When we have daughters and/or stepdaughters, we have to recognize the monumental cultural pressure they feel about how they look. That's why body image (and related issues) is such a problem for girls and young women today.
But dads and stepdads can do their part to help girls resist those pressures and learn resilience.
In The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to be Perfect, Dr. Margo Maine and I describe a personal way to scan your past.
Our own family history can go a long way in helping us live healthfully. Look over old family photos, portraits, or videos together with your daughter--to learn what the bodies in your family are supposed to be like and what your genetic heritage means for your sense of self. This historical research is instructive while also being a lot of fun!
As you look at images of your ancestors, consider these questions:
- What are the women’s body types like?
- What relative do you most resemble in body type or appearance?
- What stories of female accomplishment can you see or remember when you look at the images? (Share those stories with your daughter)
- What do the women’s bodies say to you?
- What relative do you most resemble in personal characteristics and accomplishment?
- What do your relatives and their stories teach you about being female?
- What do they teach you about attractiveness?
- What do they teach you about getting older?
- What do they teach you about sexuality?
- What do you feel about these people?
- What do you feel about their bodies?
- What do you feel about your own body as you look at theirs?
We have a lineage of accomplishment, body shape, and true beauty. Seeing photos of relatives we love or admire can help us to love and admire the parts of us they passed down to us. Images in the family photo album can offer a far better reflection of reality than magazines, TV, and other media.
Appreciate the bodies, beauty, and accomplishments of our female ancestors. That can do a lot to help us appreciate ourselves.