I Don’t Want to Screw-Up my Daughter’s Self-Image

“Mommy, will I look like you when I grow up?” my five-year-old daughter asks.

I pause internalizing the question. Does she want to look like me? Is she afraid she’ll look like me? Do I want her to look like me? Am I about to scar her for life with my answer? Did the professional photos I just had taken for my blog/writing impact her? Did I send her the wrong message?

“You will look like yourself baby. You may have some of my features, just like I have some features that look like Nana, but everyone is unique. Everyone is special,” I answer with my best I hope I don’t screw this up voice.

I get so nervous answering questions regarding looks, weight, or beauty with my daughter. I want her to feel beautiful whatever her age and regardless of her physical attributes. I want her to be her own person and not measure herself against the images she sees on television or in magazines. I want her to be confident in who she is and what she believes – not just how she looks or doesn’t look.

I also don’t want to emphasize looks over more important things like intelligence, compassion, humor, independence etc. But, I am keenly aware of the pressure placed on women to look a certain way or weigh a certain amount or fit into a certain size. I struggle every day not to compare myself to others or judge myself harshly. I am my own worst critic. This is not what I want for any of my children, but especially not for my daughters. They deserve better.

My daughter is beautiful, but how do I convince her that she will always be beautiful, no matter what? And how do I teach her that looks are not the most important thing?

As I answer my daughter, I think about the blog post – I’ve Started Telling My Kids I’m Beautiful by Off Beat Mama. The writer says we need to make our children believe that we are beautiful no matter how we look, especially as we age and carry the scars of life. We need to say it out loud and have our children understand that even imperfections are beautiful.

But, as a friend of mine on Facebook said so eloquently in response to this post, “We have to learn to see ourselves the same way first [as beautiful]. But, saying it, whether we mean it or not (yet) will make a huge impact on our kids and ourselves.”

I completely agree. So, I decide to face this issue head-on. I mentally prepare my speech about how beauty comes in all forms and how we need to love ourselves no matter what. I think about pulling up my new professionally done photo and a photo I don’t like of myself (almost all of them) and show her how beautiful I am in both, even if they are vastly different. I swallow my fears and begin by asking my daughter, “Why do you ask? Do you want to look like me?”

I brace for her response, but she shrugs and says, “Nah, I want to look like myself. Can we read a story now?”

I sigh, pick up her book and start to read about the girl that turns pink after eating pink cupcakes for the millionth time. I am grateful not to have that conversation, yet feel robbed at the same time. Didn’t she know we were about to share a landmark moment in our relationship. Didn’t she realize how much I suffered in those few moments just trying not to screw her up for the rest of her life. Oh well, I suppose there is always next time. Or maybe, just maybe, I don’t need to say anything at all because she is only five and these issues are my issues not hers.

What do you think? Do you over think conversations? Are you worried about messing up your child’s self-image? Please leave me a comment or join the discussion on the Tiny Steps Mommy Facebook page.

About 

Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger and business owner who lives in the suburbs outside Washington, DC with her husband and four children. She started her career as a journalist and copy editor. She also managed public relations and corporate communications for a national franchise company, but in 2006 started a child care business. In 2012, she launched Tiny Steps Mommy, a lifestyle and parenting blog that quickly gained a following and connected her to an expansive group of women-owned businesses. In 2013, she started a digital marketing consulting business that focused on growing community in an authentic way. Through those connections she was inspired to open Play, Work or Dash, a coworking space that also offers onsite childcare up to three hours per day. It is where like-minded professionals pursue their business goals with the extra level of support parents desire; a place where you "bring your kids to work." She is an active member of the Washington, DC blogger community. She has been published on The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode and Pop Sugar.

Comments

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Comments

  1. Ha, all that worry for nothing! At least until she asks again :). I like how you asked her questions back to see why it was important to her. I also worry so much about saying the right things to my daughter – about eating and not wearing makeup yet and beauty. I don’t know if there’s ever a perfect answer but just loving them enough to worry is probably a step in the right direction.