I don't have a daughter yet. However, I do have two beautiful nieces (pictured below), and the older one -- at the young age of 5 -- is already conscious of her body and size.
It pains me to think that, today, little girls have to deal with body shaming and pressure to conform to society's skewed standards.
As mothers and women, it's our responsibility to teach the next generation of girls to feel empowered by who they are. We've got to teach our daughters to show up in the world confident, regardless of the shape or size of their bodies.
Here are the three things to pass on to your daughter so she grows up feeling positive and at ease in her own skin:
1. She's more than her body.
In our appearance-obsessed culture, we need daily reminders that we're more than how we look. As women, we've become fixated on making ourselves look good, but what about all of the other things that make us, well, us? We've each got strengths, talents, quirks, flaws, idiosyncrasies, and character traits that are unique to us.
Teach your daughter that she is more than her body -- she is her heart and spirit, her hopes, dreams, and passions. Show her how to feel empowered by who she is and to truly understand that the way she looks is secondary. Tell her how to cultivate her authentic self and build a life that reflects who she is and what she most loves.
2. A good life is more important than a good body.
If we want our society to stop perpetuating an appearance-based culture, we women have to campaign for it. We've got to teach our daughters that leaving a legacy in this world is far more important than spending hours at the gym each week to sculpt ourselves into a size 2.
Yes, health is important. And we can focus on being healthy, exercising to move our bodies, and eating food that nourishes us. But beyond that, aiming to have a thin, skinny body needs to come second to creating a meaningful life.
What excites your daughter? Where does she feel most like herself? What are her dreams and goals? Planting these seeds at a young age can show your daughter that building a life she loves and is proud of is worth much more than achieving a "perfect" body.
Show her how to follow her passions and pursue dreams that make her happy. Because looks fade. A thin body changes. Muscles and fitness deteriorate as we get older. But creating a life that fills her up and leaves a mark on the world? That will last forever.
3. Society doesn't get to define how she should look.
We live in a culture that is constantly changing its ideal look. In the '80s, long and lean was the "it" body. The '90s came around and waif-thin models were all the rage. At the turn of the century, a muscled, fit, and toned body type was what everyone was after. Then J.Lo and Beyoncé brought the curves back. How can we live our lives desperately trying to achieve an ideal that changes every few years?
Society shouldn't get to define what's most beautiful to us. As we each confidently express our own unique sets of talents, interests, and strengths, we create a society where our differences are appreciated and celebrated.
Teach your daughter that her beauty is unique to her. She doesn't have to conform to that latest "it" body type just to fit in. Show her how to cultivate her own inner confidence in who she is, regardless of what society says.
Because being her own unique self never goes out of style.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.