The Every Body Is Beautiful Project

The Most Important Thing My Daughter Can Learn About Her Individuality (and How It Changed Me as a Parent)

Parenting, RecoveryOphelia's Place1 Comment

It wasn’t until I was well into my 20s that I realized how out of tune I was with things that I actually liked or I felt connected to.

My entire childhood I linked safety and belonging with mimicking other people’s opinions or hot trends.

If my mom didn’t like a TV show, neither did I.

If my friends didn’t like a person, neither did I.

If the people at my school didn’t like an outfit, neither did I.

Through years of therapy, I realized I mirrored others as a form of safety.

I was constantly seeking approval through conforming.

The scary thing is, I didn't even realize I was doing it.

I wonder, how many of us are doing or have done the same thing?

Anyways, early on in my daughter Anna’s life, I knew I wanted something different for her.

I wanted her to explore her individuality and feel safe as she did it.

But, when she was in kindergarten, I realized I was doing to her the exact thing I was trying to stay away from.

I was pushing my style, my personality, my fears, and my insecurities onto her.

Before I knew it, I was telling her to change her outfit before school, denying the outfits she liked, enforcing the “perceived” importance of matching.

I thought if I could keep her the same as me maybe I could save her from the troubles of the world.

But instead, my actions were potentially creating a belief system in her that could develop into, “As long as I agree with mom, I can keep the peace and ultimately her love,” which is, in fact, not at all what I wanted Anna to believe.

After discussing this with my therapist, I decided to take her shopping and give her free reign to choose some outfits.

Outrageous colors, ridiculous glitter and patterns galore!

She had a blast.

I had major anxiety.


Honestly, I was worried how it would reflect on me as a parent.

It was my pride.

My fear of being judged.

I didn't want people thinking I liked her choices.

Why did that matter to me so much?

Having Anna dress herself and find her own style changed me as a parent and changed our relationship for the better.

It was a tangible way in which I could practice giving her freedom to trust her heart and explore her style. 

There were times when she would dress herself and it did not align with what I would have picked out for her, but I was honest with her when she asked me what I thought. I would say, “More importantly, do you like that outfit?” 

Or, “You know Anna, I would never wear that and that’s OK. I don't need to like it. We aren’t the same and that’s what makes each of us special.”

Sometimes she would ask me, “Does this match?” and I would respond honestly, “No, it doesn’t, and it doesn't need to match.”

This simple step helped to cultivate some resilience within her.

She began to exercise independence and trust her instincts more.

She was learning that the most important thing was for her to check in with herself to find her answers instead of seeking outsiders first to dictate.

Do you see where I am going with this?

Unsplash image via Seth Hays

Unsplash image via Seth Hays

This can turn into so much more than clothing.

It is so much bigger than a mismatched outfit.

It’s about her learning intuitiveness.

About how to connect to her truth and wisdom -- a life-skill of unyielding results -- that can help her to keep following her conscious, her sense of safety, her needs for nutrition or movement, her dreams and goals, and more and more.  

Our bodies are so wise and pure, especially in our children.

They have not yet learned the rules of the world.

They haven't been taught yet about diet culture, or beauty ideals.

We can learn so much from their innocence instead of the other way around when we are influencing them with the lies we inherited and absorbed through the world.

Anna helped me to see within myself where I was still trapped.

Her free spirit helped to free my own.

As parents, we’re not perfect and can’t expect to be.

But as Warriors, we’re willing to see and feel our brokenness through our parenting, and be gentle with ourselves.

We’re willing to take action and change the patterns.

And we’re willing to raise the next generation with a compass that looks inward for its approval and worthiness, so all of our children, regardless of how they look and are judged by the world, will have the interconnectedness to hear the call of their heart and the resilience to do what they’ve been called to do in the world.