How You Can Influence Your Daughter’s Self-Esteem

How does your daughter see herself? How about your wife? I wrote about something similar last month, but this deserves more attention.

There’s a fascinating video put out by Dove—aimed at women—that explores the idea “You’re more beautiful than you think you are.” Before I continue, watch the video. (It’s really worth 6 minutes of your time.)

I’m not in the target audience for this campaign, but as a father it was eye-opening, for sure. I have to ask myself, If my daughter described herself for a sketch artist, how would that drawing turn out—and how would it be different if I described her?

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I’ll probably never fully understand the pressures girls and women feel in our culture related to their appearance and how that affects their self-image. But a few things I know without a doubt.

First, physical appearance is a big deal to girls and women. And with the way they are portrayed in the media, they surely feel very little room to be less than perfect when it comes to their faces and their figures. Focusing on any perceived flaws impacts how they feel about themselves as people. None of us would want our wives or daughters to feel that way, but it’s easy to understand why they would.

I say it’s tragic, because appearances don’t reflect the real character of a person.

It also reminds me that our wives and daughters are probably less secure than what they may show. If they seem confident and cheerful, that doesn’t mean they don’t need plenty of affirmation from us! As husbands and fathers, we have a lot of influence on how the women in our lives view themselves, and we need to be all about affirming them—many times, every day.

I won’t say affirming their physical appearance isn’t important. It is, for sure. But we should focus even more on affirming our wives and daughters in terms of their character and what they mean to us. That helps to build them up inside and fosters the kind of inner strength that helps them maintain a high self-worth no matter what other signals they’re getting from the culture.

The Dove campaign is powerful and insightful, and as fathers it should motivate us even more to help our children focus on the right things. Ultimately, don’t we all want our kids to learn to place less value on a person’s appearance and more on what’s inside—a person’s heart?

We can play a big role in this area, and once again, let me point you to our ebook, 5 Things Every Child MUST Get From Dad, which goes into detail about five things your daughter needs from you and five things your son needs. One section in the ebook hits today’s topic very well:

"Go ahead and compliment your daughter when she has taken care to look attractive, just as you would a son who has intentionally spent time making sure he looks handsome. But more important is your ability to compliment her other qualities, like emotional strength, sense of humor, loyalty, intelligence, and courage. Make it clear that what you love most about your daughter are her non-physical qualities, and that even without her physical features, you would still love her just as much."

If you haven’t yet, you should download the ebook and read more about ways to show love and affirmation to your daughter.

But don’t let your response end with reading something—this blog or our ebook or something else. Do something! Start a new habit in the way you express affirmation to your daughter—and your son.

Action Points for Dads on the Journey

  • Talk with your children about what makes a person “attractive.” How much of it is purely physical, and how much is about character?
  • Have three or four specific virtues in mind for the next week—such as loyalty, courage, kindness and respect. Really look for those in your child, and be ready to point out examples you see.
  • Be creative and make sacrifices if necessary to find a shared activity that you and your daughter both enjoy. Make plans to do it regularly.
  • Make it clear to your bride and your children that your love and commitment to them will never change and has nothing to do with their physical appearance.
  • Set an example and join your children in healthy activities—walking, running or some other exercise.

What are your reactions to the Dove video? How do you affirm your daughter for her inner beauty? Leave a comment below.

You can see more about Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” project here.

Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering (NCF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes every child needs a dad they can count on, and it uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father-figures their children need. Subscribe to Casey's weekly email tip by clicking here: I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors and inspires my children.

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