This is still a topic that is hard for me to talk about because I still haven’t managed to make total peace with the image staring back at me in the mirror. I still, try as I might, engage in some of the things I am going to talk about in this post. The thing is, I have a daughter now and she is the reason that I fight each and everyday to overcome my eating disorder and create awareness for this sickness. I hope with all my heart she never finds herself where I did. I guess that is why I share my story with others. Hoping that it helps just one person choose to love themselves instead of taking the road of self hatred.
I have read a million posts about this topic. You can find me nodding my head in agreement with most of them. However, there are a few things that will get my blood to the boiling pretty darn fast. So, let’s start there…
You can tell your daughter she is beautiful- You can. It’s okay. In fact I think you should. The word beautiful doesn’t have to just encompass what someone looks like physically. When I think of the people in my life who I consider beautiful it has nothing to do with the way they look, but everything to do with WHO THEY ARE and how they live their life!
We can’t shelter our children from the world. It is impossible. No matter how hard you try your daughter is going to hear what the world defines beauty as. Not telling her she is beautiful is not going to win the war against insecurity. It will just create it in another form. Here is an example. One of my very best friends was raised by a mom who didn’t believe in complimenting her children for fear that it would make them have a big head. Growing up my friend never felt like her mom was proud of her. Instead of a big head my friend grew up with no self confidence. Her mom solved the problem of being conceited but created an even worse problem with a daughter who struggled with her own worth and value.
You don’t fight that battle by ignoring it. You fight the battle when you re-define what beautiful is in your home. You tell her she is beautiful because you might be the only one who does. You tell her she is beautiful because she IS. She is God’s creation.You tell her she is beautiful and you show her what real beauty looks like.
You teach her that beautiful people are kind, caring, giving, accepting, loving, courageous, and honest. You are her first and greatest teacher. Teach her what beautiful means to you. That way, when you tell her she is beautiful she thinks of everything BUT what she looks like on the outside.
It’s okay to teach her how to take care of herself- By taking care of herself, I am not just talking about her physical appearance. Yes, take the time to teach her how to do her hair, or how to apply her make-up if she wants it, teach her about hygiene, take her shopping and help her pick clothes that will represent her and make her feel her best. Take the time to compliment her on her self care. Say things like”your outfit is super cute, your hair looks darling today, I never would have thought to put that scarf with that top, but you rock it!” Teach her that it is important to take care of ourselves physically but don’t let that be all you teach her. Teach her how to take care of herself on the inside. Teach her about kindness to others but also kindness to herself. Encourage her to find a purpose greater than herself. Teach her the power of service and the impact it has on our happiness. Teach her that happy girls are the prettiest and that happiness comes from who you are, not what you look like.
Make peace with YOUR own body- She will become what she is taught. She will follow your example. If you don’t love your own body, she will learn to not love hers. It is so important that you make peace with your own reflection so that she can to. Teach her what body acceptance looks like. Take the time to connect to who you are outside of your body. Here is a great list of things you can do to help make peace with your own body- http://www.uhs.berkeley.edu/edaw/TenSteps.pdf
Remember that you are not your body.
In the words of a wise friend “STOP whining about your birthday. Stop complaining about your wrinkles, boobs, thighs, whatever. Put all of that ENERGY you are wasting by wishing you LOOKED different into BECOMING different. CHOOSE to keep working on who you are…what you know…what you can do…how you take care of yourself…how and who you love and serve. Choice is so powerful and truly the only thing we own. Your body is nothing but a conduit for your accomplishments and expressions of who you truly are. Keep it healthy and in a state of attractiveness so that it doesn’t limit your ability to progress, but remember that progression has nothing to do with the specifics of what you look like.”
We exercise because we are honoring our body not because we want to change it. So many times we exercise because we want to change something about ourselves physically. We want a washboard stomach, and arms that don’t jiggle when we wave goodbye because that is what society says is acceptable. We need to reprogram our minds about why we engage in exercise. We shouldn’t exercise with the expectation of change. We should exercise with the expectation that we feel better when we do. We should exercise to thank our body, not change it. Avoid making physical activity about a size or what you ate. Be an advocate for health over looks. Teach her to honor her body for all the amazing things it does do!
“Remove your body from the sounds and sights of stress, up toward the quiet, assuring pockets of nature, and walk it along at a pace that stretches it and honors it.” – CJane Kendrick
Cut out the negative self talk and ditch the diet talk- Let’s be honest..this is where it gets hard. Changing the way we talk isn’t a piece of cake. It takes effort. A lot of effort.
Start with changing the way you talk about yourself and others. Don’t use the fat word. Not about yourself and not about anyone else. Just don’t. When it comes to your body don’t talk about the things you don’t like. Don’t talk about your love handles, or your flabby arms. Don’t mention that your thighs touch. Don’t talk about your body in sizes or shapes. Our obsession with weight and shape and appearance is fueled among women because we encourage it in each other. The way we talk about ourselves and others bodies has made it impossible for us to be at peace. If we want our daughters to focus on a persons real value and worth start with yourself. Stop comparing yourself to others.
No talking about dieting. Don’t teach her how to calorie count or about portion control to lose weight. Instead teach her about healthy eating habits. A good place to start is by reading the book “Intuitive Eating” It is all about listening to your body. This means learning how to distinguish between what your mind tells you and what your body does. It is going back to our intuition with food that we had as a child. If you want more info Google it. Buy the books. It is not an easy road but well worth the effort.
Communicate- Don’t be afraid to talk to her about her body. Talk to her about the things she likes. Talk to her about the things she doesn’t. Brainstorm with her healthy ideas on how she can overcome those negative thoughts. Listen to her. Talk to her about her role models and the people in the magazines she reads about. Help her understand what is realistic and what is a photo-shopped myth. Communication on this subject is so important. If you don’t talk to her about it someone else will. And it might not be what she needs to hear. Share the things you struggle with and what you did or are doing to overcome them. Take time each day to talk to her about the things that are bothering her.
At the end of the day I think the most powerful thing you can do as a mom for your daughter is LOVE yourself. Unconditionally. If you do this she will know how to love herself also.
As I stated above, I am still a work in progress with all of this. I would never judge a soul for struggling with any of this. These are just my thoughts on how we can make change happen for the future of our little girls. I think the thing that will make change happen is by creating awareness. For moms. For our daughters. I pray that talking about this will start the change in the way our bodies as women are portrayed. I hope that by talking about it, one person gets the help they need, a little girl is saved from the path that I walked for 18 years. A mom is able to open the door to a conversation that she didn’t know how to start. I just hope that somewhere, someone’s life is changed because we had this conversation.
As I always say be BRAVE and keep fighting the good fight warrior women!