How This Woman's Dad Taught Her About Self-Love Will Make You Weep

father and daughter
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One of the most important things we can do as parents is instill confidence and self-love in our kids, but that's not always an easy task. For the most part, our kids are growing up in a world that tells them to be thinner, fitter, more attractive, and to do whatever they can to make their outward appearance conform to the latest trends. Sometimes it feels like our loving words and positive affirmations are drowned out by the noise and criticisms of the outside world. But a recent essay about the powerful way one dad changed the way his daughter sees herself is proof that we really can make a difference.

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Writer Sophie Caldecott penned a beautiful essay for Verily magazine, where she shared the one thing her father said that quieted her fears that she wasn't good enough or pretty enough.

"I was around 5 years old, in my parents' bedroom; I don't remember what exactly I said, but I do remember the gray and blue paisley sheets that were on my parents' bed, and I remember the earnest, tender look in my dad's eyes as he answered me, the gentle and serious tone of his voice as he spoke, and the way that it all made me feel.

'You are so beautiful, Sophie. You know, you look a lot like your mother, who is the most beautiful woman in the world to me.'"

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It seems so simple -- after all, most of us tell our kids that they are the most beautiful, wonderful, amazing little people all the time -- but, for Caldecott, that moment stood out as an example of her father's pure, unconditional love for and acceptance of her. And she says knowing she had that unconditional love permanently changed the way she felt about herself and helped her develop "deep friendships" and relationships without the constant need for validation that so many young people feel.

"My dad made me feel loved and valued for who I was in a holistic sense, and showed me that I was so much more than the sum of my physical parts. It was more than just a passing 'You're so pretty,' .... It was the solemn way he said it, in the context of a relationship where he took an interest in everything I was experiencing and thinking; I instinctively knew he loved me for my whole self. He showed me what it meant to be seen with the eyes of love."

Taking steps to raise a confident kid can sometimes feel like we're screaming into the void, but as Caldecott's essay proves, our words and actions have a more profound effect than we realize -- even in the smallest, simplest moments. And science supports what she's saying.

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According to studies by Oxford University, genuine praise and admiration from a father can increase girls' confidence, and girls who have healthy relationships with their fathers tend to have better interpersonal relationships and face a lower risk of having mental health issues later in life. Similarly, boys who have strong bonds with their fathers do better in school and are better able to express their emotions.

And the perks of healthy parent-child relationships don't only apply to dads. Studies also show girls who are close to their moms have healthier relationships, and boys who are close to their moms are better at emotional expression and are more easily able to resist "toxic masculine stereotypes," like showing aggression or bottling up their feelings.

The bottom line seems to be this: A foundation of unconditional love helps our kids to become the best and truest versions of themselves. And, we don't have to make a big production in order to have a lasting impact. What Caldecott's dad did was make his daughter feel loved, seen, and understood through simple gestures, like one-on-one conversations and an active interest in her thoughts, feelings, opinions, and day-to-day life.

As a parent, you never quite know when you're having a moment with your kid that will live on in his or her memories forever. But, as this touching essay proves, it's the small ways we show our kids love and acceptance every day that end up being the most profound.

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