I thought it was a straightforward observation. My daughter was showing off a new outfit to her sisters and her mother, and I simply asked why she enjoyed buying clothing that showed off her stomach. Suddenly, tears rushed to her eyes and what had been a moment of joy for her and her sisters, as they all commented on her style and how cute she looked, quickly became a moment of shame.
It’s natural for our daughters to struggle with insecurities. So much of our culture is geared toward convincing them they aren’t enough. But far too often, we contribute to the problem. We don’t do it intentionally, but we often don’t think through the impact of our words and actions. If you ever asked yourself, “Why is my teenage daughter so insecure?” it’s possible that you aren’t helping matters. Here are 5 ways a dad increases his daughter’s insecurity.
1. Comment on her clothing.
It’s easy to forget how much clothing and identity are tied together for our daughters. They spend so much time trying to fit in, trying to be accepted, and clothing is the most immediate expression of that. That doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion on what is appropriate and what isn’t. You can and should. But we need to do all we can to make those standards objective and clear so we don’t have to revisit the conversation with every choice of clothing.
2. Comment on her weight.
Few things can dig at the self-esteem of our daughters like their weight and appearance. Our culture has, for the most part, created a nearly unattainable image of feminine beauty and regularly communicates to our daughters that they are not beautiful enough. Yes, you do it because you love her and want her to be healthy. But when you mention to your daughter that she’s put on a little weight or that she could use to gain a few pounds, you reinforce the voice in her head that tells her that her body’s bad and needs to meet someone else’s standards to be acceptable. Instead, try focusing on healthy habits that aren’t directly tied to weight, but rather are tied to self-care.
3. Make fun of what she cares about.
Have you ever heard your daughter go on about a musician or book or movie she loves and then proceed to explain why you think he or it is stupid or silly? You probably think you’re just joking around. But you could be communicating something much deeper to her about whether she is likable. If you’re wondering, “Why is my teenage daughter insecure?” the answer may be in your own thoughtless teasing. Rather than make fun of what she cares about, why not take an interest in it?Rather than make fun of what your daughter cares about, why not take an interest in it?
4. Take zero interest in anything she cares about.
Speaking of taking an interest in what your daughter cares about, you should consider that. I know it’s tempting to see much of it as silly, and maybe it is. But at the same time, it means a lot to her. And to be fair, she probably thinks football or UFC fighting is dumb—meaning you just see the world differently. That doesn’t mean what she likes is dumb. It’s just different. Taking time to understand what she cares about, and engage in a conversation about it, communicates that you like her. Few things will make your daughter feel good about herself like knowing her parents don’t just love her but also like her.
5. Roll your eyes.
I know—the drama can be a lot. The emotional ups and downs teenage girls experience may make you want to roll your eyes. But please don’t. Eye contact speaks affirmation, but the eye roll is the stiff arm of the eyes. It’s belittling, dismissive and, itself, dramatic. It also creates an environment in which it’s unsafe to talk to you. Your daughter won’t want to share her heart with you if she’s afraid you might roll your eyes or make a joke. If you’re wondering, “Why is my teenage daughter insecure?” the answer may be in your eyes. Instead of making dramatic gestures, make every effort to take her seriously. Listen well, ask questions, and share your thoughts. It’s OK to disagree, but it’s not OK to dismiss.
Sound off: What are other ways we exacerbate our daughters’ insecurity?
Huddle up with your daughter and ask, “Have I ever made you feel more insecure about yourself?”