My Daughter Wants to Be Ripped – Helping Young Girls Develop Self Esteem and a Positive Body Image

Summary: My six-year-old daughter wants to be strong and ripped. Good for her! Hope she still thinks that way when she’s thirteen though.

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"Look at my muscle!"

A couple of weeks ago me and my daughter head over to Monterey to check out Sharks 3-D at the Imax theater. It was the 11 am showing and there were only four of us in the whole theater. Pretty sweet seating wise, but I’m a bit bored with the anthromorphised sea turtle with the British accent. He’s our “tour guide” on this adventure. They string together a bunch of nondescript scenes and try to make  a story out of it. It just doesn’t work. The photography’s decent enough, but how many times can you see the same whale shark pass slowly across the lense before you start to doze off. Plus, there’s no explanation on how this little sea turtle manages to travel thousands of miles in what appears to be one day. They tease and hint at danger throughout but nothing really happens. I was hoping for at least one “shark kills sea lion” scene but no luck. Not even a bruised dolphin. However, my daughter totally get’s into it. She’s getting in and out of her seat, bouncing around and grabbing at the 3-D projection as the sharks and jellyfish float past her face. Great fun.

Afterwords we get some taffy and head over to Lovers Point to climb around the rocks. It’s pretty amazing there. The rock formations look prehistoric, the water is bright turquoise and the foam from the crashing waves is so bright and white you nearly need sunglasses to look at it.

“You still want to go to the rock climbing gym?”

“Yes, but let’s eat first. I’m hungry.”

“Yeah me too. We’ll hit the Pho King in Seaside (yes,they know phonetically it sounds like fucking, they even have a shirts that say “It’s Pho King Delicious!” and “I Heart Pho King”) and then head over to Sanctuary Rock Gym to climb. Sound good?”


After a decent meal of vegetarian bun and spring rolls we arrive at the gym. This is our second time there. Last time she was barely five. The coolest thing about this place is there are no age limits. None. Two year olds are allowed to climb if they want. Quite unusual for this type of business.

We pay, gear up and head to the first wall. It’s straight up with lots of places to put your feet and hands. She scales it pretty easy. We unhook and move along to the different walls, each one a little more difficult than the next.

After climbing each, she rolls up her sleeve and flexes her arm.

“Look at my muscles. Are they getting bigger?”

“Yes, you look pretty pumped!”

“Really? Good, let’s do another wall!”

We repeat this for the next six walls. She makes it to the top of each one. She gets to the bottom of the last one and motions over to the front counter.

“I want him to see my muscles. I want to show him how strong I am.”

“You mean the guy who works here?”

“Yes, I want him to see my muscles.”

“Uh, ok. But let’s wait for him to get done with whatever he’s doing though.”

After a few minutes he finishes his paperwork and walks out onto the main floor. I motion him to come over.

“Uh, my daughter’s pretty proud of her muscles and she’s insisting on showing you how strong she is.”

“Great, let’s see!”

My daughter rolls up her sleeve and flexes.

“Wow, that’s a strong muscle.”

“Feel it!”

He gently grasps her bicep.

“Wow, that’s hard!”

“Yeah, it’ll be even bigger when get older.”

“Do you lift weights?”

“Yeah, I have some weights at home and when I’m older I’ll lift weights at my mom’s gym.”

She does another 3 walls all the way to the top and stops at the bottom each one to flex. On the last one it’s pose down time.

She rolls up her sleeve and hits a pose.


She then turns around, facing away from me, and flexes her arm again.

“How does it look  from the back? Does it look big?”

“Yep, looking good. As you get older, they’ll get bigger. It just takes time.”

We go over to the front desk to remove our gear. My daughter is talking about getting strong. I tell the the counter guy that she’s really into being fit and wants to be ripped.

“My daughter has an interesting way to describe muscles. Do your remember how you told mommy and me you wanted your muscles to look like. How did you describe it?”

“I want those lines on my stomach that go like this.”

She makes a cross like pattern across her belly with her fingers.

“And I want big muscles that go like this.”

With her left hand she makes arches along her flexed right arm while making explosion sounds. It’s like she’s visualizing mountains bursting through her bicep.

The guy shows her the 2010 “Women of Climbing” calendar. He opens it to January and there’s a hard bodied female rock climber scaling a cliff. It’s taken from above and she’s looking up at the camera.

“You want to look like this?”

My daughter traces the contours of the climber’s shoulders with her finger for emphasis.

“Yes. I want those lines on my muscles like she has.”

This is just how my daughter is. She has a very positive body image and wants to be strong and ripped. Both of her parents exercise which I suppose helps. My partner does yoga, aerobics and a bit of weight training and I’ve built my life around surfing. Still, we don’t make a big deal about. It’s just a normal part of life. I suspect she’d be this way in any family.

I only hope this positive body image and thirst for physical challenge continues. It’s well-known that until puberty, boys and girls are pretty evenly matched. Their self-esteem and confidence is roughly the same. Positive feeling about their body are similar. Their physical strength levels are comparable as well. But when girls hit puberty their mental health takes a huge hit across the board. Self esteem plummets, body image goes south and confidence levels drop dramatically. Boys on the other hand go the opposite direction. They get bolder and cockier. They tend to think they are stronger, smarter and more skilled than they really are. Girls tend feel they are weaker, less smart and less skilled than they really are. It’s a real problem.

Junior High School teachers confirm this. A few young males tend to dominate the classroom and monopolize the teacher’s attention. They are the first to speak up and raise their hand, even if they are ignorant of the subject manner or lack the correct answer, while the girls fade to the background.

Teachers who understand this can compensate greatly for this dynamic and help level things out. But most won’t or can’t.

We’re aware of how quickly things can change for a teenage girl but we’re not sure what we can do about it except encourage her passions, support her interests and keep her away from influences that tell her she’s not good enough unless she’s thin, girlie and has a cool boyfriend. But who knows, It’s mostly out of our control. These are things she’ll ultimately have to decide on her own.

However, I do hope that when my daughter is 13 she can still proudly roll up her sleeve, flex her arm and challenge me to feel her strong muscles.

That’s it for now.

File Under: Girls and Self Esteem – Developing a Young Girls Positive Body Image – Girls and Sports – Girls and Strength – Helping a Girl Develop Self Esteem – Helping Girls Feel Good About Their Body

One Response to “My Daughter Wants to Be Ripped – Helping Young Girls Develop Self Esteem and a Positive Body Image”

  • Suzanne Says:

    Good for your daughter, and long may it continue! The media needs some healthy role models. Olympians should be on the cover of teen magazines, rather than reality stars with their bits bulging out!


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