Growing up I was always very aware of my looks. I can’t remember what age this started at, but for as long as I can remember I’ve been self-conscious about my long face, my freckles and the stretch marks that cover my inner thighs. I’ve always been of average size and build, but I was never happy with my size, nor how I looked.
It wasn’t until after I had Little A that I began to realize that my criticism of myself was hindering my life. I was so focused on what I thought others were thinking of me (my weight, my looks) that I was unhappy and stressed out. But prior to that realization, I thought that the skinnier I was, the happier I’d be. I think about that girl now and shake my head; having realized that being skinny isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
When I was a junior in college I got down to the lowest weight I can remember being. I think I was around 130-ish pounds (I’m 5’10” mind you). I was pretty pleased with myself when I went in for a doctor’s appointment and they weighed me and I saw that number on the scale. That was until the doctor came in and told me that based on my body type I was underweight and they wanted me to gain a few pounds to be in a more healthy weight range. It was then that I realized that even though I was skinny, I was still unhappy with how I looked.
Each day Little A grows more and more curious about makeup, talks about being beautiful, and studies not only her own body, but my body as well. She asks when she’ll get boobies and when she can shave her legs. I see her watching me get dressed each morning, looking at each part of my body. She mimics what I say and how I act. And I know that even when I think she’s not listening, she is; even when I’m critical of myself. But to her, I’m perfect. I know this because she tells me so all the time. She doesn’t see any flaws when she looks at me. All she sees is her mommy that she loves more than anything.
It pains me to think that my criticism of myself could tarnish her own self image. I never want her to hear me criticizing the way I look and have that make her question her own looks. Right now she loves herself 100%; never have I heard her say she thinks she’s fat or she doesn’t think she’s pretty. And I would love more than anything for her to keep that confidence. One of the reasons I workout at home is to set a good example for my kids. I’ve learned over the years that skinny isn’t better than strong, and that a fit, healthy body is what I want to have. Yes I’m still conscious of my body, but in a healthy way; a way that has nothing to do with the number on the scale. I never want my daughter to look at herself in the mirror and think about herself like I used to.
Which is why I want to teach her to about what it means to have a positive body image. I want her to know what it means to be strong, and that skinny doesn’t always mean healthy. I want her to understand that what she sees in magazines isn’t always real. And I want to be a positive role model for her; someone she will always look up to and want to be like. I want her to know that life is more about being loving, kind, and generous than about what someone looks like. My biggest fear is that one day she’ll look in the mirror and no longer love herself. It almost brings me to tears to think about words of self hate coming out of her mouth. But I want her to know that no matter what size she is I will love her with all of my being. I want to show her how to be healthy and teach her that if she likes what she sees in the mirror, than that’s more important than what any scale says.
I know I won’t be able to shield her from things like that forever. But what I do know is that by loving myself I am teaching her the greatest lesson I can about body image. No matter what weight I’m at, it doesn’t matter as long as I’m happy with what I see. And I hope that when she turns 11 or 12 or whatever age it is these days that girls start to worry about what they see in the mirror, that she remembers what I’ve taught her and continues to love herself in return.