Building a Healthy Self-Image in Your Daughter
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Maria FurloughMaria Furlough is a wife and a mother to one amazing 12-year-old daughter, three rambunctious boys, one exchange student from the Bahamas and one baby boy who lives in the arms of Jesus. She teaches women's Bible studies and works as the Missions Team leader at Lake Forest Church in Huntersville, North Carolina, and is a former full-time youth minister. Maria is the author of Breaking the Fear Cycle: How to Find Peace for You Anxious Heart and Confident Moms,Confident Daugh...more
How can a mom encourage a healthy self-image in her daughters? Maria Furlough tries to encourage her daughter to love the beautiful way God designed her, and tells other moms how they can do the same with their daughters.
Building a Healthy Self-Image in Your Daughter
Bob: As a teenager, Maria Furlough was plagued by insecurities/issues with body image. As a mom raising a daughter, she wanted to make sure things were different for her own daughter.
Maria: I had one of the most beautiful memories of my daughter. She was eight, and we went/did an overnight together. We talked about the changes in puberty; and I said, “Your body is going to change. You’re going to get curvy. You might get a little jiggly/”—right?—“mushy in places where you’re not right now.” And talking about it honestly and frankly and go, “That’s okay”; and to get her brain thinking about that preparedness that, when it happens, it’s not something wrong with you. If our children’s bodies start growing, it’s okay!
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 27th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Are there some strategies for parents, who want to raise strong, confident, secure daughters? We’ll talk about that today with Maria Furlough. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You guys raised boys. You have three boys; right?
Ann: Yes, we do.
Bob: I know that confidence was one of the things you wanted instilled in your boys.
Dave: It was up there on the list—very high.
Ann: It was, yes.
Dave: Very confident—that’s what we wanted! [Laughter]
Bob: We’re talking today about confidence with daughters, which you haven’t had experience with; but you understand, Ann, talking to moms about how this is a real issue that moms are facing today as they raise their girls; right?
Ann: Yes, I’m so excited about this book. I’m excited about our friend, Maria, who is here that’s going to be talking about it.
I think, for me, as a mom with sons, this is something that’s important; but there is a weightiness when you have a daughter. A lot of my friends experienced—just because of the confidence we have, we want our daughters to have it—but truthfully, some of us, as moms, struggle with it.
Dave: I will add, when our boys were just toddlers, we started praying for their wives. I remember when my oldest was born—he is 33 now—I started a day of fast on Fridays: didn’t eat until dinner and prayed all day. One of the things we prayed for was confident, young women—not an arrogance—but a confidence in who God was in their life and who they were in their identity. I have to sit here now, 33 years later, and say, “They married three confident women.”
Bob: That’s great.
Dave: They are beautiful, confident women. It’s a very important character quality.
Bob: Well, our friend Maria, who you mentioned, is with us. Maria Furlough joining us on FamilyLife Today; welcome.
Maria: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here.
Bob: Maria is from Huntersville, North Carolina, where she and her husband Dave live. She is the mother of five: one daughter and four boys. [Laughter] That’s got to be an interesting dynamic.
Maria: Yes, it is. We are a ball full of energy at our home; absolutely.
Ann: Your daughter is the oldest.
Maria: She is the oldest. She is my sweet, 12-year-old, beautiful gift—my first and only daughter; yes!
Bob: Maria is an author; she is a Bible study teacher. She has written a book called Confident Moms, Confident Daughters: Helping Your Daughter Live Free from Insecurity and Love How She Looks.
Really, the heart of this book, when you’re talking about confidence, you’re saying one of the confidence robbers for women today is the issue of beauty and appearance; right?
Maria: Yes; for a lot of women, it starts there; we can’t get passed it. It’s kind of like the first test of freedom. If God can give us confidence over the way that we look, then freedom and confidence over all of the places, including our faith, is just an open door from there. It’s really important.
Bob: Was insecurity about appearance something that plagued you as you were growing up?
Maria: That’s where it started, and that’s what I noticed as I grew up into my 20s. Insecurity started for me as a young teenager about 11/12 with the way that I looked.
What I realized, as I grew into an adult woman, that insecurity then morphed into different places: into my mothering, into my relationships, into my marriage, into my faith. Really, for me, acknowledging that and realizing that, in a lot of young women, that’s where it starts. That’s why I believe it is so important for us—as moms, and mentors, and youth workers, and aunts, and grandmas—to really help young women tackle this in their life.
Bob: Was there a trigger when you were 11 or 12? Somebody say something to you or something that set you off to start to go, “Oh wait; do I look okay”?
Maria: I think it was puberty, Bob. [Laughter]
Dave: That will do it!
Ann: This is where it really begins for all of us.
Bob: That’s a trigger.
Maria: If you really want to know. [Laughter] I’ll never forget—there was a young friend of mine; she was over. I was about ten; she was eleven or twelve. She said to me, “Just wait; everything on you is going to start growing.” I remember her saying that to me and feeling this sense of dread, like—
Ann: “Oh no!”
Maria: —“Is that a bad thing? Clearly, I’m not supposed to like that.” That stuck in my head; and as it started happening, there weren’t conversations about: “This is a beautiful thing. Your body is supposed to change, and it’s a wonderful creation that God has made.” That is something that I’m able to preemptively talk about with our girls—is to say, “The bodies that you’re—the change that your bodies are going to go into—it’s okay.”
I know that is where it started for me; and then, for me, at the time, it was magazines: you know?
Maria: Teen Bop Magazine. Now, it’s—
Ann: —social media.
Maria: —Instagram®, Facebook®—everything; right? But really starting to compare myself to what I saw in those pictures and realizing that I didn’t feel like I looked like them.
Dave: We’re sitting here with two women. Do you think women ever avoid this? I mean, is it—
Bob: Do you grow out of it?—is that what you’re asking?
Dave: Yes, I’m just thinking, as a young woman growing up/a young girl growing up—obviously, I don’t know; we didn’t have daughters—but I, honestly, would look at it and go, “I don’t think it’s avoidable”; but maybe, it is.
I’m just thinking you experienced it; I know Ann experienced it. Can girls grow up without that magazine image/body image plaguing them?
Maria: It’s a great question, and I want to tell you that is what I believed for years. That is why I did nothing to fight it; I thought: “This is just how it is. We all kind of feel like this”; and I gave it free reign.
But what happened for me: I was in my early 20s, and God gave me a beautiful friend. I spent some time with her and her mother; and I saw, for the first time in my life, two confident women that did not currently struggle with their body and had never. I watched them, and I was like just studying them; I’m like, “What is this?!”
Ann: What did it look like? What did they do or not do that appealed to you?
Maria: Yes; so there were a couple things. I was standing at an In-and-Out Burger in California with my friend.
Dave: In-and-Out Burger.
Maria: In-and-Out Burger, baby!
Dave: Of all places to talk about body image. [Laughter]
Maria: That’s right; there you go! It’s got to start somewhere, and we were looking at the menu. I was like, “I just kind of hate that calories are everywhere now.” She was like, “Why does that matter? What do you mean?” I was like, “I’m sorry; what do you mean, ‘What do I mean?’” [Laughter]
Ann: “What planet do you live on?!” [Laughter]
Dave: She really said that?
Maria: “It’s called calorie counting.” She’s like, “I don’t know what that is.” I was like, “What?!” So that was her.
Then I was spending that week with her mom. There was one time I was at family dinner with her and her mom, and her older brother was sitting next to me. His mom’s arm was propped up on the chair next to her.
Dave: I read this in your book. I just—I couldn’t believe you wrote this; this is amazing. [Laughter]
Maria: Are you ready for this?
Dave: I’m ready.
Maria: This is where we are going. He was just bored—like they were just having grown-up conversation; I don’t know—he wasn’t interested; and just one flick at a time, he was just flicking his mom’s arm.
Ann: —the fat on her arm.
Maria: The jiggly part.
Ann: Yes; underneath.
Maria: The part that we hide in pictures: “Got to get the right angle,” “Don’t let anybody see.”
Dave: People have plastic surgery to fix this.
Maria: One flick at a time, with a table full of 20 people, she didn’t care/didn’t notice. She didn’t stop him. Again, I was like, “What is this?!” [Laughter] This is coming from a girl—like I would slip in and out of pools my whole life—like that was something that didn’t stop until I really started praying for God to build confidence in me. This whole arm-jiggling freedom was just—[Laughter]
Ann: —something that you craved—
Maria: —well, craved and—
Ann: —like, “How do you have the freedom to not care?”
Maria: —that is exactly: “How do you?” That showed me that it is possible; and if it’s possible for those two women, then I couldn’t understand why it couldn’t be possible for me. I remembered that the power that rose Christ from the dead—that same power is living in me—“So if God can raise Christ from the dead, then why can’t He free me from my insecurity?” There you go; that’s how it started.
Ann: Where did your insecurity start? Did you have talks with your mom about any of this? What did that look like with your mom? Was she secure?
Maria: No; my mom and I both came from generational insecurity. I think that a lot of us can relate to that. You know, I’ve had conversations with women about this topic. One mom talked about her mom used to like pinch her back fat, while she was growing up, and say, “You know, honey, you’ve got to get rid of this.”
There is a generational sin here that my mom and I would just really both cry over because we didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know how to help me, because she was living with a lot of the same hurts that I was. There was one instance, when I was a teenager—and you know, I now know—like our bodies go up and down; right? The moon can be a certain hue, and pants that fit today will not fit tomorrow. [Laughter]
Ann: And it’s not fair; is it?—because women—we have babies;—
Ann: —we go in and out of all these stages.
Maria: Exactly; there are lots of evil hormones at play; it’s just a reality.
When you’re growing up in that, and you’re not just kind of taking that head on, I would take that as a failure. My jeans would be tight, and we would think I was a failure. I heard stories of, in my mom’s family, of women just punching their size because they hated them so much; so these were kind of the stories that I heard.
One day, I just put those jeans on—and those superhuman hulk hormones that were running through me—I ripped them down the seam, crying/sobbing—ripping them down the seam—
Bob: —because they were too tight?
Maria: —because they were too tight.
Bob: And you just exploded.
Maria: Yes, exploded in sorrow and sadness. My mom came in; and she just sat with me and cried, and told me I was beautiful. I knew that she believed that that was true; and deep down, I knew that was true too; but we say that all the time: “You’re so beautiful. You’re beautiful just the way that we are.” I just don’t think words are enough when it comes to this hurt.
Ann: I remember being young, and somebody telling me that; and I’d say, “Boy, you think I’m beautiful; but in the world’s standards, I’m not.”
Ann: So how do we find that beauty? I think that is the question of: “Where do we find that beauty?” Is it about our physical appearance, or is it more than that?
Bob: Before you get there, though, I want to go back to puberty. [Laughter]
Maria: No, please!
Ann: We don’t want to!
Maria: Don’t ever go back! [Laughter]
Dave: None of us want to go back there.
Bob: I want us, as parents, to keep in mind that—as our kids transition into puberty—there is a lot of insecurity; there are a lot of questions. To just put them on autopilot and think, “Well, they’ll figure this out,”—no; they need mentors, and coaches, and people who are having conversations.
The whole reason we put together the Passport2Purity® resource—that we created for parents to do with their kids—was to open the door to these kinds of conversations so your kids can feel like: “I can go to Mom and Dad and say, ‘What’s going on with my body?’ or ‘How should I think about this?’” You can have those conversations before the issues emerge and before the hormones hit; because your kids need you to be a guide, to be an advocate, to remind them of what’s true—to say what your mom said to you: “Honey, you are beautiful.” Even when they don’t believe it, they still need to hear it from their parents.
I just think for moms and dads: don’t check out when your kids are in these years. Recognize the insecurity that’s there/recognize the confusion that is there, and be proactive in addressing these things.
Maria: Yes; ideally, taking a preemptive strike, like you said. I had one of the most beautiful memories of my daughter. She was eight, and we went and did an overnight together. We talked about the changes in puberty; and I said: “Your body is going to change. You’re going to get curvy. You might get a little jiggly/”—right?—“like mushy in places that you’re not right now,”—and talking about it honestly and frankly and go, “That’s okay”; and to get her brain thinking about that preparedness that, when it happens, it’s not something wrong with you.
You know I think, as moms, it’s really hard not to want to physically parent our children up through puberty; right? They are given to us, and we need to—what?—we need to keep their bodies healthy; right? But that shifts at some point; and as moms, it’s okay to shift from the physical taking-care-of to the emotional, and the character, and the spiritual taking-care-of.
We talked about the puberty thing/the hormone thing—like: “If our children’s bodies start growing, it’s okay!”; right? That might just be how God has created their body shape to be; and to spend the first decade of their life, honing in on the: “You should eat carrots instead of cookies,” [Laughter] and “You should go out and play instead of being on a video game”; then, once those puberty years hit, shift the conversations with them to be toward their spiritual and emotional health.
Ann: So our language switches;—
Ann: —it changes with them.
I just had a mom talk to me about her 12-year-old daughter. She said, “My daughter is really gaining weight, and I don’t know what to say.
Ann: “Should I say anything?” What would you say to those moms, where you see your kids, like, “Whoa, they are really gaining weight”? They are thinking, “Do I say nothing?”
Maria: Right. I sat down, and I asked a pediatrician that question; because I’ve had it asked to me so many years. I wanted to know what the Academy of Pediatrics would say; that’s who we’ve entrusted our children’s bodies to. They said, “First and foremost, trust your doctor.” If we’re taking our kids over the years; and it’s their 11-year-old checkup, and their 12-year-old—13/14—and their doctor is not saying anything about it, then we probably don’t need to.
The other thing that she said is: “Greater than their physical health is making sure that you, as a parent, understand if they have the possible triggers for eating disorders.” There are certain indicators—they are not definite indicators; it doesn’t mean, if you have this, that you definitely will develop an eating disorder—but if your daughter is a perfectionist, if she is a high achiever, if you have eating disorders in your family, then these are things that you have to acknowledge before you ever enter into a conversation about her physical health.
Ann: And what if the doctor says, “Oh, I am seeing that you need to lose some weight,” could that trigger your daughter?
Maria: Okay; yes. [Laughter] You know, see, that is where I go into these doctor’s visits now—like I have desk conversations with the nurses—like, “If this topic is going to be brought up, you bring it to me first.”
Ann: So you’re very proactive.
Maria: Oh, yes; I’m momma bear about this particular topic; because I have lived, you know, the ramifications of it. I have seen cases, where young women go to their 13-year-old appointment, and their doctor tells them that they need to lose weight. Then, a year later, they are in for an eating disorder.
Dave: Well, how did you get—like Bob says—go back to puberty.
Maria: Oh no! We don’t want to go back there again. [Laughter]
Dave: Let’s not stay there—
Dave: —because, obviously, you say in your book that the mom is the confidence standard in the home.
Dave: Then you also—before that, you said, when you first held your daughter, you almost broke down—
Dave: —fell on your knees and prayed because you had struggled with this.
Dave: So, take us through that journey. You became the title of your book—a confident mom—but you weren’t.
Dave: So how did you get there? And how does somebody else get there?
Maria: Yes; I definitely didn’t start there. Before I held my daughter, I was in fulltime youth ministry; so I got to momma middle school girls through this. When I held her, I—not only saw my own adolescence flashing through my mind, but I saw the stories of so many young women that had come through my ministry—I was crying over her, because I did not want that for her.
You know, this story that I shared about my confident friend and her mom happened before I had my daughter. I prayed that day, “God, make me confident so that I can teach her how to be confident.” That was a very every day breath prayer for me when she was a baby.
As you know, brave prayers come with risks. That was just a lens that I asked God to put on my life—that every day, when she was young, that I would learn how to be confident in her infant years so that, by the time I got there—and I don’t say that to discourage a mom, who is just entering into this topic with a teenager—you know, my mom and I claimed our healing when I was in my 20s; it’s never too late.
But what I also want to say is: “Now is the time—if your daughter is just born, if you’re wanting to have kids, if you have a toddler—to start claiming this freedom.” Galatians says—Chapter 5, verse 1: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” I wanted to claim that freedom over insecurity in my life so that me and my daughter can be released for His kingdom and to fully be His daughters and not be limited by this bondage of insecurity.
God was good to answer that prayer. It wasn’t easy, and it’s still not. In a lot of places, I find myself standing very much apart from what is culturally accepted or even talked about today; but it is a battle that I am always willing to fight. God was good to open up my eyes, after those couple of years, to figure out tangible ways—tangible and biblical ways—right?—there is a spiritual fight between me and God to realize, “Honestly, insecurity is putting way too much emphasis on myself.” There was way too much me-focus going on in my insecurity; but then, also, the practical ways of: “What are some ways that you’ve allowed the world to seep into your body image?”
Dave: How did you get the emphasis off yourself; because obviously, anyone of us can walk by a mirror—
Dave: —and we’re just consumed the second we take a look. This isn’t just women, obviously; right? It’s men and women; it’s boys and girls. I mean, I’ve coached middle school basketball for decades; and 20 years ago, you could have guys take off their shirts and be skins and play the shirts.
Dave: Can’t do that anymore.
Dave: I mean, you say that; they look at you like, “No, there is no way.”
Ann: Yes, boys are way more self-conscious.
Dave: There is much more self-consciousness, even now, with a boy. It is that self-consumption that you talked about. How do you get over that?—
Dave: —because it can dominate our lives.
Maria: Yes, can I read you a verse to answer this question?
Dave: Please do.
Maria: Okay; and you touched on it before, Ann; this is Romans, Chapter 7, verse 18: “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what it is good is with me, but there’s no ability to do it.” Then, later on, in verse 24, it says: “What a wretched man I am,”—and this is Paul talking through his desire to do good and want to be good but really just acknowledging there is only Christ in us makes us good. Christ is the only achievable perfection.
What I needed to hear, after all of those years, is I was not wrong that I was not perfect. We have: “You’re beautiful just the way you are”; “Yes, okay; but can we talk about the fact that there are people that are more beautiful than I am?” That’s okay; but we just always: “No, you’re beautiful,” “You’re beautiful.”
Okay; actually, I’m not perfectly beautiful; and finally, reading in His Word and hitting me in the head to say: “You know what, Maria? Your insecurity is not based on untruth; but you are not supposed to be secure in you. You are supposed to be secure in Me.” There was a relief to realizing that I was not wrong all of the time when I looked in the mirror and saw things that need fixing; or I was not wrong all of the time to be so concerned that I was going to do something to mess up, because I was going to mess up; and because my body was not perfect.
Then, to begin to put on the posture of: “You know what? Actually, I’m just going to be okay with the fact that I’m not perfect. I’m going to accept that, because that is the very reason why Christ came to die for me.” There is just a shift in thinking—off of myself and what I think of myself—onto Christ and what He came to do in me.
Ann: That’s good.
Bob: So, if a mom is thinking, “I want to raise my daughter to be more confident than I was when I was going through this,” you’re saying, “Step one is make sure you develop your own body confidence/your own image confidence, because you can’t take her beyond what you’re modeling for her and how you are living.” She is going to sniff that out—
Bob: —even if you’re trying to keep it hidden; right?
Maria: Yes, she is.
Bob: That’s really a part of your thesis, here in your book, Confident Moms, Confident Daughters. You start with helping moms to be confident; and then, from there, we can raise confident daughters. I want to encourage you to get a copy of Maria’s book, Confident Moms, Confident Daughters.
In fact, this is a book we’d love to send you as a thank-you gift in appreciation for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Your ongoing support is what makes this daily radio program possible; and this spring, we know many of you have gone through some real challenges, financially. I know many of our churches are experiencing financial challenges; particular industries are. We recognize that some of you, as listeners, are just not in a position to be able to make a financial gift so that FamilyLife Today can continue.
For those of you who are able to support the ministry, this is a particularly strategic time for ministries like ours. We’re hoping that you will be as generous as you can be as you call to make a donation or as you go online to donate at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, we’ll send you Maria’s book as our thank-you gift when you get in touch with us. The website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can make your gift online and request a copy of Maria’s book, Confident Moms, Confident Daughters; or call to donate by phone: 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. Again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and the number is 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
One final thought before we wrap up here today. I know this has been a season for many of us when we have been prone to be anxious/to worry. This is something Jesus addressed in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew, Chapter 6. He asked why we worry about what we’re going to drink, or what we’re going to eat, or what we’re going to wear; and Jesus said the issue with worry is we’re not exercising faith; we’re not trusting in the providence of God in His care for us.
He also said that the way we address worry in our lives is to be focused on kingdom priorities. He says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” So, as you find yourself prone to worry in this season, first of all, go to God; confess that you are worrying; put your faith and trust in Him and in His care. Then, get busy about kingdom things and trust God to provide for your needs.
I think all of us are having to deal with this issue of worry in our lives right now, and the words of Jesus in Matthew 6—you may want to get out your Bible and read again the last 11 verses in Matthew 6, and let God speak to your heart through His Word.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about working out and being physically fit, because we know that’s important; but how can we tell if it’s become too important for us or for our daughters? Maria Furlough is going to join us again tomorrow. I hope you can join us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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