Sadly, at one point or another, almost every woman can say she has struggled with confidence. Thanks to dangerous messages arbitrarily deciding what kind of body is "beautiful," and which one isn't, women are held to horrific standards of cultural beauty and attractiveness that can take a toll. While the concept of body confidence is extremely simple, teaching it to children (in order to combat those dangerous messages) can be difficult. After all, you're up against the very society they're part of. Thankfully, there are some things you can teach your daughter right now about body confidence, regardless of how young or old she is.
With a daughter of my own, and the undeniable fact that we live in a world that is constantly focused on how women look, I'm worried. I'm worried that I won't be able to teach my daughter that the media is wrong. I'm worried that I won't be able to remind her that how she feels in her body, is worth may more than what someone else feels about her body. I'm worried that I won't be able to combat horrible social expectations that convince far too many women that they're not enough. I'm worried that she won't grow up learning that she is worthy and she is lovable and she is valuable, and that her body weight or size or perceived level of attractiveness will never, ever, change that fact. I'm worried that instead of feeling confident in her body, my daughter will learn that she should resent it.
I've also learned that being afraid and worried is a pretty normal part of being a mother. I've learned that instead of letting that fear debilitate me, it should (and does) motivate me. That's why, even though my daughter is just a toddler, I'm learning all the ways I can help teach my daughter to be confident about her body. In the end, the media and our backwards culture will have nothing on me.
How To Identify Negative Thoughts Or Feelings, And Talk Openly About Why They're Wrong...
All too often, and especially as women, we will star thinking or saying negative things about ourselves, without even realizing that they're negative. Certain messages have been bombarding our subconscious minds since we were children, so it's difficult to unlearn them. You can teach your daughter even at a very young age, that the potentially negative or hurtful things she says are not OK. You can let her know that when she says she's "gross" or says something negative about her appearance, that it is, in fact, negative. You can even tell her why, and help her learn how to identify those negative thoughts and feelings so she can work towards combating them.
...Then Learn, And Practice, Speaking Positively
If you speak positively about yourself, your daughter will start to identify that behavior as "normal" and, in turn, do the same. She won't be as negative about herself as the media teaches her to be, because she sees her mother do the opposite on a regular, daily basis. She won't look for, pick out or chastise her flaws, and will see that her body is not only worth being confident about, but worth praise and adoration.
There's Nothing Wrong With Taking Pictures Of Yourself (And Liking Them!)
Say what you will about the selfie culture, but I, for one, think it's wonderful. Self-love is vital for everyone, but especially women, who are constantly told that hating how they look makes them more "down to earth" or "likable." Take pictures with your toddler. Have fun making silly faces and serious faces and adorable faces. Take all the pictures and then go back through them, laughing and stating compliments and telling your daughter that you love seeing her happy.
How To Wear What Feels Comfortable...
According to Psychology Today, the clothes we wear and wardrobe choices we make are one of the most important ways we express ourselves. Wear whatever expresses who you are and you are comfortable in. It's an extended part of your personality and should never be traded for "what everyone else is wearing."
This can be as easy as letting your daughter pick out what she wants to wear, and then complimenting her on her choice.
...And Feel Confident In What You're Wearing
If you feel confident in what you wear, your daughter will learn that feeling confident, instead of self-conscious, is the actual norm. Confident isn't necessarily something our society actively fosters in women, so if you set the example by wearing clothes that are comfortable and that you're confident in, your daughter will have the positive example she needs.
Your Naked Body Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of
Kids love to be naked. Seriously, just try getting pants on a toddler. I dare you. Instead of telling your daughter that being naked is "bad" or that she can't love running around sans clothes, let your toddler be a toddler. Let them enjoy their body without the shame society will eventually try to convince her she should feel. When we tell our children that nakedness is "bad," we're telling them that their bodies are "bad," and that will definitely derail body confidence.
Difference Are Wonderful, And So Are Yours
Unfortunately, our society isn't very kind to people who look "different." If you aren't conventionally attractive, you're an "other," and unworthy of love and attention and appreciation. Yeah, not true. At all. Just, no.
According to Mind Body Green, one way to help present differences as "normal" and wonderful and something that should be celebrated, is by introducing her to a variety of body types when she is young and she won't think anything different when she's older.
Don't Spend Time With People Who Make You Feel Bad About Yourself
Not only is it difficult to be body confident in a society that actively tries to make women feel horrible about themselves, but it's infinitely more difficult if you surround yourself with people who make you feel bad about your body. So, a great way to teach your daughter that she doesn't need to put up with negatively from others, is by pointing out negative and unacceptable behavior, and helping her assertively dismiss those people form her life. If someone is mean at the play ground, she no longer has to play with them. If a girl in her class is rude, no, she does not have to invite her to a birthday party.
You're Worthy Of A Compliment...
So many women learn that when they are the recipient of a compliment, they should deny the compliment's legitimacy. "You look great today," is usually followed by "Oh, not really. I just threw this on and haven't been sleeping and look horrible." Again, this is society telling women that being confident is an undesirable trait.
So, compliment yourself and your daughter constantly and consistently and without apology. Take compliments, in front of your daughter, regularly and without question. You deserve them, and so does your daughter.
...So Don't Be Ashamed To Take One And Be Proud Of It
Seriously, there's nothing to be ashamed about. Teach your daughter that she doesn't have to feign shock when someone pays her a compliment. She knows she is worthy, because she's body confident and she has learned it from her mama.
You Are Made Perfectly, Just They Way You Are.
As an outspoken Christian raising my daughter in the church, I am constantly telling her that she's God's masterpiece and, therefore, a beautifully unique princess of The King. I tell her that she is beautiful and she is loved and she is perfect, just the way she is. It seems small, but constantly telling my daughter that I see her value and worth, and so does God, will, in the end, make all the difference in the world.