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.