When Flea was four, she told me that, yes, of course she was gorgeous.
And I worried, like a million Mums before me, how long that would last. When would the doubts, the nagging inner critical voice, creep in? Because at the age of 40, I’ve yet to meet a single woman who considers themselves to be beautiful.
Don’t get me wrong. I have lots of friends who know they are attractive. But that’s always modified, isn’t it? “If only I could lose a few pounds”, we say. “Shame my hair looks like a birds’ nest!”
I can’t think of a single female friend I know who would honestly, and without qualification, describe themselves as beautiful – and then stop talking.
I was reminded of this a few days ago, when I saw some new research from Dove – which illustrates powerfully just how our daughters hear and internalise those critical messages – and apply them to themselves. Dove’s research found that 69% of women say their child has seen them engaging in negative body language habits, while more than a third admit their child has mimicked these words and actions. It’s pretty thought provoking stuff.
This issue is something I am painfully aware of with Flea. I tell my daughter she’s beautiful, and smart, and strong, and funny. I tell her the most beautiful thing about her is her heart, because it’s good and kind. I tell her that only the most idiotic people think that beauty is about whether you’re tall or short or thin or fat.
But modelling that behaviour is HARD, isn’t it?
Like every other woman I know, I am perfectly aware of the flaws in my appearance. I’d love to be tall, and flat chested and basically the opposite of what I got landed with. But I make a conscious effort try to not to let Flea see any worries I might have. I make it very clear that it’s okay to leave the house with a natural face, that I don’t feel the need to disguise or apologise for myself.
It’s especially tricky in recent months, as I’ve lost almost four stones in weight and I’m trying to make sure Flea understands my body changing isn’t about beauty, but about fitness, wellbeing and strength. Not just being thinner.
If you’re interested, Dove has created a variety of self-esteem building materials and activity guides for women to discuss with young girls (aged 7-17) in their lives, so they can take steps to improve their self-esteem. You can download them at www.selfesteem.dove.co.uk.
The Dove project inspired me to see how Flea feels about herself at nine – and how her view of her own beauty has changed, and been affected by my own insecurities. Does she still have the unshakeable confidence that she had at four and five years old?
Here’s what happened:
I’ve got to be honest. After one of those days of despairing of getting ANYTHING right, hearing Flea made me feel a thousand times better. Perhaps if my daughter has such unshakeable confidence, I’m getting at least one thing right, eh?
Now just to work on the cooking. And everything else.
[Oh, and this isn’t a sponsored post. I just think it’s a lovely campaign. And you should definitely watch this video which absolutely didn’t make me cry. Not even a little bit.]