So what can mothers do to help create a society in which girls are healthier in body and mind? To start with, mothers can ask their daughters about the messages they receive regarding the female body. They can share their own challenges with comparing themselves to societal ideals. They can explore their values and those of their daughters’ regarding not only appearance, but the importance of standing up for what they believe. So if these mothers want their daughters to believe in their own abilities, they may stress the importance of fighting back against a society that seeks to weaken their resolve. They may ask, do you believe that women should be judged based on their appearance? Do you think women are only beautiful if they are a size zero and have long blond hair? Is it okay with you that these messages you receive are causing you to feel bad about yourself? Well if not, then how can you stand up to these forces that threaten you and your confidence?
In addition to fighting back against societal forces, mothers can help their daughters by focusing on their child’s strengths and accomplishments. It seems to me that people tend to feel more motivated when they believe in the possibility for success and recognize their own abilities. They also tend to enjoy those relationships in which they are recognized for their efforts more than those in which they are constantly put down. In general, I have not noticed that long-term success is created by making decisions out of fear. So all those parents who threaten to take away the phone or the computer if their child’s grades don’t improve may be helping create temporary change, but a belief in oneself will continue to promote success throughout a lifetime. The same goes for helping a child improve his or her physical health. So moms that focus on what their daughters have accomplished will help them to feel more confident in making decisions that align with their values. A focus on successes will help them to feel more empowered to set their own goals and follow through with them regardless of whether they are to lose weight, get better grades, or ask someone out on a date.
So if we ever want to create a society in which women of all sizes and races are valued, and girls feel good about themselves regardless of whether they look like models, mothers need to start interacting with their daughters in a different way. Media cannot be blamed for all of our poor body image issues if we continue to perpetuate its messages in our homes.