Today was picture day at school.
I bought a beautiful white, ruffled dress for my daughter to wear this year.
She woke up today and told me she didn't like it, it didn't have any blue and she didn't like the long sleeves.
I felt myself want to defend the dress and convince her why it was a beautiful and classic choice for pictures.
But I took a moment and realized, she was never as excited about this dress as I was. Why was her happiness less important than her wearing this beautiful (and expensive) dress?
It wasn't. Hard stop.
I told her she didn't have to and asked her to find something she liked.
She came downstairs in her favorite color dress from the first day of school. And most importantly she was wearing a smiling, excited and proud of her choice.
That could have gone a lot differently if I pushed the dress I chose. The more beautiful one that would have caused people to oooh and ahhh over it. The dress that for years to come we would look at her school picture and say, isn't that just the most beautiful dress?
The cost would have been HUGE. Can you see that?
The dress would have become the most important part of what my daughter was putting forward today, not herself. Not her excitement about first grade.
Who she really is would have melted into the background of that dress.
It reminds me of a bride on her wedding day, how much more often do we say "you look so beautiful" vs. "you seem so in tune with yourself and at ease in your own skin"?
Every time we push our agenda on our daughters, a little piece of her is quieted.
And what is this agenda anyway?
What I've learned from the mothers and daughters I work with privately, it looks something like this:
- For her to be grateful for what she was given, whether she likes it or not
- For her to look pretty, well groomed and easy on the eyes
- For her to be well behaved, politeness over authenticity
- For her to eat healthy rather than listening to what her body is craving
- For her to invite all the girls in her class so that she doesn't hurt anyone's feelings.
- For her to pretend she likes something/someone in order to protect other people's feelings
What do these agendas teach her?
- Her needs are not important
- Not to listen to her own body
- Not to listen to her own mind
- She needs to be nice above all else
- Other people's feelings are more important than her own
And what happens to our daughters?
1. They become a shell of themselves, not even knowing who they are because they're completely disconnected from what is important to them.
2. They resent their mothers because they were taught from a young age their authentic self is not good enough.
3. She does not who she REALLY is behind all of this pretending, quieting and disconnecting.
4. She will carry around the pain of her past and will blame her mother because her voice rings the loudest.
Of course, it begs the question: Why do mothers do this to their daughters?
We certainly aren't hurting them intentionally.
It's because we felt these same expectations from our mothers.
And our mother from her mother.
Whether we like it or not, we pass down how we were mothered to our daughters. And if we don't make the change now, this is the future for all daughters to come.
Then we continue to have generations of women who disconnect from their true self in order to fit in.
So the next time your daughter comes bouncing down the stairs to go somewhere with you and you want to cringe at her outfit, ask yourself why.
Are you wanting her to fit in vs. stand out?
Remind yourself of the cost of pushing her to conform to the rules of how women should appear.
Instead of forcing her to conform to the unwritten rules about appearance, protect her from the pressure and your relationship by allowing her to just be herself.
If you want help repairing the damage that's been done in your relationship with your mother or daughter (or preventing it!), apply here to work with me.
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