The truth is, many of us are in abusive relationships with our bodies, internally bullying ourselves every time we gain a few extra pounds and externally jeopardizing our health with fad diets. Poor body image is passed on from mother to daughter.

Low self-esteem, sexual promiscuity, smoking, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse and the list goes on, are all factors in how our thought process about ourselves manifests in our day-to-day life. When you have a daughter, your own issues need to be addressed so she does not suffer.

Self-esteem and body image are often at their lowest during teenage years. Youth can feel awkward, self-conscious and isolated and need all the support from their family.

Be careful what kind of a role model you are being for your daughter

A mother is the most powerful role model in her daughter’s life. Chances are, if you’re not happy with your body or the way you look, your daughter will copy your actions.  If your daughter observes you looking in the mirror saying, ‘I look awful. I look fat. I need to diet,’ then she is going to learn and mimic those very things. As adults we need to be aware of the impact our words have and the messages we are sending out to young people.  Make sure you are modeling self-acceptance and self-confidence in your own life.

Encourage your daughter hobbies and talents

Even if you don’t think your daughter will be the next Lady Gaga, don’t discourage her from discovering her unique talents and abilities.  Instead of trying to protect her from getting disappointed, just be supportive of her and understand that she may have to explore several activities and she may fail a few times before truly finding her niche.

Inner bestie, inner bully

Your internal dialogue is the continuous conversation that you have with yourself about everything that happens to you. Your daughter may be saying to herself: “I’m over weight,” “I hate my legs,” “My nose is too big,”. To combat this, she could adopt an internal dialogue that says, “I’m going to accept myself. I’m going to love myself as I am.” You can help her to do this by buying her a beautiful journal or gratitude diary. In it, encourage her to write something positive about herself every day. Do this as a mother/daughter exercise. It will not only bring you closer together but will show your daughter that believing in yourself is okay. Recognizing and modifying negative thoughts about herself, making a positive contribution (such as volunteering), exercising regularly, and adjusting unrealistic expectations that she has set for herself are just a few strategies that may boost your daughter’s self-esteem.

Educate your daughter about the media

With so much attention placed on appearance and the prevalence of photoshoot images in the media, a teenage girl trying to understand what a healthy body looks like can be a massive challenge. Its vital that young women have positive body images as this will directly impact on young girls self esteem, confidence and overall feelings about herself and her place in society.

Young girls are bombarded with media images every day. Empowering young people with skills and knowledge that enable them to challenge what they see and the underlaying messages and straegies used by media, can help them to avoid taking on board these images so literally.

What is the most important goal for a mother?

The most important goal for a mother should be to help her daughter discover her authentic self, the part of her not defined by her looks or her achievements.

Marina Passalaris is the founder and director of Beautiful Minds Australia, a school dedicated to educating girls about self-esteem, etiquette and life skills to help them become confident and dynamic individuals. She is also the author of the new book, Beautiful Minds, available from www.beautifulminds.com.au
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  • Thanking you for sharing this important article and topic.


  • I still now, struggle with my image/self esteem but never ever say negative things about myself or how I feel in front of my children. They see me looking in the mirror and smiling, dressing nice for no one other than myself, putting flowers in my hair-I am sure they think I am happy with the way I look but I’m not. My older daughter is going through puberty and I constantly tell her what a lovely young lady she is becoming, if she feels ‘ugly’ with some pimples I give her a facial-she feels special and pretty after that. I really love the idea about the gratitude/beautiful diary. I think myself and all my 3 daughters (and even son) could benefit from this.


  • Great read ! Very important indeed to address our own issues so we won’t pass them on to our daughters.


  • This is so timely having just celebrated International Women’s Day yesterday and having watched a screening of Embrace last night. I don’t have a daughter, but I have friends’ daughters and nieces, and I have struggled all my life as a female with body image and self esteem issues. We need to teach our daughters to love themselves for who they are and what they do, not for their appearance. And we need to teach our sons that women/females are valuable human beings and should be loved and judged for who they are, not what they look like. The best we can do is to be great role models, and to surround our children with great role models.


  • just wish I had someone that would help me when I was a teenager I was skin and bones, no matter what I ate I could not put on wait and people used to call me names I heted it so much


  • Love these ideas, thanks so much


  • Thanks again for this article; have shared with friends.


  • Thanks for sharing this informative article. Being a good role model and encouraging children to engage in activities is so important for good self esteem and body image.


  • Great advice given here, thanks for sharing.


  • I have to admit, not looking forward to this, I have always had a bad body image of myself, just hoping I have not passed it on


  • I think the most important thing is to lead by example! Being a good role model is much better than any advice you can give!


  • inspire and encourage her and never compare her to others


  • so tough today with little ones starting to compare and think they are fat when they are a lot younger.


  • Some great ideas – very helpful.


  • I really like the idea of the journal with a positive thought each day. Miss not quite ten told me yesterday that she thinks she has fat legs she doesn’t, of course, but some of her classmates are extremely slender. She is already starting to compare her shape to other’s around her, we keep telling her that she is beautiful (she is) and that as long as she likes how she looks, that’s all that matters. What a cruel world where such young girl’s are already questioning their value based on shape! I think it’s important to be healthy and happy in your own skin, no matter what your age. <3


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