Body image at age 4.5

This past weekend, we had a heartbreaking sneak peak of what our future with daughters is going to look like.

On Friday after we got home, Audrey went to her room. After being in there for a while, Brian went back to see what was up. He found her sulking and stomping around, and after some prompting, she finally told him why she was upset. She said, “I look like a boy in everything, and I am just not pretty enough!” He came out and told me, and of course I promptly ran back there to comfort her more. I found her crying silently on her bed.

After hearing this whole thing, our hearts shattered into a million pieces. It is way, way too early for societal influences to be rearing their ugly heads! We try to build the girls up as much as possible at home (“you are smart, you are funny, you are sweet, and yes, you are so pretty!”) so it makes me sad that she is doubting these things already. If this is what is happening now, what is kindergarten (and beyond!) going to look like? I have been trying to live in denial about what she will be exposed to in kindergarten, but I thought I had at least until then before this surfaced.

I hate blaming society as a whole right off that bat, and usually try to look inwardly at what’s going on in our home before I conclude that our girls’ actions/feelings are due to an outside influence. However, since the beginning, one of the things we aimed to do as parents of girls was never to compliment them only on being pretty – we wanted the focus to be on more than looks because they are more than their looks. That isn’t to say that we don’t tell them how adorable and beautiful they are (because THEY ARE) but we never try to make that the primary compliment. I don’t think these feelings of hers originated from inside our house (and would be devastated if I found out they did!)

How do you even deal with these things at such a young age? Limit the princess-culture exposure? Comfort them/talk to them in the moment and then hope it’s a random occurrence that doesn’t happen again anytime soon? Try to go back a little later and have a meaningful conversation about it? Nothing seems sufficient enough. My first instinct with everything is to talk it to death, but I know I need to put that aside and not harp on it so that she doesn’t get a complex. Overreaction is never the right solution, and I know this, but wow. It is so hard NOT to overreact in this situation!



Filed under Early Education, Family

6 responses to “Body image at age 4.5

  1. ugh – rough! Poor Audrey. I wonder if other people were making her feel that way? (pointing out THEIR pretty dress, calling her a boy, her hearing other people compliment ‘prettyness’ and realizing she doesn’t match their definition, etc). taking the focus off ‘pretty’ and concentrating on why the feelings are there in the first place might lead to better answers and help her learn to shrug it off if it happens again.

    This was a decent read:

    • Yes, this is something we work on with them…always exploring the root of the problem. One of Audrey’s qualities is that she is not always forthcoming with why she is feeling a certain way, & that is something we have been trying to help her with.

  2. Lindsey

    Oh poor Audrey. I am so sad she is feeling this way. I hope she is able to continue expressing her feelings to you though so you can help her through them.

    • I know! I am not ready to deal with this stuff. Luckily, she hasn’t brought it up again, but it was really hard to hear in that moment. I know we need to brace ourselves for more body image issues later on down the road 😦

  3. Shelley clopton

    This is one of the things that I fear the most having two girls. When I was younger I remember my mom telling me I was pretty on the outside but having a beautiful heart was so much more important because one day we’ll all be old and we’ll all look the same. 🙂 so I now try to reiterate that to our girls and we have frequent talks about how to make our heart beautiful (loving Jesus, helping others, saying kind words, etc) and in the same way we have to brush our hair and wash our bodies, we have to clean our hearts and make sure they stay pure and beautiful. I’m sorry Audrey was having a hard day. I’m know how rough thar can be on you. 😦

    • Thanks, Shelley! We try so hard to focus on inner beauty, too, but it is hard to completely block out societal expectations from your children’s everday lives! If only we could …. 🙂

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