How you can influence your daughter’s self esteem
As fathers, we have a huge influence on our daughters’ self esteem — how they view themselves.
There’s a fascinating video put out by Dove — aimed at women — that explores the idea “You’re more beautiful than you think you are.”
Before I continue, watch the video. (It’s really worth 6 minutes of your time.)
I’m not in the target audience for this campaign, but as a father it was eye-opening for sure. I have to ask myself, If my daughter described herself for a sketch artist, how would that drawing turn out—and how would it be different if I described her?
I’ll probably never fully understand the pressures girls and women feel in our culture related to their appearance, and how that affects their self-image. But a few things I know without a doubt: Physical appearance is a big deal to girls and women.
And with the way they are portrayed in the media, they surely feel very little room to be less-than-perfect when it comes to their faces and their figures. And focusing on any perceived flaws impacts how they feel about themselves as people. None of us would want our wives or daughters to feel that way, but it’s easy to understand why they would.
I say it’s tragic, because appearances don’t reflect the real character of a person.
It also reminds me that our wives and daughters are probably less secure than what they may show. If they seem confident and cheerful, that doesn’t mean they don’t need plenty of affirmation from us! As husbands and fathers, we have a lot of influence on how the women in our lives view themselves, and we need to be all about affirming them — many times, every day.
I won’t say affirming their physical appearance isn’t important. It is, for sure. But we should focus even more on affirming our wives and daughters in terms of their character and what they mean to us. That helps to build them up inside, and fosters the kind of inner strength that helps them maintain a high self-worth no matter what other signals they’re getting from the culture.
The Dove campaign is powerful and insightful … and as fathers, it should motivate us even more to help our children focus on the right things. Ultimately, don’t we all want our kids to learn to place less value on a person’s appearance and more on what’s inside — a person’s heart?
We can play a big role in this area. One section in our ebook 5 Things Every Child MUST Get from Dad hits today’s topic very well: Go ahead and compliment your daughter when she has taken care to look attractive, just as you would a son who has intentionally spent time making sure he looks handsome. But more important is your ability to compliment her other qualities, like emotional strength, sense of humor, loyalty, intelligence, and courage.
Make it clear that what you love most about your daughter are her non-physical qualities, and that even without her physical features, you would still love her just as much.
But don’t let your response end with reading something. Do something! Start a new habit in the way you express affirmation to your daughter—and your son.
Action points for dads on the journey:
Talk with your children
Talk about what makes a person “attractive.” How much of it is purely physical, and how much is about character?
Have three or four specific virtues in mind for the next week
— such as loyalty, courage, kindness, and respect. Really look for those in your child and be ready to point out examples you see.
Find a shared activity that you and your daughter both enjoy. Make plans to do it regularly. Be creative and make sacrifices if necessary.
Make it clear to your bride and your children that your love and commitment to them will never change, and has nothing to do with their physical appearance.
Set an example
Set an example and join your children in healthy activities — walking, running, or some other exercise.
Used with permission from the National Center for Fathering. For more practical tips and inspiration, visit fathers.com.
Photo credit: Petra
Carey Casey is Chief Executive Officer of the Kansas City-based National Center for Fathering (NCF), a dynamic communicator and a compassionate ambassador. Carey serves on the White House Task Force on Fatherhood and Healthy Families. Find more info about NCF: www.fathers.com