The best protection you can offer her is to teach her the skills of critical thought and personal reflection.
Through these skills, she can develop an increased sense of self value.
Your daughter will feel that what she has to say is valuable if you create space for her to talk about her personal experiences of image pressures and you listen.
This way, she learns that her experiences count and are, in fact, just as authentic and valuable as the standard messages about a woman’s worth she hears in media.
When a girl has this profound awakening that what she and many other girls experience in terms of beauty and relationships is actually very different from what the media images promises, she wakes up with a new and empowered way of relating to those media pressures.
She has been provided the gift of contrast, the gift of critical thought. The worlds of self and other can then come into sharper contrast.
It may be painful for you to watch your daughter bend to the pressures of our image-based world. You may mourn the loss of your more jubilant and unself-conscious child.
But ultimately this fall from innocence is inevitable. Once she falls, however, she has the opportunity to gain self-reflection and critical thought. These skills are the best protections you can arm her with as she wades out into the sea of a thousand pressures.
With the ability to value her personal experience and to think critically, she can more consciously choose how she wants to engage with the pressures of an image-based culture.
You may watch her experiment with her image and value in many different ways throughout her teen years. Some of her experiments may frighten you and some might make you feel proud.
But whatever she tries, always strive to appeal to her personal experience and critical thought when you feel concerned. This way you will avoid shaming her and can instead help her develop a lifelong sense of personal empowerment.
Try these tips to start the discussion:
1. Education – begin by showing her these videos.
2. Next, ask her about her own experiences of body image pressures. Where does she feel the most pressure from? When can she remember first being aware of people evaluating her body image? What did it feel like for her? Does she try and fight it or conform to it? Is she self-conscious? Why does she think women’s looks are such a strong part of our cultural dialogue? What are experiences in her life that tell her image is not everything? Are there people she finds attractive who don’t fit the standard media prototype of beauty? Are there other ways to find someone attractive besides their image?
3. Follow up by asking her if she wants to know your experiences. What were the pressures when you were her age? What are the pressures that you feel now? How has your body changed? How has your relationship of acceptance or your body changed over time? What do you say to your self when you feel you are not good enough?