By Wendy Baribeau, LAMFT
We are all made in the image and likeness of God, and He declared all of His creation good. Unfortunately, this basic truth is often lost in modern America, especially by young women who feel immense pressure to improve their external physical “beauty.”
Advertisements work! Ads are a powerful force in modern media, which contribute to appearance-related anxiety while benefiting from the sale of products and services that allegedly alleviate that anxiety. Impressionable girls hooked on modern media often focus on external beauty and material goods while losing focus on the internal, God-given beauty they already possess.
As a result, many young women find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle: depression, which leads to poor eating habits and low energy. This often leads to watching television, scrolling social media, and viewing more body-image advertisements. Too much media leads to self-comparisons, low self esteem, loneliness, and more symptoms of depression. To break the cycle, parents need to take action.
Encourage Physical Activity
Studies show that physical activity can improve mood and mental health. Encourage your daughter to embrace activities such as dance, sports, biking, swimming, or exercise into a consistent routine. Teach her to begin appreciating her body for what it can do, not what it looks like. Over time, feeling physically healthy will allow her to feel more naturally beautiful and mentally strong.
Teach Media Literacy
Be sure your daughter understands that ads lie. Explain how they stir up our emotions to sell products and services. Teach them that these images are not real but heavily edited to create “perfect” body images that no woman can emulate.
Watch shows and movies together as much as possible to put content into context for your daughter. Avoid unsupervised consumption of Netflix, YouTube, YouTube Kids, and video games, which often contain inappropriate content and secular messages for children and teens. Block social media from your daughter’s phones, tablets and computers unless you are monitoring it daily.
Support Goals, Dreams, and Aspirations
Help your daughter develop self-confidence, altruism, and self-respect by talking about her passions and future goals and helping her work toward them. Remind her that her life has a purpose so much greater than external appearance. According to 1 Peter 3:3-4, “Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.”
Invite her to discuss her feelings with you. Be honest and open about your own struggles with self esteem. Help her replace self-critical thoughts such as, “I am fat” with positive ones like, “I did a good job today getting exercise and eating healthy”. Compliment her as often as possible on her efforts toward growth in virtue such as wellness, wisdom, love for all, faith, and temperance.
Make Time for Your Relationship
If you and your daughter are too busy to share a daily meal together, you’re losing a natural place to connect and teach healthy eating habits. Too many commitments lead to stress, which can interfere with good parenting practices. Positive parenting practices enhance empathy, mutual respect, and self-worth. Most of all, use the time you have to show her how much you love her.