Talk to just about any woman, and you’ll quickly find that she has a mother (or grandmother) story when it comes to body image. After all, our mothers teach us what being a woman is all about, including the importance – or unimportance – of our appearance.

Whether your mother felt great about her body or hated everything about the way she looked, you can bet that her example played a powerful role in shaping how you feel about your body today. It’s no different when it comes to you and your daughter.

Dealing with the Legacy You Inherited

Understanding our role in shaping our daughters’ body image can be a painful process because we’re forced to examine our own body image legacy – particularly if that legacy wasn’t positive.

It’s not always easy; you can’t just snap your fingers and make habits you’ve lived with for years simply disappear. But it’s not as difficult as you might think, either. It’s about recognising the moments when a subtle shift – a slightly different choice – will make all the difference to your daughter and to you.

Body Image Builders

We all carry our own body image legacy from childhood to adulthood. Recognising and making peace with that legacy are the first steps in changing the message we send to our daughters about our bodies – and about theirs. Consider this advice when reflecting on how you feel about your body:

Know your own history. Think about the ‘body image blueprint? you grew up with. It’s good to know where you’re coming from so you can make conscious choices about the messages you send to your daughter.

Respect your body’s wisdom. The body you’re in today isn’t the same one you grew up in. It may have given birth, survived an accident or an illness, or carried you through difficult times. You wouldn’t trade the lessons you’ve learned or the wisdom you’ve gained from those experiences, so give your body permission to reflect the changes it’s been through.

Change your tune. If you’re usually harsh or critical about your body or appearance in front of your daughter, make sure she hears you say at least one positive thing about yourself each day. A simple ‘I like the way my hair looks today’ or ‘I like the cut of these pants’ is a great first step toward creating a more positive body image.

Take a compliment. When someone says something nice about the way you look, don’t be so quick to brush it off, especially if your daughter is watching. You may not agree with the compliment, but a simple ‘Thanks’ is all you need to say.

Give a compliment – to yourself. Just as it’s important for your daughter to hear you graciously accept a compliment, it’s also important for her to hear you give yourself one. It’s not bragging to say something positive about yourself, and it teaches her that it’s okay to see the good in herself, not just the ‘flaws’.

This article is an extract from Her Mother’s Thighs: Helping our daughters to love their bodies – even when we don’t love our own published by Finch Publishing.RRP $24.95 9781921462061