The last time you posted a smiling photo of your daughter (or yourself) on social media, did the comments go something like this: Beautiful …Gorgeous …So pretty … Beautiful inside and out.
Sure, it’s nice to pay compliments. Sometimes people really do look great, and pointing that out can lift them up. More often though, I think we rattle off appearance-related flattery as a quick and mindless way to acknowledge that we “see” them and we’re paying attention. But what are we paying attention to?
As adults, hopefully we all know by now that our worth is not based on our appearance (even though society has told us otherwise for eons). But just in case you still struggle with this, let me assure you that we are important to others because we love, we give, we help, we DO things that matter. If that statement summons a “yes!” in your head, how long did it take for you to really believe this about yourself? Adulthood?
Our daughters and their friends deserve to learn this important lesson earlier in life, and a good place to start is to change the way we notice them. 🔎
Here’s why it’s important:
During adolescence, along with their body changes comes brain-based development that tosses them some existential questions:
- Who Am I?
- What do I have to offer?
- Do I matter?
The answers they tell themselves (based on input from others) become the foundation for their self-confidence and self-worth.
When we repeatedly compliment girls on their appearance, they answer those questions with all the wrong answers: I am someone people like to look at. I have my looks to offer. I matter more when people see me as beautiful. Yikes. 😧
Here’s what they need:
They need you to pay closer attention and give honest compliments, because adolescent girls also have a very strong b.s. monitor. When an adult, particularly a parent, says something shallow or insincere, her alarms are going off.🚨
In fact, research tells us that when we tell a girl something that is not in line with what she already believes, she creates counter-arguments in her head, and she always wins. “No, I’m not.” “That’s a lie.” “You’re just saying that.” Her retorts are more believable to her, and your compliment ends up creating the opposite effect of what you intended.
Here’s how to do it better:
So is it hopeless to give a girl compliments? Not if they’re sincere. But even if she IS physically beautiful, don’t let that be the thing you comment on first or most often. Instead, look deeper; notice the things that excite her; watch for the victories that matter to her – and start there. Give her less attention for her looks, and learn to grow her confidence in ways that are more specific and meaningful:
✅ doing something well
✅ taking healthy risks
✅ pursuing a passion
✅ working toward a goal
And if you’re on social media and see a smiling photo of a girl or woman, I challenge you to comment on something other than the way she looks.
Need some ideas? Here's our compliment bank. We’d love to have you contribute by adding yours to the comments!
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