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Real Pressure, Real Girls

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Would you believe it if I told you my daughter has already started with that self-bashing all women are guilty of—”I don’t like my hair. I wish it was darker. I wish it was longer.” And she is only six and a half. And this is my girl. My girl who, in my eyes, is absolutely perfect in every way.


When I was contacted in November (yes, I’m painfully slow at getting around to these things) by a representative with Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty about the findings from Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem, I agreed to help spread the word because as a mother to two young girls and as someone who has struggled with her own self-confidence demons, this was a topic that hit home. This time of year women, especially, are prone to the “does this make me look fat” talk and the stocking up on Lean Cuisines, myself included. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to fling our digital scales into the trash can since the numbers staring back at me every morning just can’t be right. While it’s important to place value on a healthy diet and fitness, it’s also important to step back and look at the signals we send our daughters about the traits we value in ourselves and others.


Commissioned by the Dove® Self-Esteem Fund, the study reveals that there is a self-esteem crisis in this country that pervades every aspect of a girl’s life, including her looks, performance in school, and relationships with friends and family members.


The key findings include:


  • Seven in ten girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school, and relationships with friends and family members
  • 57 percent of all girls have a mother who criticizes her own looks
  • More than half (57 percent) of all girls say they don’t always tell their parents certain things about them because they don’t want them to think badly of them
  • The top wish among all girls is for their parents to communicate better with them (more frequent and open conversations as well as discussions about what is happening in their own lives)


I’m not sure what to blame this crisis of self-esteem on, but our nation’s obsession with superficial beauty and celebrity worship doesn’t help matters. I’m hoping to raise girls who are confident, kind, and believe that they can be anything and do anything. I’m also thankful that I’ve picked up on Miss C’s signals that lately she isn’t so sure of herself. Dance class combined with soccer has really helped her with her poise and self-confidence, and she’s lucky to have parents who want her to love herself for the beautiful, smart, kind girl she is.


Maybe your daughter isn’t into dance or soccer; maybe she’s into gymnastics or art or music or swimming. Whatever it is, I encourage you to help your daughters find their talents and listen to them and what their subtle choice in language is telling you. We’ve started a tradition at dinner where we each take turns at the table discussing our favorite part of the day. It’s just a small event, but we’re now to the point where the girls will remind us if we’ve forgotten to do this and it’s a great little reminder about how important communication is. Some day when the girls are teenagers, they may roll their eyes at this little Kumbaya dinner moment, but it’s worth it.


Thanks to Dove for sending me two wonderful books written by women affiliated with its Campaign For Real Beauty: Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, by Courtney E. Martin and Life Doesn’t Begin 5 Pounds from Now, by Jessica Weiner. As a side note, if you have younger daughters, I’d also highly recommend When I Grow Up, I Want To Be Me by Sandra Magsamen.


Check out the free downloadable self-esteem online tools for girls, moms, and mentors, as well as a workshop facilitator guide on Dove’s Web site.

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