowing influence has affected that. Read this and below you will find a blog I wrote several years ago about a similar experience I had with my own daughter. As mother's we wield great power over our daughters, not the kind of power that makes them do their homework, or come in on time, or to clean their room, but the kind of power that lasts long after your child has left home for good. We need to be aware of this power, and make sure we use for the positive not the negative.
Over Thanksgiving I had a chance to spend some time with my beloved daughter. She was lovingly telling me how beautiful I looked. (I am turning 60 next week and I take in every compliment that is paid to me) Don't be jealous, she is 28 now, and a full on adult. Anyway, over the summer I had some "work" done, and that's all I will say about it, but it has definitely made me feel differently about the way I look, the way I carry myself, and the way I feel about myself. My daughter's comment was the beginning of a conversation about "getting" that. I was saying to her that I felt more confident and more attractive than at any other time of my life, even now at 60. And here is what my daughter said to me:
"When I was a teen, and you and I would be together, people would always say, you look just like your mother. But then you would say: 'oh no, I'm fat, I'm not pretty, Ari looks like her dad.' But what I took away was, if people say you look like your mother, and your mother says she is fat and ugly, therefore, if I look like my mom, I must be fat and ugly too."
This was a stunning revelation for both of us. I always felt that by saying that she didn't look like me, that that would make her feel better about herself, because I never felt that great about my "looks." But that is not how she heard it. My daughter spent all of her teen years, and even now as a young adult who is absolutely stunning, thinking that she is still that chubby preteen, not pretty, who looks like and feels like how her mother feels. Talk about identification. If I had only known that my good intentions to make her feel better about herself had had the opposite affect.
Our daughters see themselves reflected in us. Good or bad, academically inclined or not, athletic or athletically challenged, social or shy, serious or fun, ambitious or not. As teens they want to be everything we are not, but when they move on to young adulthood, they see more clearly how connected they are to us. What you say, and model about how you feel about yourself has tremendous impact on how your daughters than feel about themselves. So if you are always putting yourself down, or have those moments of self-loathing probably better if you don't share those with your daughter. Learn from my experience. My daughter has modeled many of my positive qualities as well, and of course that makes me happy, and she is also very much her own person and nothing like me, but, she does carry with her a backpack full of self-doubt, and I am afraid that somewhere along the line, I put some of my own stuff in there.
We all want out daughters to head out into the world confident and assertive women, proud of who they are, and what they have to offer. Show them how it's done!