I will learn from my daughter

I was thin as a child (and actually, as a teenager and young adult, too), but for as long as I can remember I’ve had negative body image issues. Growing up with a mother who to this day is quite happy being naked (and she’s over 60, I’ll leave it at that), it’s not perfectly clear to me why I would really love to remain fully clothed at all times, forever. Honestly, if it made sense to shower fully dressed, I would do it.

I’ve never blogged about my issues before because truthfully, it’s not easy for me to admit this kind of thing. I’d rather people believe I’m the confident person I seem to be. But it’s time. We need to talk about these things if we’re going to ever hope to stop these feelings from starting in our young kids.
So let me confess:
I have thick ankles: a boy pointed that out to me in grade ten science class (along with telling me I had more hair follicles per square inch on my legs than any girl he’d ever seen…nice). I have large thighs, thick calves, a larger-than-average ass. I’ve got lopsided boobs that have only become more pronounced since breastfeeding my two kids. I traded pimple-prone skin for age-spotted, wrinkled skin. My teeth aren’t perfectly straight. My lips are on the thin side. My face is very round (dammit, I really want full bangs). I have very thick wavy hair. I weigh in a lot higher than most people would guess (which is a good thing… I guess? Except that if/when I find out my weight, it always feels a little like I’ve been pummelled with a medicine ball to the stomach). When pregnant, I gained well over 60lbs each time (and lost it… but still…). When I look at the women around me who complain about their weight I wonder what the hell they must think of me, if they think they are fat. Enough. Stop.
Clearly, along with all these perceived “faults”, I also have a lot body issues.
What I also have is a 4.5 year old daughter and I’m going to be blunt here: it brings me to tears that there could (and likely will) come a day when she looks at her perfect, beautiful, wonderful self in the mirror and dislikes her reflection. For now, my daughter loves being naked and embraces her body so fully, I’m filled with awe.
We make concerted efforts to never use the words “fat” or “skinny” here, and never discuss weight (beyond her being unable to sit in a booster seat in the car because she is not at the legal weight yet). We eat healthily and stress the importance of eating a wide range of foods filled with nutrients our bodies need. We tell her she is beautiful inside and out – that because she is kind and loving, her beauty shows on the outside for the world to see. She tells me my body is the best pillow in the world, and she’s proud of my soft tummy where she once lived. We tell her that she is a killer combo of intelligence and kindness, and that nothing in the world can beat that.
I can’t block out all the media messages my daughter will see as she gets older but I absolutely can and will do my best to be a positive role model for her. It’s not easy to make this commitment given my deeply ingrained issues, but I recognise that my perceptions of myself are not borne of logic, but of a life spent staring at images my own body could never replicate.
So I’ve made a promise to love myself: To eat the foods that will nourish me. To never starve or obsess over pounds. If I wake up feeling fat, I’ll recognise that eating less of that 1kg chocolate bar would be a good start – not a downward spiral of self-loathing. I will treat myself and eat the foods I love without guilt. In moderation. I’ll exercise and wear pretty clothes and swim in a bathing suit with pride.
I’m smart, driven, successful and wise. I’m friendly and outgoing, confident and adventurous. I’m a beautiful person. I have sparkling eyes and smooth skin, soft hair and strength inside and out. I’m kind, generous, honest and loving. I have beautiful curves, a genuine smile and an easy laugh.
These are the things my daughter sees.
These will be the things I will see, too.
I will be the image of confidence I want my daughter to see. I will practice what I preach. I will learn from myself and I will learn from my daughter.
I would love you to do the same.
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Alex

10 thoughts on “I will learn from my daughter

  1. >Wonderful message. I feel the same way as you do about passing messages on to my girls. I've decided that "fat" is a word that isn't used in relation to people (because it's in books everywhere!).

    A says she's not cute. It freaked me out the first time. And then she said "I'm not cute, I'm beautiful". And she tells me I'm the prettiest.

    Perhaps you're right about the love shining out – because my love for my children is so strong it must make me better looking than anyone on any magazine cover.

    I also remind myself, that while my body might not look the way it "should", it grew and nourished (and is still nourishing) two beautiful babies, and for that, I am infinitely thankful to it. I should treat it with the respect it deserves for the wonderful gifts it has given me.

  2. >Wow…I have tears in my eyes! I too have a 4 year old daughter and marvel every day at how completely innocent she is about so many things and wish things could stay that way. We too don't talk about fat/thin/losing weight (although I have recently shed 15lbs through exercising and a cleanse) – we instead focus on being 'healthy' and 'strong'. I will be printing off this blog and will be sure to read it from time to time…it is beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  3. >Alex. That is beautiful. Having my girls have made me so much more confident and aware of how I am projecting myself. They love me just the way I am and now I am starting to love me a little more each day because of them.

  4. >For the record, when I met you I felt completely inadequate because I thought you were so pretty 🙂

    But I completely understand how having daughters changes the way you see things. I have been fighting weight issues my whole life, and I worry about my daughters ending up the same way. It's such a fine line between worrying about their health and talking about being "fat." So hard.

  5. >Same things I've been struggling with while having a 3 year old impressionable girl in my house. I too am trying so hard not to use the words 'fat' or 'skinny' in front of her. I want her to feel beautiful always. And I too have to start seeing myself and talking about myself in a better light.

    Thanks for writing this.

  6. >Our daughter is a bit younger than yours.. and she knows the term, "skinny". As in, "Mommy…! The lady in the picture on the bus stop is too skinny.. She should eat a cookie!"
    My grandmother is overweight and our daughter has (in only my presence) made comments about her weight.. Innocent comments that regardless could really hurt a person's feelings.

    I try so hard to keep a balance. Since she was born, however, I've been on a steady stream of weightloss and there have been so many people who have gushed over how "skinny" I am.

    All she gets from me are lessons about nutrition. That it's okay to have treats but that nutrition is the building block of everything you need to keep your body running. This is a leg up on my ideas about food at her age.

    She just told my mom, in context of the conversation that "Eating things don't make you feel better when you're sad!!"
    I couldn't have asked for it to sink in any better than that, man.. as someone who has struggled with overeating and who has an over weight family? Music to my momma ears.

    It is tough beans raising kiddos.

  7. >I think you are beautiful, and I will leave it to you to interpret that however you wish.

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