Tell Your Daughters How You Love Your Body
And Why Your Self-Image Matters in Motherhood
Almost all women have experienced some level of struggle with their self-image.
And it’s easy to understand why women may struggle with self-esteem when we live in a world of photo-shopped bodies and air-brushed faces. The line between a slight filter and complete alteration of facial characteristics has become so blurred that you don’t know–and you may never know–if what you see online is actually real.
Even more so, it’s hard not to struggle with self-image when so often the way we talk to ourselves about our bodies is generational. The cycle of body criticism is passed down like a family heirloom, most often from mother to daughter.
Because it isn’t just the “Star Actress Gains Ten Pounds!” magazine headlines that teach us at a young age that our value is somehow linked to the number on the scale: so often, it is because as girls, we heard the way our mothers spoke about their own bodies.
And in fact, mothers and friends are more significant influences on a girl’s body image than messages from mass media.
Naomi Wolf so eloquently phrased it this way: “A mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem.”
Of course, self-image is more complex than that, but one of the greatest factors in how a girl will perceive herself in adulthood is how she thinks her mother feels about her body. And that is why I am trying my hardest to never say an unkind thing about my body.
Putting it into Practice
Recently, at five months postpartum, I had the opportunity to put this into practice.
During a play date with my daughter, a sweet 4-year-old friend of hers asked if I still had a baby in my belly. I knew I had two options: crumble apart. Let it ruin my day. Let the cruel voices in my own mind run rampant.
Because truthfully, I felt alien and unfamiliar in this new body. Just that morning when getting ready I felt the panic rise within me as I couldn’t find a pair of jeans that fit. There was already a storm brewing in my mind, and I could have let her innocent words be the thing to unravel me.
Or, in that moment, I could show my daughter just how much I hope she’ll love her own body through all of its journeys someday.
And so instead, I knelt down to her and hugged my belly. I told my daughter’s friend that there was no baby there anymore, but I’m so thankful for this belly that made a baby, and isn’t it so neat what our amazing bodies can do?
I shook it off (maybe faking it with a little bravado at first), but what I realized quickly is that it actually didn’t get to me. That I went on to have a great day. And the next time I got ready to go out, I felt less anxious about how I’d look.
I think, while modeling for my daughter how to love herself, I was also healing something inside of me.
What started as me faking it for the benefit of my daughter soon became my actual reality, and it has become a lot easier to tell myself “we don’t speak of our body like that here. We honor our body. We’re proud of our body.” I can control-alt-delete the negative thoughts a little bit more easily.
And what I hope is that the more I speak with kindness towards my body, the more my daughter will see how to love her own, too.
Tell Your Daughters
Tell your daughters how you love your body.
Tell them how they must love theirs.
Tell them to be proud of every bit of themselves—
from their tiger stripes to the soft flesh of their thighs,
whether there is a little of them or a lot,
whether freckles cover their face or not,
whether their curves are plentiful or slim,
whether their hair is thick, curly, straight, long or short.
Tell them how they inherited their ancestors’ souls in their smiles,
that their eyes carry countries that breathed life into history,
that the swing of their hips does not determine their destiny.
Tell them never to listen when bodies are critiqued.
Tell them every woman’s body is beautiful because every woman’s soul is unique.”