How do we impart a healthy body image to our daughters when they're often bombarded with messages that their bodies aren't good enough?
The topic has been a topic of discussion for my husband and I ever since we found out we were having a girl.
Our decision to instill a strong self-image actually started when our daughter was in utero.
See, my husband wanted to name our girl Athena, a name I suggested initially but decided was a little too far outside my comfort zone. I told him we could pick any of the other three names we were considering, but the case was closed on Athena.
He got quiet and said nothing else on the topic for weeks.
While on a date one day, he staged an intervention:
"Emily, listen: the other names we're considering are indeed beautiful. But beautiful girls are a dime-a-dozen. I want my girl to feel strong and self-assured in a world that doesn't always welcome these qualities in girls. Athena is the name that says that."
My eyes welled up in tears. "Me too," I said. "We'll name her Athena."
I never looked back. Our spunky, strong-willed, dark-eyed girl is most definitely an Athena.
What's my point in telling this story?
Imparting a positive self-image is about more than what we tell our daughters about their looks.
I should acknowledge I’m certainly not the model of perfection here. I speak not from a pedestal, but as a mother who has grappled with this.
Or more accurately, make it less of an emphasis.
Talk about how you love her curiosity, her sense of humor, that she advocates for herself. Talk about the books she's reading. Encourage her to formulate her own opinions even if they’re unpopular.
Even certain types of admiring comments can send the message that appearance (or thinness) is to be valued above all else.
Instead talk admiringly about women who have achieved things in a variety of areas – athletes, scientists, women who have overcome adversity.
I talk to Athena about eating well and limiting junk food because it makes her body feel worse, not because she'll get chubby.
I ask her to pay attention to how her body feels in recognizing fullness or hunger. I talk to her about how much I love how my body feels when we run together.
Words won't go far if you're constantly complaining about how big your thighs are.
I compliment my girl on her smile, the way her eyes sparkle when she learns something new, the way orange makes her look happy.
How do you make your girls feel good about their bodies?