The Mother/Daughter Bond and How it Affects Self-Image

Cynthia Herron Ministry 8 Comments

Years ago, I knew a young woman who struggled with poor self-esteem and body image issues.

“Pat” (not her real name) didn’t make friends easily, nor did she often go out. When she did venture out of the comfort zone of her home, it was usually just to run a few quick errands. Rarely, was it because of a social occasion.

Pat and I became close for a time, and one day she said, “You’re really a great mom. You must have had a wonderful mother, too.”

I smiled at the compliment as my mother’s beautiful face came to mind. “Mama’s indeed one-of-a-kind.”

Pat went on to confide that her mother was “queen of the put downs.”

As a child, Pat never did anything to her mom’s satisfaction. She didn’t fold laundry the right way. The oatmeal tasted like wallpaper paste. Her clothes didn’t match. She was too inquisitive. Too smart. Too helpful. Too tall. Too freckled. Too blonde.

“I guess I shouldn’t feel bad though. I don’t think she liked herself much either.”

I’ll never forget Pat’s comment.

It was a lightning bolt moment.

As women—mothers—we have lifelong influence over the daughters we raise. Our self-worth and whether we portray that in a positive or negative light can forever shape our daughters’ futures.

When our little girls hear us casually joke about our own hair, weight, clothing, etc., it almost always becomes an ingrained sense of normalcy: “I just can’t be pretty. There must be at least one thing wrong with me…”

The mother/daughter bond should feel safe, but “normal” isn’t always safe. Depending on the circumstance, normal can make us feel demoralized and unworthy. Sometimes forever.

In Pat’s case, the wounds of the past were slow to heal. Though she believed her mother loved her, her mom’s words, actions, and own feelings of inferiority carried enormous weight. It was a cycle that Pat made sure she’d never repeat. She and her husband chose not to have children.

I wish Pat’s mother had known author Erin Davis. Erin might have been able to have a frank, one-on-one come-to-Jesus meeting with her to set her straight about a few things.

On Friday, I’ll tell you about the recent Graffiti Girls event that our daughter was part of again this year. This two-day conference featured Erin as she shared with girls from all over our area what it truly means to be “a daughter of the King.”



Do you ever watch the dynamic between mothers and daughters when you’re out and about?

What’s one of the greatest gifts we can give our daughters?

Photo Credit: pat138241/

Blessings Always,

Comments 8

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  2. Michelle Ule

    Good food for thought, Cynthia. If we model poor attitudes, how can we be surprised when our daughters pick up on them and claim them as their own. Thanks.

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    Cynthia Herron

    Michelle, exactly. Erin definitely has me thinking (and speaking) more intentionally. Even the smallest of jokes about our own appearance can transfer feelings of inadequacy to our daughters. In a society already so focused on perfectionism and what makes us “beautiful,” how we view ourselves can often be a double-edged sword.

  4. Loree Huebner

    Such an interesting thinkers post, Cindy.

    I have two beautiful daughters (and a son). Both girls are “go out and tackle the world and help the hurting” types. All of my kids career directions are geared toward helping those who can’t or have a hard time helping themselves. You have me wondering if that came from me. I didn’t work when they were young children – we were very middle class, and sacrificed my income for me to stay at home with them. Eric and I felt that was most important. We counted our pennies and blessings. I wasn’t “tackling the world” as it seems I’m trying to do now – but we were always loving and honest with them.

    I think it’s a shame when parents put down their children. We should be uplifting them always! Great post.

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    Cynthia Herron

    Loree, I, too, stayed home with our children. I came from a “helping career” and so I just transitioned from that right into motherhood. Not sorry in the least for the sacrifices we made. Our children are indeed better for it.

    I know you’re a proud mama, and rightfully so! 🙂

  6. pattisj

    So many moms, especially new/young mothers, haven’t quite grasped the fact of their influence on their children for life. They are raising tomorrow’s leaders, a very high calling. Dad’s also have much influence on their daughter’s self-esteem.

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