When mom and daughter went shopping for a formal dress, mom encouraged her daughter to try on a beautiful red one. Although her daughter looked beautiful, the daughter didn’t really like the dress.
As they were talking, the sales clerk had a suggestion. She said the girl should wear Spanx body-shaping undergarments underneath the dress to make it look better.
“I told the sales lady that my daughter is perfect just how she is,” says the mother. “This is how God made her, and she looked beautiful. We were just having fun. Again, she said some not-so-nice things about her body, her body type. I told her, ‘I disagree with you. She's perfect.’”
Dannah Gresh, author of Secret Keeper Girl, travels the world to speak with girls and moms about body image and true beauty.
“Just like the mom above, many mothers worry about their daughters believing they are beautiful,” says Gresh. “Based on the research I and others have done, this belief is more caught than taught. If moms are confident about their bodies and believe their bodies have a good purpose, their daughters will probably believe the same about their own bodies.”
On a recent 11-city tour, Gresh conducted focus groups with moms and daughters. She asked moms, “Is there a part of your daughter’s body you know she doesn’t like?” If the mom answered yes, Gresh asked, “Do you know the specific part of the body?” If they answered yes, she then asked, “Do you like that part of your body?” Almost 100 percent of the time, the mom said no.
“So many moms were in tears. They realized the very thing they wrestled with about their own body that they didn’t want to pass along to their daughter was the very thing she picked up on about herself,” Gresh says. “None of us are perfect. We all have things we wish were different about the way we look.”
Gresh contends that the beauty images on magazine covers and television tell young girls that their body's value and purpose is about beauty and sexuality. The messages about the strength of their brains and bodies to be helpful to others, and the gifts and talents they have to accomplish great things are missing.
“It is about being confident about your body and its purpose, rather than self-conscious of your body and what it lacks,” Gresh says. “This is a huge battleground.”
“A decade ago, the average age of an eating disorder patient was 15. Now, the average age is 10. Surprisingly, some girls as young as 5 are having issues because society has completely unattainable and unrealistic expectations. A great example is the thigh gap. This is not even natural for an American body, yet it is applauded as a standard of beauty.”
Gresh promotes true beauty at faith-based Secret Keeper Girl events for 8- to 12-year-old girls and their moms or mother figures.
“Secret Keeper Girl is designed to bring mothers and daughters together. We know that the mother-daughter relationship is the number one protective factor against everything mothers fear will happen to their daughters,” Gresh says. “In a high-energy, crazy-fun kind of way, we help mom form meaningful conversations with her daughter about beauty, modesty and purity.”