Mother Refuses To Critique Her Own Body In The Presence Of Her Daughter

Many mothers say that they want healthy body images for their little girls, but constant chatter about dieting, food choices, and self-criticism about weight can send young girls mixed messages. Joyce McFadden, psychoanalyst and author of Your Daughter’s Bedroom: Insights for Raising Confident Women, hopes to set a positive example of body image for her daughter by vowing not criticize her own appearance around her teen.

McFadden told Ms. that although she sometimes grapples with self-consciousness in her slightly older age, she wants her daughter to admire women for more than their looks:

…I love being 49. You couldn’t pay me to be back in my twenties. I love the self-awareness, directness and the clarity of my priorities being 49 brings. But my body is undergoing its own little reapportionment program. The way districts of my body are represented is shifting according to the demands of the normal aging process. And there are times internalized sexism makes this feel sucky.

When I do find myself in these spots I tend to process the feelings on my own, because I hate it when women critique themselves in front of each other, and have made a rule of trying never to do it in front of my daughter. Instead, whenever the opportunity arises, I’ll point out to her older women who catch my eye because they command my respect, or are distinctive, vibrant, compelling or gorgeous. And I also remind myself that the woman I most admired and modeled myself after was my grandmother, and I take great comfort in that.

McFadden’s commitment to break the cycle of self-criticism in herself also sets a powerful precedent for her daughter. Leading by example, she avoids the sometimes pronounced gaps that parents face between what they advocate and what they unintentionally bring into the home.

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