6 Ways to Help Girls Feel Truly Beautiful

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Growing girls will see more than 3,000 images each day on their social media platforms. Every day, they will view perfect, polished, filtered pictures showing them what beauty should look like and they will conclude this: their body needs to change—to become skinnier, fitter, sexier, younger, and more beautiful.

It is no wonder that research tells us that 70% of girls feel so badly about their looks they are withdrawing from life by avoiding activities, cancelling plans, and refusing to speak up in class. 90% of girls polled wanted to change some aspect of their bodies. 13% admitted to having an eating disorder. Theses statistics are concerning to me, not surprising. Let’s dive in deeper.

The problem is not with girls’ bodies. Their bodies are not broken; nor do they need fixing. Society’s emphasis on appearance and impossibly high standards of beauty is the real culprit. The billion-dollar beauty industry profits from little girls who feel ugly, fat, or not good enough. Furthermore, our cultural conditioning has taught us to focus on and obsess over appearance at all costs. The result? Growing girls are feeling deeply dissatisfied with their unique shape and size at the price of their self-worth. 

I am sure you are as concerned as I am. That’s why I talk to girls about true beauty and what makes them feel good about themselves. True beauty, the essence of who she is and what makes her unique is a concept girls do “get” though they admit it is sometimes hard to remember.

Some girls told me they feel truly beautiful when they “like myself for who I am” while others let me know that they love when they are “honest about my feelings.” Turns out, girls know it isn’t only about what they look like and that feeling good is an inside job. They told me they struggled to feel beautiful and, yes, there were fitting room meltdowns when they tried on new jeans and needed a bigger size or when they decided not to go out with friends for pizza because they didn’t feel pretty enough compared to the other girls. Girls admitted they wanted to feel good, but they just don’t know how. Here are six ideas you can try to help her feel truly beautiful:

1. Talk about what YOU do to feel beautiful. You can counter the noise of society, the beauty industry, and her social media feeds with your ideas, insights, and wisdom. Tell her how you pamper yourself with a bubble bath and a good book, or move your body in your favorite ways, or eat a plant-based diet with occasional indulgences. 

2. Ask her what she loves most and least about her body. Help her find a balance of what she appreciates most such as her hazel eyes or her delicate feet and what she is dissatisfied with such as her curvy hips or her flat chest. Whatever she shares, meet her with your understanding and empathy: “Yes, I understand how you are feeling.”

3. Teach her to practice daily self-care. There is more than enough focus her appearance and how she looks; let’s shift her focus to how she feels from the inside out and empower her to create positive feelings. She could choose to: listen or play music, create some art, prepare a nutritious meal, get out to enjoy nature, play with pets or give some TLC to her skin, nails, or hair. Explain that she is responsible for feeling good about herself.

4. Give her process praise rather than appearance praise to help her embrace her true self. It’s all too easy to pay attention to what she looks like by saying, “You look so pretty” or “I love your outfit.” Instead, try commenting on her effort, like “You are putting in so much time fine tuning your science project. Bravo!” or “I love how you are creating a diversity of friends you enjoy hanging out with.” Or “Thank you for sharing your honest feelings with me.”

5. Look for positive and healthy role models for her to follow (celebrities, influencers, and friends). This is a challenge because we never know if what we see is what we get. Her choices may look beautiful but are they beautiful people? Ask her what she thinks contributes to this person’s beautiful self. Make sure she’s considering people who are beautiful in many ways—socially, spiritually, emotionally, and philanthropically, not just physically. 

6. Educate her on social media and perfect and polished pictures that are NOT REAL. Girls need to be reminded how edited and filtered posts can be and that we will never see the outtakes or behind the scenes efforts. If she is easily triggered by what she sees, she can stop looking. And let’s encourage her to do what she can online—be her most authentic self.

Girls want to look beautiful. Girls also want to feel beautiful. I am convinced that with the emphasis on true beauty—her qualities, talents, skills, passions, hopes, and dreams, she can be beautiful from the inside out.

—Lindsay Sealey, MA Ed. is an educator, speaker, consultant, and author of Growing Strong Girls: Practical Tools to Cultivate Connection in the Preteen Years and Rooted, Resilient, and Ready now available on Amazon and Audible. She is the founder and CEO of Bold New Girls and Brave New Boys.