Learning Not To Project Our Insecurities Onto Our Daughters


As daughters grow up, it can be challenging to figure out at what point they get to make their own decisions about makeup, clothing, hairstyles, etc. At the same time, sometimes moms struggle not to unintentionally pass down body image issues they’ve developed over the years unto their daughters. Hair is one area that is sometimes fraught with challenges. We’ve already blogged about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s decision to allow her daughter to cut her hair, and non-celebrity moms face the same kind of decisions as well.

This mom shared her perspective:

I grew up hating my hair. Mousy brown, super fine, lifeless… I dreamed of having bouncy, shiny hair like those orgasmic beauties in the shampoo commercials. It’s probably why I’ve had no problem trying so many different styles throughout my lifetime — no matter how bad it gets, it can’t be much worse than the hair I was born with.

So when I was blessed with my daughter, I latched onto her black, thick, shiny Asian hair like she was Rapunzel and I was desperately climbing for my one chance to experience long, flowing, gorgeous locks. Seriously, her hair is perfect.

So when she started talking about cutting it short several months back, I would nod and smile and know that it just wasn’t going to happen. A few months ago, she stepped up her game, telling anyone who’d listen how she wanted a Mohawk. As I do when she asks for something that’s absolutely out of the question, I told her she could have one when she was 14.

I was pretty confident in my decision… until the doubt began to creep in. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t she have super short hair that she could style into a “fauxhawk”?  I realized that I was projecting my own self doubt and insecurities onto my strong, sassy daughter. If she wants her hair cut, who am I to stop it from happening? Yes, kids might tease her… you know it happens. But the only thing worse than that is teaching her that she should make choices in life solely based on how other people (not even people she cares about) might perceive them.

Find out what this mom decided to do here.

What do you think? How much control should daughters have over their appearance? How do you balance helping them make good decisions with allowing them to develop the self-esteem that comes from personal choice? How do you ensure the decisions you help them make don’t come from a place of personal insecurity?

The personal hang-ups we unwittingly pass on to our daughters can have a huge negative impact. In this letterfrom a grown daughter to her mother, the woman describes how her mother’s ‘fat talk’ and constant dieting shaped how she viewed weight and the importance of appearance:

One night, we were dressed up for a party and you said to me, ”Look at you, so thin, beautiful and lovely. And look at me, fat, ugly and horrible.”

At first I didn’t understand what you meant.

”You’re not fat,” I said earnestly and innocently, and you replied, ”Yes I am, darling. I’ve always been fat; even as a child.”

In the days that followed I had some painful revelations that have shaped my whole life. I learned that:
1. You must be fat because mothers don’t lie.
2. Fat is ugly and horrible.
3. When I grow up I’ll look like you and therefore I will be fat, ugly and horrible too.

Years later, I looked back on this conversation and the hundreds that followed and cursed you for feeling so unattractive, insecure and unworthy. Because, as my first and most influential role model, you taught me to believe the same thing about myself.

With every grimace at your reflection in the mirror, every new wonder diet that was going to change your life, and every guilty spoon of ”Oh-I-really-shouldn’t”, I learned that women must be thin to be valid and worthy. Girls must go without because their greatest contribution to the world is their physical beauty.
Just like you, I have spent my whole life feeling fat. When did fat become a feeling anyway? And because I believed I was fat, I knew I was no good.

But now that I am older, and a mother myself, I know that blaming you for my body hatred is unhelpful and unfair. I now understand that you too are a product of a long and rich lineage of women who were taught to loathe themselves.

Be a part of stopping the cycle of body hatred, whether you are a mother or not. Don’t engage in ‘fat talk’, not to younger girls and women for whom you are a role model, and not to your friends.  Just as fat talk can have negative consequences on self-esteem, turning it around and engaging in body positive talk can start to change the way not only you personally view your body and self-worth, but the way all the women around you view themselves, as well.


Vanessa Wright