Many years ago, one of my childhood friends was visiting me with her five-year-old daughter. This friend is beautiful — stunning, even — with perfectly full lips, wide brown eyes, and a light that shines from within. She's also fit and trim and turns heads wherever she goes. A few times throughout the weekend, she talked about how she felt "fat" and "not beautiful" within earshot of her daughter. Later, when we were alone, I asked her if she always talked about herself so negatively in front of her daughter. I didn't have a daughter (I do now) but I wondered if she had thought about what effect her words might have on her daughter.
It honestly hadn't occurred to her, and she vowed to stop with the negative comments about herself in front of her daughter.
Fast forward ten years, and I have a daughter of my own. She is seven years old, vivacious, curvaceous, and strikingly beautiful. I say this not just as her mom, but also as someone who hears it from so many others, both friends and strangers alike. She looks like me, but not, and is built as I am. Tall, broad shouldered, and with a fantastic booty. She is smart and strong and funny and loving and confident and everything I wish I was at her age.
As her mother, I build her up daily. I tell her how smart she is, and how funny she is, and how I love how she embraces new kids at her school and includes them. She can be full of fire at home, being a girl and all, but she is pure sweetness at school and other activities.
One other thing I do for my daughter is not to ever speak negatively about my body image in front of her. I struggled with my body image for years (and years and years), due to my childhood as a "big girl," my muscular build, and my snail's pace metabolism. I am in a good place now, because I've come to terms with the fact that running and working out as much as I do doesn't make me "tiny." It makes me fit and toned and able to help move couches, if the need arises. I am strong and I have large thighs and I have some pretty sweet deltoids and shoulder muscles.
I have "fat days," sure, usually every twenty-eight to thirty-five days. I feel bloated and uncomfortable in my own skin. In the privacy of our room, I will tell my husband that I feel "fat" and that I know I'm being ridiculous. He will agree on the latter, and we laugh and then it passes and I'm back to worrying about my laugh lines. (That's a post for another day.)
As for my daughter, I have made it so that she has never heard me complain about feeling "fat" or "not pretty." She is already bombarded by that from the little bit of media she's exposed to, whether it's Shake It Up or the cover of magazines in the stands at the grocery store. She thinks I'm the most beautiful woman on the planet (her words), and hearing me tear myself down would do nothing but break her own self-esteem.
She's already asked a few times if she's "chubby" and while I wanted to cry, I held it together. I told her how beautiful she is, with her big blue eyes and amazing smile, and flowing hair. I told her how her loving heart makes her beauty glow from the inside. I showed her how my thighs and arms are muscular, just like hers. She is like me and is not built to be wee, but to be tall and strong. I reminded her that she is able to ski black diamond runs on the ski hill, which is something few seven-year-old kids can claim to do.
Being a mom to a daughter can be tricky — and full of conflict — but I'll be damned if I'm going to do anything but build her up and make her confident in her beauty.
Do you have a daughter? How do you navigate the waters of beauty/weight/body image in general?