Real Girls, Real Pressure

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 6 ½. 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% of all girls have a mother who criticizes her own looks
  • More than half (57%) 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 website at


  1. Ashley @ says:

    I worry about this too….Addison is 71/2 and she is already worried about looking “stupid”. I just wish it wasn’t so hard to instill confidence in her. It’s extra hard when I fake my own confidence so often.

    As a mom of 2 girls I am even more aware of how my actions affect them. I think the first step is being aware. And you just took care of that 🙂

  2. supermommy says:

    It’s so hard to protect them from this. My 4yo is already starting. She tells me all the time that she wants blue eyes and blonde hair like mine. She’s got beautiful chocolate brown eyes and chestnut brown curly with gold streaks in it.

    I just keep telling her that I love her just the way she is and I try not to make any derogatory remarks about myself.

    supermommys last blog post..Childhood Memories

  3. Mrs. Flinger says:

    Fantastic post, Jamie. Truly. I know I try to hide my own insecurities from my daughter but she knows better. *sigh*

  4. erin says:

    Good post. I remember when I first started hating my body (fifth grade) and I know that I am very conscious of how my stepdaughters see themselves and how my husband treats them as a father (tough because they live in South America but you know, these statistics are relevant even for girls in South America.) And thanks for the reminder of the impact that I have on young girls that look up to me. I am thinking of the girls in my Sunday School class. I so would rather have them worry about their leadership skills or growing skills in being creative and thoughtful, then in what they are wearing or the attention that they might get for how they look.

    erins last blog post..With one minute to spare…

  5. Angela says:

    This is very sad and tragic. My nieces are starting to ask me, “Aunt Angela, do you think I am pretty?” I tell them they are beautiful and try not to dwell on it.

  6. Amy@UWM says:

    With two girls, I’m dealing with this all the time. My 9 yo says she’s ugly and the 5 yo wants curly hair like her sister. And these girls are gorgeous (ok, I may have my mommy goggles on but they seriously are good looking girls). I point out to each of them how they both want things the other girl has, that the grass is always greener on the other side. All we can do is learn to be happy/content with what we have and do the best with what we got!

    Amy@UWMs last blog post..Yey, Us!!!

  7. A Maui Blog says:

    I am just catching up on my blog visiting/reading. This is is great post, I am glad I did not missed this. Thanks for posting this.


    A Maui Blogs last blog post..Father and Daughter with Baseball Caps

  8. Sarah Johnson says:

    Your message was powerful and important. Boys suffer from self-image issues too. My son is now 11 and has been called “fat” many times at school. Curious because he’s not, just what I consider, pleasantly plump. We are concentrating on making healthier food choices plus understanding not all of us are meant to be skinny. Thanks for the message, I hope everyone that read it will pause and think about how they can help their kids with these issues.

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