What I Learned From My Teenager About Beauty and Body Image


A few months ago, I had a moment alone in the car with my 13-year-old. Bright, artistic, and quirky, she marches to the beat of her own drum. Many mornings she comes up fully dressed and I’m surprised at her unconventional creations. She lives free and unrestrained by the norms that rule most middle school girls. I shouldn’t be surprised. This is the same child that wore swimsuits with boots all winter and costumes long past Halloween. Instead of caring about beauty and body image, she is mostly concerned with having fun and expressing her individuality. 

A Simple Question

Riding in the car, I asked my daughter if she wanted to go to homecoming with her older sister in high school next year. Her reply caught me off guard, “Yes, but not like that.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

She replied that she wanted to go dance and have fun, but she didn’t want to wear a dress or makeup or fix up her hair. I said that she wouldn’t have to do any of that and she could just go to the dance. She said she didn’t understand why girls her age cared so much about how they looked and the clothes they wore. Her opinion was that makeup was like putting on a mask. She said if someone likes you then they should like you no matter what you look like.

I agreed and explained that some girls are into stuff like that and some aren’t and either way is just fine. And then she said the thing that made me smile a mile wide. She said, “Look at me, I just like put on a jumper, put my hair up in a ponytail, and boom I’m good. I’m ready to do whatever. I don’t care what people think.”

Overcoming Body Image Issues

My daughter’s boldness and confidence were stunning and I thought about her proclamation for a while. I realized my daughter reminded me of three keys to overcoming beauty and body image issues and embracing who you are:

Care Less

No one gets to determine how you feel about you except you. Negative things that people say about you usually tell you more about them and their own issues. If you surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, you will care less about all the other voices in the world.

You Are Worthy

As a living, breathing human being you are worthy of being seen, heard, and understood. Your worth is not determined by your beauty, career, a paycheck, or having a perfect family. You are worthy because you are you.

Function Over Form

Your body is good because of what it can do. You can birth babies. You can carry three sacks of groceries and a screaming toddler all while keeping the dog from running out the door. Focus on what your body can do instead of how it looks and then start taking care of it with that value in mind.

Where Did She Get Her Confidence?

I’d like to think maybe I had something to do with my daughter’s confidence or maybe she was just born that way. Maybe all my early morning runs, trips to the gym, or hiking Pikes Peak have not gone unnoticed by my girls. The way I feel comfortable in a pair of yoga pants or a pantsuit or the way I make a point to never apologize for the way I look. I never talk about weight or feeling like I’m not enough. Because the truth is at 41, I’ve never felt better about myself. Oh, I’m sure I’ve looked better, but I couldn’t care less.

I haven’t always felt so confident. As a teenager and into my twenties, I was overly self-conscious. I’d like to go back and punch my younger self in the face for being so nitpicky and judging myself so harshly. Who did she think she was? My body can and has done amazing things and my children are a testament to that.

Society can be so harsh on girls and women. As we face a new year, I wonder if we could just resolve to be ourselves. Could we commit to getting more comfortable in our own skin? Could we show up and be seen without apologies or excuses? Would we be willing to say here I am world, take me or leave me, I don’t care? Could we know and own our own beauty?

Could we love our daughters enough to love ourselves like that? If we did, we would send a message to the whole world. A message that we all need to hear. You are loved.


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