The Mother-Daughter Effect // Lauren Jacobs

Picture from Google

Every day I become a little bit more like my mother, and I couldn’t be prouder.

At only twenty-six years old, others can pinpoint mannerisms that mimic my mom. Putting our pictures beside each other simply reinforces the similarities that exist between us.  She’s taught me a variety of things, from how to tie my shoes (that’s for you mom), to how to drive, and the secrets to making undeniably favored lasagna. More importantly, it was her lessons in dignity, confidence, and affection that have been engraved in who I am. While we often verbalized these topics, observation of her actions provided me with the foundation necessary to grow and continually evolve into the young woman I am today.

When reflecting on this, I’m aware that much of my behaviors were learned during my childhood.  Vicarious learning has been researched for many decades and has proven that children pay close attention to their caregivers and learn from the behaviors and choices they observe. When it comes to the relationship between mothers and daughters, a mother’s attitude about herself is automatically passed down. It ultimately is the precipitant to the way a daughter’s sense of self is established for her rest of her life.

A mother wears many hats in her position; however being a role model may be the biggest, brightest one of them all.  Young girls imitate and identify with their mothers in powerful ways, as witnessed by their efforts such as playing dress-up in their mother’s clothes or the way they treat their dolls. This imitation in play and other areas of their life is an unconscious, but prevailing trait. Much of what young girls internalize as acceptable and unacceptable comes from their mother, especially regarding body image. A mother’s opinion of her own image and the language she uses to express herself often conditions her daughters mind with attitudes that affect self-compassion about her body.

No elephant exists in the room when its stated that self-acceptance is difficult, especially for women, all ages and races alike. Females are suffering from a perpetual cycle of biases that have been created by the media depicting how youth, thinness, and beauty are the characteristics that measure a woman’s worth. I can’t quite recall these being the features that my mother taught me were important for success or happiness, yet they’ve become a widely acceptable aspiration in today’s society. The pressure to meet these standards not only adds stress to ones life, it can manifest as thoughts of inadequacy and self-hatred. Women are struggling to compete with one another, striving for an unattainable image of beauty, which results in depression and maladaptive behaviors. How can a mother battle this epidemic to protect their daughter’s mental health?

Teaching girls to love and appreciate their body for all that it does can help them learn that there is beauty in all body types, despite shapes, sizes, and color. Being able to reinforce a healthy attitude about weight, wrinkles, and aging will go a long way in society when the messages from the media will attempt to sway their thoughts otherwise. If a mother is able to demonstrate her own appreciation for the simple things, such as being able to laugh, breathe, smile, and think, it will aid in her daughter’s acceptance of herself. Helping her to understand how her body is unique to her, the only one she’ll ever have, and how her success is the result of focusing on who she is, will build her strength for facing adversity.

Strive to be your daughter’s teammate, her cheerleader, teacher, and best friend. Remind her of the way she is seen through your eyes and never overlook the importance of your existence in her life.

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