This beautiful young lady is my niece.  As a mom to five boys, she holds a special place in my heart that no other soul can fill.  She inspires my work every day.  Ever since she was little girl people would say “Your niece looks just like you” those words would fill my soul because she is the most beautiful girl I have laid eyes on.

 

I’ve failed her though.  I, like many women, would tell her how beautiful she then picks myself apart in front of her.  Looking back, I realized I haven’t always been there for her like I should have or been the best example of confidence and self-love, I was quite the opposite for many years of her life. I can’t take those years back but I can use my voice to fight against societies message to women and young girls now.  My hope is when that message screams at her to question her worth or the strength & beauty of her uniquely made body that she rejects it powerfully.  That when society gets cold, she returns to the safest warm place she has created inside of her, that she returns home and remembers that the outside world screams out those messages out of greed and insecurities.

 

In today’s times of social media young girls are having conversations about their bodies more than ever and dangerously those conversations are being had in silence within themselves. Young girls need us big girls to speak up and speak out.  To resist the messages being forced upon them.  To change how we speak about ourselves so they can speak kinder about themselves.  Whether you talk to the young girls in your life about their bodies or not conversations are being had with friends, with boys, and most importantly with themselves.  It’s critical that we as positive influences in their lives have an open, nonjudgmental line of communication with them.

 

Listen: When she shares an emotion about her body allow her to freely express that emotion without judgment or be quick to respond with “Oh, stop you look beautiful..”, “That’s crazy, your body is perfect”.  Ask her questions like “What makes you feel this way?”  “Are there people in your life that make you feel insecure about your body?” “How do you speak to yourself about your body?”.  “What are some things you think are beautiful, powerful, and unique about your body?” The more you ask the deeper you will understand her struggle.  It is ok to say “I sometimes struggle with my body too then I remind myself how loved I am by you, my friends, and think of all the cool things my body has allowed me to do” {YES, Dad’s this is a conversation you can have too! As a matter of fact, your opinion means MORE to your daughter than you know.  YOU ARE POWERFUL. Does it get any better than having the first man she loved encouraging self-compassion and love, I THINK NOT}

 

Resilience:  Teach her that the world and people in it can say and do things that are unkind, but that doesn’t mean she has to accept them.  One of the best pieces of wisdom I heard was “Just because someone insults you that doesn’t mean you have to be insulted”.  People will always judge her, she doesn’t have to listen or take it to heart.  Teach her to listen to people who are worthy and respected.

 

Model: Show her what confidence is.  You can’t speak negatively about your body and expect her not to internalize it.  Especially when she is told “You look just like your {Dad/mom}” Trust me her mind will go straight to the negative things you say aloud about yourself and instantly those comments will become about her.  To steal a line from Bambi “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”  and while you’re at it, drop the “I can’t have carbs” talk in front of her.  She deserves a fighting chance to have a healthy relationship with food.

 

Give: Give her positive, strong role models of all shapes and sizes.  Fill her world with so much beauty that she will thank you for later.  Thanks to the body positive movement there are so many to choose from now!

 

Move: Teach her how to move for F U N.  Show her that being strong is so much more than looks, it’s about how it makes her feel. Encourage her to hike, go climbing, play hockey, dance, run, play soccer, row, whatever fills her soul and makes her crave movement.

 

Team: Encourage her to be a part of a team because come on parents, we KNOW there’s no surviving parenthood without a tribe of people alongside of us. She will never stop needing to be part of a team as she grows up.  Having the support of many will help her be more successful. Encourage her to seek teams that will also help her develop leadership skills and feel more confident.

 

Truth: Mean girls struggle with self-worth more than anyone; having a “sexy body” doesn’t make you a good person and real bodies are not photoshopped, real bodies don’t have filters, real bodies have marks and scars, and bumps and lumps.

 

Self: MOST IMPORTANTLY, teach her that she is the most powerful person in her life.  Her voice can be her biggest cheerleader or her worst enemy.  Teach her to care deeply for her soul, to listen to her internal voice. Teach her that it’s OK to love the young lady she is, even if others around her don’t love themselves. It’s difficult to not to internalize someone else’s struggles and make them her own. Remind her that just because someone else’s message to the world about their body is negative doesn’t mean that has to be hers.  Show her the strengths she has, empower her with the tools to be free from society’s message to her, and teach her that being confident and kind will bring her the most peaceful journey through life.

 

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