My daughter looked at herself in the mirror. She looked straight on and then from the side and then straight on again. As I watched her do this, my mouth went dry. She was mimicking the move I make when I'm "assessing" myself.
My daughter's small mirror ritual cut right to the core of my own experiences! I grew up watching the women in my life struggle with their bodies and so, I myself, picked up the baton when I was in high school and followed suit into my early adulthood.
I changed a million times before going out hoping to find some outfit that I felt comfortable in. I looked in the mirror straight on, from the side, straight on and from the side again... I tested all of the fad diets, became an aerobics instructor, a personal trainer, stopped eating sugar and sometimes stayed home because I didn't like how I looked.
When I began working with people with eating disorders and body image issues and then had a daughter myself, I knew they'd all see through my crap!
If I didn't love myself like I was asking them to love themselves, they couldn't either. I'm not a 'Do as I say, not as I do' type of teacher. So I took a good, hard look at myself and did my own work around my body image.
This story of Gandhi helped me to commit to "being the change" before I expected any change.
Once a mother came to Gandhi and asked him to tell her son not to eat anymore candy. Gandhi looked at the little boy, smiled, and told the woman to come back in a year.
A year later, the mom and the slightly bigger boy came back to Gandhi. Gandhi looked at the boy and smiled, and told the little boy to stop eating candy. The mom was puzzled and asked him why they had to wait a year.
Gandhi answered, "I had to give up candy myself before I could tell him to."
It was time to heal myself
The best way to help others is to heal yourself, I realized. Though I am a work-in-progress, as long as I am committed to growing and cultivating that self-love everyday by caring for myself, celebrating my successes and seeing myself as more than just my body, I can support and share what has been helpful with my daughter.
Since the consequences of your kids having a negative body image is so dire, I thought I'd share ways to plant the seed of body-love early, and then, let you know how to nourish it and help it grow.
Raising Your Daughter's (or Son's) Body Image
Here are four things that you can do to help your son or daughter have a good body image.
1. Lead by example.
There's three ways to influence your children. Example, example, example.
You have to pull yourself together make your own peace with your body. There is no time like the present to cultivate self-love. If you haven't done that for yourself up until now, do it for your daughter.
Don't talk about, "I'm bad for eating bad food," "I'm bad for eating cake," or "I messed up today," or "I was a bad girl."
Don't use that kind of language in front of her, because she's going to pick up on it and start using it too. Don't say, "I can't eat that," or "I'm too fat." Don't call yourself fat. Don't think about yourself as fat! Don't talk about being too fat over the dinner table.
This is so highly influential to little ears who are taking it all in. If you don't like yourself, please do your own work here. Remember our children live out our issues! Begin to love your own self and your own body so that your daughter can learn from you.
2. Enjoy active movements together.
Dance around your house. Take walks together. Play games that are very highly active. We want your daughter to begin to have a relationship with her body that's outside of that judging mind. We want her to have a relationship with her body that's full of trust and strength and knowledge that she can do what she wants to do and that she'll feel good doing it.
Movement takes us out of our mind and puts our attention into our body. We begin to relate to our body a whole new way. When people have eating difficulty and really low self-images, it helps to do yoga and meditation to help them begin to relate to their body in a new way.
You could do this before problems arise!
3. Compliment all of her.
Don't just compliment the way she looks, her ideas or her achievements.
Compliment all the parts you love about her: What she does; the skills that she has; the ideas that she has; her creativity; her helpfulness; her leadership: her kindness; her ingenuity; her inner beauty; her outer beauty: her intelligence and more. Compliment every little bit of her and she'll get to know herself as a whole multistoried person.
If she sees herself as multifaceted and multitalented, she have much more than one standard (i.e, thinness) by which to measure herself.
4. Discuss the beauty discourses in our culture with her.
Let her understand where these ideas of beautiful and thinness come from in traditional media. Show her how much of that is not even reality. Let her understand that this is what our culture values but this is not necessarily what individuals value and it's not what you value, or what she has to value.
These influences are out there, if we don't see them for what they are, they have much more power over us. Once she understands them, she can make decisions for herself and think about herself in a whole new way without modern ideas of thinness affecting her.
Happy Mother's Day
Happy Mother's Day all to all of you moms. You are conscientious and so full of love and your daughters are lucky to have you. Thank you for all that you do to grow our future. You are amazing and are every bit as worth loving as your daughter. So try these out and shower you and her with tons of love. Commit to it with me!