I Hate that My Daughter Hates Her Body
Maybe the reason that parents have such a hard time understanding their teenagers is because they have forgotten, or more accurately, willed themselves to forget how God-awful the teenage years were. It might be different for teenage boys, but for young women, it is horrible. I remember as a teenager never feeling pretty enough or thin enough or anything enough, really. Now that my daughters are teenagers, I’m watching them go through all of the same struggles that I did at their age as they try to learn how to love and accept their bodies.
Let’s face it, teenage girls are an enigma. They can be beautiful with perfect bodies, yet they feel like they are these hideous creatures. A perfect example is my youngest daughter. She wears like minus 0 jeans, she is naturally beautiful, has perfect hair and most of the time flawless skin, yet she thinks she is fat and ugly. She is constantly looking in the mirror, moaning and groaning about something. “Mom do you think that I am getting fat?” “No,” I sigh. “Mom, do these jeans make my thighs look gigantic?” “No,” I assure her. “You’re just saying that because you have to, you’re my mom.” I pretty much just roll my eyes and walk out of the room. “See, I knew it was true,” she yells in my wake.
Maybe it’s the media that brainwashes our teenage daughters into shaming themselves for not living up to this totally unrealistic standard of perfection. With today’s social media, young women are judged even more harshly by their peers. It was tough when I was a teenager, but I have witnessed firsthand with my own daughters how cruel today’s teenagers can be to one another on the various social media platforms– whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, or Twitter. There have been so many occasions that one of my girls felt devastated by a cruel comment made by some mean girl or a group of disrespectful boys. Our teenagers are living in a fish tank these days, making it that much harder for us parents to teach them to how to love and accept their bodies.
As much as I hate to admit it, I’m not always the best role model. I can be just as hard on myself as my daughters are on themselves. Of course, I’m in a totally different place in my life being middle-aged and trying to find where I belong in a society where women become invisible after 40. “Mom, how are we supposed to feel good about ourselves when you are always putting yourself down?” my daughters challenge me. I know, don’t you hate it when your kids get old enough to call you out on your crap? “Well, you guys are young and beautiful so you really shouldn’t have any problems with body shame,” I come back, matter-of-factly. They are right of course– how can they learn to love and accept themselves if I am not leading by example? I want to be a good role model, but being a woman in this society it’s not always easy to look in the mirror and feel good about what you see.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter how old we are. Being a woman at any age is hard in this society. Men seem to have one definitive expectation regardless of how sexy or hot they are. The only expectation they have is to go out into the world and become successful, period. That’s not so much the case for us women. On the one hand, men want us to be hot Victoria’s Secret models, yet on the other hand, we are supposed to fill the role of mother and nurturer. No matter how much time goes by, women remain forever stuck in this bizarre duality. So yes, society doesn’t make it easy for us to teach our teenage daughters how to accept and love their bodies.
Since the beginning of time, teenagers have had to make that painful trek toward adulthood. A big part of that journey is finding a way to accept who they are. We can tell our daughters they are beautiful until we are blue in the face, but their brains will twist that message into a thousand knots. Adolescence is a hard time and that is just a reality that both teenagers and parents have to face. Their brains and bodies are going through so many changes that most of the time, they don’t know if they are coming or going.
All we can do as parents is set a good example for them and try not to shame ourselves in front of them. And even if they roll their eyes and tell us that we are just lying to them, we have to keep telling them every day that to us, they are the most beautiful people in the world.
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