“Mama, you so boo-iful!”

I look down from doing my makeup to see my tiny blonde two-year-old grinning at me, apparently in awe of me.

“Oh, you are so beautiful, my love!” I chime back.

It has become almost a daily ritual, this compliment exchange between my daughter and me after I get ready in the morning.

Since she was about one and a half, my daughter has been mesmerized by all things girly—jewelry, makeup, hair. As a reformed tomboy, I’m perplexed how my childhood of GI Joes (stolen from older brothers) and softball grass stains could have generated this tiny fashionista who delights in YouTube makeup tutorials and “kewwwwt!” dresses.

And while I certainly don’t hate getting told I’m beautiful every morning, I worry sometimes that she attributes beauty (our beauty) to makeup, styled hair and pretty clothing.

Don’t get me wrong—I love all of the above. But I want my daughter’s sense of beauty to come from something deeper—something not so easily washed away by soap and water.

More than anything, I want my daughter to know, innately and without question, that she is beautiful—but I also want her to know that it’s very low on our list of what makes someone a good person.

Part of me was always nervous to be a girl mom.

Like virtually every other woman I’ve ever known, I struggled with body issues during a big chunk of my life, and I didn’t always handle them in the healthiest way. It’s a sad fact that, when I truly think about it, I can’t say I’ve ever known another woman who never dealt with body image issues.

That doesn’t give my own (in my eyes, perfect) little girl much hope.

For now, I make it a point to never discuss my own body image issues in front of her. Instead, I try to involve her in the things I do to care for myself and celebrate my own strength.

I also make it a point to surround her with positive role models, women who are beautiful inside and out and convey a level of confidence and self-certainty I hope she will project someday as well.

But if and when her own struggles rear their ugly head later on in life, I hope that I’ve left her with enough self-worth and self-confidence to remember what it is that makes her truly exquisite.

And so, my dear girl…

The first time you hate your hair or your clothes…I want you to remember that these physical adornments are just that—they decorate the person you are on your own, and you will always be as beautiful as you act.

The first time you step on a scale and wonder if you weigh too much…I want you to know that, honestly, all women deal with those feelings—but there is no perfect size and it’s what you do that determines what you’re worth, not how you look.

The first time you see curves start to develop on your frame and wonder if you’re normal…I want you to know that your body is powerful and strong, and I hope I give you the tools and experiences to know what you’re capable of.

The first time you wake up and feel like you can’t leave the house without makeup…I want you to know that, yes, makeup is fun and can help hide what ails us, but you are the same wonderful person with or without it.

The first time you look in the mirror and wonder if you’re pretty…I want you to know that you are the most beautiful thing my eyes have ever seen—and the people who truly love you will agree.

The fact is, I can’t completely protect her from body image issues or feeling ugly at times. All I can do is reinforce how beautiful she is at heart and set an example of never placing too much value on external things. (Or at least never letting them outweigh internal beauty.)

A few days ago, I was getting dressed when I heard her tiny voice trilling in front of the mirror, “I so boo-iful! I so boo-iful!”

I turned to see her admiring herself in the mirror. “Is me!” she told me, pointing to her reflection. “I so boo-iful!”

Oh, yes you are, my sweet girl. Yes you are.