Growing up as Erica Ehm's daughter can't be easy. People stop us on the street and tell my daughter how awesome I used to be on MuchMusic waaay before she was born. She smiles politely and rolls her eyes at me. She's a good sport.
But there are other reasons why it's tough having me as a mom. My not-so-little girl has listened to me speak about beauty, strength, and self-worth for most of her life - publicly and privately. Plus, I'm always going on about self-esteem and feminism. Together, we've watched the Dove self-esteem videos (this one is awesome), we've leafed through fashion magazines with a critical eye, and we've pointed out billboards designed to make us feel insecure. Now, as my daughter enters junior high school, everything I've been downloading into her brain is beginning to percolate.
I have a pretty good sense that she's on the right path, especially when she comes home from school and talks about what's happening in her social circles.
She says things like this: "Mom, there's a girl I know who's beautiful - but in a good way."
What she's really saying is this: I find my friend beautiful, not just because she's attractive to look at, but because she's really nice, smart and fun. She's beautiful on the inside.
I remember what it felt like in high school so many years ago, all the anxiety to fit in and never feeling good enough. I know I can never completely protect my daughter from those feelings. She's inundated with messages in the media that reinforce the concept of unrealistic physical perfection. Instead, my strategy has been to subtlely innoculate her with consistent shots of inspiration, and a strong dose of self-worth to colour how she sees herself.
My daughter and I have a lot of chats at night snuggled in bed, recapping the day's events. It's here that she shares her worries, knowing I'll listen without judgement. We talk through what she's experiencing and discuss how she can handle situations with her friends and take the high road.
If you know me at all, you'll know it's not just my daughter who I am concerned about. Empowering girls and women is incredibly important to me. Running this online magazine is one way I'm able to make a difference in the lives of mothers and daughters. Just like I do with my daughter, I'm driven to start conversations and flag issues that force us to feel "less than" with our peers.
My ongoing relationship with the Dove Self Esteem Project is extremely important to me, both as a mom and as a feminist. They've recently added to their arsenal of online articles and activities, which are great mother/daughter conversation starters. Come to think of it, these are equally important for dads to read and discuss with their daughters too. You can find the Uniquely Me downloadable booklet here along with other Parent Resources. The focus of these articles and activities is building girls' body confidence.
The free Uniquely Me booklet touches on potentially sensitive topics like positive body talk, how the media distorts beauty, bullying, healthy eating and building a bond with your daughter. Also included are quick, easy to read articles and activity sheets. The activity sheets are a great way to get to know what your daughter is really thinking. Do you remember those awesome Dove Self Esteem Workshops YMC hosted last year? This booklet has a lot of the same types of simple, effective information to broach some tricky subjects with a potentially hormonal tween.
Here's a peek at one of the activity sheets:
But these resources aren't just about your daughter's self esteem. The Dove Self-Esteem Project is just as important for women as it is for girls, because as we know all too well, our kids are sponges watching our every move.
Remember that time you muttered, "My ass looks big in these jeans." Your daughter heard you. According to the Mirror, Mirror report published by the Social Issues Research Centre, up to 80 per cent of women are unhappy with what they see in the mirror. Research shows that mothers who are unhappy with their own bodies are more likely to have daughters with body dissatisfaction. So first things first, we need to change our own behaviour and, more importantly, redefine where our values lie.
During one of our late night talks my daughter told me, "Mom, there's a girl I know who is very pretty and talented but she keeps on asking everyone if she's fat. Why does she do that?" My guess is she learned it from those she looks up to.
If you have a girl in your life, start the conversation about what beautiful really means and then walk the talk yourself. She'll be right behind you.
Let's keep this conversation going over on social media! Join me and others by using the #InspireConfidence hashtag.