Body Image and Our Daughters

A new Human Barbie has been crowned. I’m not kidding.

I never knew this category existed, but apparently the newly crowned Barbie is the second Human Barbie.  Sheesh.


Meet the newest Human Barbie; she’s a 16-year-old from Ukraine:


Human Barbie



This picture disturbed me on multiple levels.

First, I had to look at this photo several times to determine if she was real or not. (She is.)

Second, her measurements. You can read about those here. Apparently, she hasn’t had surgery or photoshop to help out with those pesky problem spots. She inherited this body (minus the colored contacts) and she’s proud of it:

“If I can become famous for my appearance in some other way, I will be extremely happy,” she told the Daily Mail. “I think I’ve achieved this image better than anyone else. I’m the ultimate vamp woman.”

(By the way, what’s a vamp woman?)

Third, this information is apparently newsworthy in our culture.

All this got me thinking about body image and appearance and especially about our daughters.


daughter, golden-hour, light, dusk



How do we talk to our daughters, in this self-obsessed culture, about their bodies?

How do we alleviate  anxiety about their appearance when the Human Barbie makes international news?

This is what I’ve come up with (so far):

I think it starts with how we treat our own bodies and how we talk about them in front of our daughters.

How would you answer the following questions?

1. What are you saying about yourself in front of your daughter?

  -Are you (still) vocally obsessing about those extra pounds you gained at Christmas?

  -Do you talk negatively about yourself because of your appearance?

2. What are you saying to other women around your daughter?

  -Are you rating yourself and/or other women based on weight?

  -How often is the first thing you say to someone else: “You look so cute, great, skinny, etc.”

3.  Does the need to exercise control your schedule?

– Are your relationships/home life suffering because you’re exercising obsessively?

4. What kinds of activities are you pursuing with your daughter?

– Do you choose activities that engage your/her whole person, not just the ones  that cater to you/her appearance (shopping, manicures, makeovers, etc)?


Ok, I know what you’re thinking–Wow, who just showed up and ruined the party?

But, just hang with me for a second.

My point is that our daughters SEE. They observe how we spend our time and take note of what’s important to us. They HEAR how we talk about ourselves and others. They UNDERSTAND what we value based on our choices.

Ann Voskamp uses a stunning, two word phrase in her book One Thousand Gifts: All eye. It’s a reminder to be on the lookout  for God’s story in our lives and others’ lives, and to be thankful for His gifts. All eye.

Our daughters are all eye, too. They see and absorb the things that we do, the way that we treat people, the way we relate to our “selves” .

I don’t say this from on high; I struggle with these things, too. Isn’t it sad to think that since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to be thinner?  There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish it was so. I suspect it might be the same for you, too.

But I have a choice whether this THING–this aspiration that our culture hands down to us that drives girls and women to NOT eat, binge exercise, or vomit– will control the choices I make for myself and my daughter. (For some, I realize it doesn’t feel like a choice, that it’s taking over your life and you want it to stop, but you can’t. Please tell someone you trust TODAY.)

I strive to pass down to my daughter the value of  things in moderation–to really enjoy good things like food and exercise, but not to the point of worshipping them or letting them control her. That’s a problem for all of us as humans, not just women. We elevate the good things around us to a place of ultimate satisfaction, a place that they were never meant to hold. They cannot ultimately satisfy the deepest longings, but we want them to so badly that we  easily spin into a cycle of addiction.

So, what does it look like to enjoy good things in moderation with our  daughters? Well, I’m a work in progress, but here’s what it looks like in my house.

1.Abby and I enjoy going shopping together occasionally. But, we also bake together, go to coffee shops, and sometimes read together.

2. I  like to exercise, and I carve out time when I can. It clears my mind and the endorphins are pretty nice, too. But sometimes, I have to say no to the inner drive for MORE, MORE, MORE, because…well, I have a family to take care of.

3.  I made a pact with a friend recently to just STOP commenting on other women’s appearances so much, even when it’s complimentary. (It’s harder than I thought.)

Disclaimer: I think  there’s something really breathtaking about a beautiful woman. And that’s okay. God created ALL women beautifully. But again, we have a tendency to take the good things that God gives us and elevate them to a dangerous place. Furthermore, have you ever stopped to think about what our compliments to the extraordinarily beautiful and thin women do to the women who aren’t? 

4. The person in #1 still obsessing about those extra Christmas pounds in September?  Yep, me. But I don’t share that with my daughter. Every now and then, I talk about it with my husband (his favorite conversation!), but mostly I mull it over in my own mind, constantly reminding myself that the value of my life  is not found in my dress size. Or being crowned the next Human Barbie.

daughter, sun-flare

Isn’t she lovely?

So, what do you think? What are some ways you tackle body image with the girls in your house? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Tags: , , ,

  • Kristi

    I think about this a lot. I wrote a post about it after that one called “how to talk to your daughters about their bodies” went viral. I love your thoughts…I try to talk about being healthy and strong more than anything. I tell them they’re pretty and they tell me I look pretty. When appropriate, I also affirm their intellect, good choices, etc.
    Here’s a question I have. Liv (age 4.5) has been wanting “a dress with no straps or sleeves” and I can’t figure out how to talk to her about dressing modestly when she doesn’t understand any of the key parts of why we’re careful about how we carry ourselves. Any thoughts?

  • Julie Davis

    Hmm. Not sure I have a good answer for that one. Except to keep it simple since there’s a lot she won’t (and doesn’t need to) understand yet. That one’s hard because you can’t even really say, “Wait until you’re older,” because it’s not something you (necessarily) want her to be wearing when she’s 14, either.

  • Sarah Pacosa

    Thank you for writing about this. I only have boys so far but I do think about what I am telling Jack is beautiful with my words and actions. I want him to love a woman for who she is not what she looks like. Josh is a wonderful example to him and I want to be too. Love you and I thank you for loving so deeply. Abby is very lovely. In every way. And erma gerdness! What is a vamp woman? I would not have believed that pic was real unless you had said it was.

    • Julie Davis

      Sarah! Thanks for the encouragement. You and Josh are great parents. So glad our two littles will get to grow up together.
      P.S. I was hoping you of all people would be able to tell me what a vamp woman is. ; )

  • marcella

    Julie, YES. I’m so glad you’re starting this conversation. First, I appreciate that you identify our culture as self-obsessed. I think thats a huge part of the struggle. We (and especially our youth) have more time, money, etc on our hands than we know what to do with — and our culture (and the marketing industry that drives it) is delighted to tell us how we should expend these resources.

    Also, I love that you identify other things to enjoy, both personally and with your family. Our bodies are just one part of who we are as whole persons — and caring for our appearance is just one part of living in these bodies. We have to learn how to struggle in/with them in more complex ways than just thinking about how we look. But this is hard. (um, and I don’t have any daughers.. so I’m getting off easy here.)

    The women I love/admire most (yourself included!) are real, 3D women. They are beautiful, but they are also so much more. They are wise, loving, thoughtful, fun, hard working. They have suffered and have grown more lovely for the scars that remain. I would love to see women praising these qualities in each other, and teaching our girls to strive for them as well. I miss you.

    • Julie Davis

      Lovely response, Marcella. Thank you for you thoughts.
      It’s one of the reasons I like being the age that I am…not that there’s no comparison or competition, because sin still lingers deep, but there’s a small (and hopefully growing) sense of joy in what others have that I don’t. May it continue to be so and more!