It’s so important to raise our daughters to be strong, smart, and confident women, making sure they know their worth comes from within. While I think I’m doing a pretty great job instilling in my daughter how smart and kind she is, I’m really struggling with teaching her body positivity.
Honest confession: I’ve never been totally happy with the way I look. I think about my size, weight, and muscle tone (or lack thereof) all the time, and I’m realizing that my negativity will absolutely impact how my daughter sees herself and looks at other girls and women.
My mom would frequently make comments to me like, “You’ll never meet someone if you keep gaining weight.”
I’ve always been self-conscious about my body (even when I didn’t need to be), because outside sources made me feel like I should be. Whenever I look back at old pictures of myself, I think, “Wow, I looked good there,” but don’t ever remember feeling that way when the picture was taken. And for me, all of this began with my own mom. While she is and always has been a wonderful mother in most ways, she, like all humans, has her flaws.
She was always on me about my weight, I think mostly because she was overweight herself and had been ridiculed for it and was ashamed of it. I constantly saw her trying all the fad diets, and her weight would regularly yo-yo. She’d frequently make comments to me like, “You’ll never meet someone if you keep gaining weight,” or “Those pants are too tight, are you sure you want to wear that?” And I would hear the way she talked about herself, saying she looked fat in certain outfits and couldn’t shop at certain stores because of her weight and shape. All of this was setting me up for failure in the self-esteem department. I began to believe my self-worth came from how I looked, and that being happy would only come from being skinny.
I mostly remember her making these comments was when I was in high school – a time when most girls are extremely vulnerable and impressionable. At the time, I played sports and had pretty healthy eating habits, but when I went through puberty, things changed. I quit soccer, swimming, and lacrosse, and began to hide candy bars or cookies in my room to eat whenever my mom wasn’t around to comment about it. I gained weight and felt fat and ashamed. Looking back, I still don’t think I was too overweight, but I was being inundated with poor examples. My mom hired a personal trainer for me and encouraged me to try different diets. Through all of this, the foundation of my relationship with my body was negatively nurtured.
Today, I still struggle with weight and body image even though I know how to be healthy. I teach my daughter about the healthy foods she needs to fuel her body and that it’s important to be active. We make healthy meals together at home and go for walks as a family. But she also sees me frown at my naked body if she’s in the bathroom when I get out of the shower. She sees me struggle to find an outfit I’m comfortable leaving the house in because it’s too tight or my muffin top is visible through my shirt. Sometimes I get so frustrated with myself that I turn to binge-eating junk food. I try not to make comments in front of her about my poor body image, but sometimes I let it slip. She sees it. She hears it. She absorbs it.
Until I can practice what I preach – that the outside means very little compared to what our hearts have to offer – I will continue to struggle raising my daughter to truly believe it, too. If ever there was a motivation to have a positive body image, it’s having your little girl look up to you for ways to truly be happy with herself. Because when my daughter looks at me, she doesn’t see a full face or chubby arms.
She sees a big smile and warm, welcoming hugs. When I look in the mirror and see a flabby tummy and too-thick thighs, my daughter sees a warm lap and strong legs that teach her how to kick a soccer ball. Working on my self-esteem is one of the biggest uphill battles of my life, but I will continue to head for the top, no matter how many times I need to stop and rest. For my daughter, for my mom, and for myself. We all deserve it.