I know that teaching my daughter that confidence in herself and being confident with her body starts at home and it starts with me. I know this and it isn’t something that I take lightly, because, on most days, I don’t have much confidence with my own body and how I f I feel I look.
I’m afraid that my negative self-image will be passed along to her and this terrifies me.
I don’t want her to go through life comparing her body to other people’s, to feel that part of her worth is tied to the size and shape of her body or that the beauty on the surface matters more than the beauty of who she is as a whole person.
My own mother used to make sideways comments that I wasn’t skinny nor would I ever be and she’d compare me to my sister or other girls, noting that while I was pretty, they were beautiful. It was obvious she was embarrassed to take me clothing shopping and that my size was a direct reflection of her. As a young girl, hearing and knowing this from my mother was devastating. I know that my issues with my own body stem from a place of feeling insecure and unworthy because of her.
I’m 34-years-old and the things my mother said about my body as a child, have affected me every time I go clothes shopping, put on a swimsuit or watch other women work out at the gym and wish I am somehow different to finally feel good enough. If I just wore a 4 or a 6 instead of an 8, if I could fit into a small instead of a large. If my legs were longer, my stomach flatter… If all these things were different about me, maybe then my clothes would feel different and I would finally feel OK about my body.
The thing is, I look back at pictures now when I was a child, I was never overweight. As a teenager, I was never overweight. In college, I was a Division I swimmer and I was never overweight. In fact, I was in incredibly good shape but somehow always felt like I stuck out as bigger than everyone else. So why did I think at the time, that I was the “big girl,” and that my body was insufficient compared to everyone else’s?
It’s because words are extremely powerful and the way you speak about and talk to your children is what becomes ingrained in their heads as to who they believe they are and what their worth is based on.
Images speak volumes about how I treat myself and how I dress, how I discuss my weight or pant size, will not go unseen by my daughter.
At 5, it’s very clear that my oldest daughter is very perceptive about what I wear and how I present myself. If I wear my hair down, so does she. If I wear my hair up, so does she. She asks why I don’t wear bikinis when we’re shopping in the swimsuit section at Target or why I have pants on in summer when everyone is wearing shorts.
At 5, nothing gets past her and so, my time is up. My time for hiding and shaming myself, for feeling unworthy and letting my mother keep telling me that my size and shape is who I am… that time is up.
My daughters and my son deserve a better beginning to their life than the one I had. And I will give it to them so they don’t have to carry around insecurities and the feeling of not fitting in. Those feelings of insecurity may creep in when they are adolescents, but they certainly won’t be from me or from our home.
I was never more proud of my body than the week after I gave birth to my twins. I wish I could bottle up the pride I had that my body, the same one I had bashed every single day of my life, had grown two healthy, beautiful babies at once – and again a third time three years later. If I could feel that feeling of being some sort of superhero, I could surely empower my own children about their bodies and how incredible they are, no matter the size or shape they are throughout their lives.
There is no doubt that being a parent makes you want to become a better person – better for your children and better for yourself. I may have disliked myself, but starting today, I’m going to begin the process of loving myself – curves, short legs, Mom tummy and all. Because my children, while they’ve never said a single criticism about my size, how I dress, how I hid my body or only buy one-piece suits for the pool, they still tell me I’m beautiful all the time and dammit, it’s time I listen to them and most importantly, believe it.
You cannot give your children what you do not have.
If I do not have confidence, how can I instill it in them? No doubt this is a journey of self-love, but that journey has to begin sometime. Changing the way we view our bodies and especially how we talk to ourselves in our heads and when others may be listening, it has to be with love and kindness and not hatred, disgust or comparison.
So, let’s get real. How can we do this? How can we all love our bodies so that our daughters and sons will learn to love theirs?
FIND WHAT YOU DO LIKE
Instead of focusing on all the things you don’t like about your body, find something you do like and magnify it. For example, I may be self-conscious about a lot of things but I like my hair. I am blessed with natural beachy-wavy hair and when I wear my hair down and curly, I feel more attractive and pulled together. I also like how muscular my arms and shoulders are and need to do a better job showing them off because it’s a part of my body that I’m confident about.
What do you like about yourself? What are your favorite features that make you feel good about yourself? Start by focusing on one or two features that you like about yourself and grow the list from there.
Do you have a great smile, hair, arms, legs, back? What gives you confidence and how can you magnify that part of your body or areas to make yourself feel good? You love your smile, so buy a brand new lipstick to show it off! You feel great about your legs, rock a new skirt or dress that flaunts your stems!
It’s also important, as you develop your own body confidence to teach your children what their bodies can do for them and how to be proud of it. For example, I tell my daughter her legs and arms are muscular and strong when she does cartwheels around the yard and makes it across the monkey bars by herself. When we’re on bike rides and the kids are having a tough time up a hill, I encourage and remind them about how strong their hearts and bodies are to work so hard.
CHANGE YOUR VOICE
You believe the words you speak to yourself, whether out loud or silent. It’s time to stop the negative talk you say to yourself – words like fat, ugly, big, pudgy, lumpy, average, unattractive, muffin top – they hurt you because the more you say them, the more you believe them and they become you. You are so many things other than what you tell yourself.
It’s time to stop focusing on those hurtful words and begin using positive language! You are smart, you are strong, you are beautiful, you are creative, you are fit, you are healthy, you are kind, you are caring.
What are your strengths? What do your friends and family love about you? What do others compliment you on? Find five things to start telling yourself every day. Every single day repeat them and find new strengths and characteristics that are positive.
When you talk to your children, don’t point out features on their body, instead point out features about their hearts, minds, and characteristics that are positive and encouraging. Teach them that the way you and others see them is beyond their body and that their body is only second to what’s inside of them and who they are.
TREAT YOUR BODY WELL
The best way I know how to show my daughter body-confidence is by taking care of and treating my body with respect. I do this by eating healthy foods in front of them and exercising most days. I include the kids on grocery shopping and farmer’s market trips and ask for their help picking out fruits and vegetables and preparing simple meals so they can be hands-on with creating healthy dinners.
Some days I take the kids with me to the gym and they understand that I like to work out and it makes me feel good. And some days we just go on walks or bike rides and we talk about taking care of our bodies. They even ask to go on walks now because they like the exercise and fresh air!
DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO WHAT YOU SEE IN THE MEDIA
Let’s be real, the images we see in the media, in magazines, on TV, in movies, even on social media – this isn’t real life. Magazines and movies are photoshopped, airbrushed and models and actresses have personal trainers, nutritionists, and a dozen other people on their staff that everyday people don’t. They don’t live in our real world, their job is to be stick thin, get facials every week, work out for three hours a day and be prepared for year-round swimsuit season.
On social media – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.– do you know anyone that posts their bad, just got out of bed, disheveled pictures? Nope. You never see those photos! What you do see is everyone’s best-looking, perfect angled, filtered, staged and 11th perfect take pictures.
IMPERFECTION IS REAL,
PERFECTION IS NOT.
Stop comparing yourself to everybody else you see in magazines, on TV, in movies, and your friends or people you follow on social media. That is not real life and we need to realize this, but to also explain this to our children.