Mothers & Daughters: The “Ripple Effect” of Self-Esteem

For mothers and daughters, there is a “ripple effect” of self-esteem.

The Impact of Needing a ‘Bikini Body’

For months leading up to summer, it is hard to avoid hashtags and slogans that promote a “bikini body,” as if there is a certain body type that should be synonymous with going to the beach! In an effort to bring the joy back to summer, popular “Mommy Blogger” Jill Smokler, founder of Scary Mommy, shared a summer video that flashes a message to parents. Across a screen filled with sepia-toned images of mother and child enjoying a carefree splash in the ocean appears this statement:

“Your kids won’t remember your muffin top, your spider veins, or your saggy ass. They’ll remember you.”

Smokler goes on to state, “We were trying to think of something that was sort of universal in its appeal and would speak to all moms, and I think that’s such a common experience over the summer, where you sort of just are sitting at the edge, and you are like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go in. I don’t want to do this. Definitely don’t look at me.’”

Comedian/blogger BFF duo Kristen Hensley and Jen Smedley gained instant fame from their viral video, “I swimsuit season so hard.” This video shared a similar message. The video features Hensley and her BFF Smedley trying on “modern” swimsuits in an attempt to bring humor to a topic that piques many moms’ insecurities: bathing suit shopping. Hensley acknowledges that “as women, we’re hard on ourselves, and I think this just gave women permission to laugh at it”. The duo hoped that women viewers would use the humorous video as an outlet to work past their insecurities. Hensley writes, “Get outside, get dirty, get off your towel, get out of your house, have fun and be playful, because I honestly believe as I get older, it truly is about how you feel and not how you look.”

The Ripple Effect of Self-Esteem

In fact, getting out and getting dirty this summer may have more of a positive impact on your child than you think. Research suggests that mothers’ self-deprecating comments about their bodies or disapproving behaviors may adversely affect a young child. According to a report by Common Sense Media, five to eight-year-olds who think their moms are unhappy with their bodies are more likely to feel dissatisfied with their own.

Laura Choate, a professor of counselor education at Louisiana State University and author of , “Swimming Upstream: Parenting Girls for Resilience in a Toxic Culture”, states, “Any time that we are criticizing ourselves, acting negatively or saying negative things about ourselves or engaging in dieting behaviors or other kinds of unhealthy eating behaviors, our daughters are watching this, and then they internalize that message and feel badly about their own bodies in return.” One of the best predictors of whether a girl will have a negative body image is if her own mother has a negative body image.

How can we help girls feel good about their bodies this summer?

Try These Tips to Help Your Daughters


  • Avoid talking excessively about your own weight or appearance. And if at all possible, find a way to model self-acceptance. If you think you look good, say so – and loud and clear for your kids to hear. It goes a long way for children to see parents feeling satisfied with themselves just the way they are.
  • Avoid modeling for your child a diet or weight loss mentality. If you wish to diet or restrict, just try your best to avoid doing so in front of your child/children. Make sure you keep discussion about calories, fat, good/bad foods out of the hearing zone of your children.
  • Show your child/children that exercise can and should be enjoyable. Try to engage in activity that makes you smile – and be sure that your kids catch you in those joyful moments!
  • Leave the fitness, gossip and women’s fashion magazines out of the house.
  • Help your kids develop media literacy skills and ask questions such as “why are women portrayed this way?”
  • Be open to talking about what your children may see on television and how it may impact the way they feel about themselves. Do they make comparisons between themselves and the models or actors they see on the screen? Do they see those figures as achievable?
  • Let them know that you relate to how they feel and remind them that they are whole, full people and that they are way more than just bodies. Focus in on the many inner qualities that make them lovable.