Sunday, March 7, 2010

Self-Image

Friday night, though I felt exhausted and in no mood to get out, I was invited to a Pisces birthday get together. You see, for some reason, many of my friends are Pisces. I suppose I'm attracted to their creative minds and boundless love.

In other words, I couldn't say no.

As soon as I sat at the table, I transformed into my usual self - the self they all expected me to be. I was happy, fun, naughty, talkative, socially comfortable and very glad to be there.

A late arrival to the gathering, one of the ladies in our yoga group joined me at the end of the table. She doesn't know me well but did know that I had surgery. We began a conversation about body image and our children.

She is 10 years older and by no means in bad shape. Yet, I could feel her insecurity. I could sense her discomfort in her own skin.

Perhaps I was projecting? I've noticed that I feel self conscious when discussing body image with women. I could see her eyes on me when I would leave the table. I was feeling judgment and when she finally asked me, "Well? How did you lose all of the weight?" I found myself explaining in details so that she would feel better.

I still don't know why I do this. How am I going to teach my daughters to accept themselves and their bodies when I feel guilty and the need to explain to everyone that "No, I haven't always been thin" and "Yes, I eat whatever I want" and "Yes, I work out but I did when I was fat too"?

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say?!

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My daughter Rose is 8 years old and stands at shoulder height to me. I'm 5'5". In other words, she will tower over me at some point during her teen years.

People are constantly telling her how tall she's going to be. At first, she didn't think much of it. Then one day, someone said that she would be taller than me. Later that evening, she cried to me before bed.

"Mommy, I don't want to be taller than you!!"

I could see her point. There is a fear with my daughters of my growing older, not being the one in charge anymore, of the future where Mommy doesn't fix everything. I suppose the thought of her looking down at me scares her a little.

We've discussed these fears as they come up and she seems to be comfortable again. I'm also doing what I can to point out that she should stand tall, shoulders back, chest out. Be proud of her height.

So far, so good.

Then one evening, we both received a gift while watching TV.

 


"Wow Mommy! Taylor Swift is TALL!"

I googled her height and yep, she's 5'11".

My girls ADORE Taylor Swift. And now I have a little girl who stands prouder than she did before.

Whew.

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”A mother who radiates self acceptance and self love actually vaccinates her daughter against low self esteem."
~Naomi Wolf

I've always loved this quote. I hope that I'm doing my best to radiate self-acceptance to my daughters. I'm also doing what I can to teach them healthy habits like a diet based on moderation, not deprivation, and that exercise can be fun.

I'm a single mother raising two little girls. They don't have a daddy around for daily doting and compliments. I'm not even sure their dad notices their beauty, or if he does, I doubt he mentions it. He's just not that kind of man unfortunately.

So... its up to me to vaccinate them against low self esteem. God help me.

Mommy's got quite a job ahead of her.

14 comments:

  1. If you could also teach them that it's okay to be smart, I think that would help make the world a better place, too. Our society sometimes seems to send girls the wrong lessons about dumbing yourself down in order to be less intimidating (or something) to boys. [shudder]

    Then again, you do seem to be leading by example, there, if your writing is any indication. :)

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  2. I'm with you, T. It's a tough job...but I think that we're both up to the challenge. And for me, I've found that in teaching them these things, I'm learning lots along the way as well.

    *hugs*

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  3. I honestly don't think my mom ever really thought about the things she said to me while I was growing up. She was always trying to make me lose weight since I was overweight. She didn't do it in a loving way, she was just sort of mean about it.

    I've come to realize, I definitely need to watch what I say about the "d" word around my kids because my 8 yr old asked me if he need to go on one. This surprised me but my husband and I emphatically told him no.

    So now I am going to just say I am getting healthy instead of using the "d" word.

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  4. It's so hard to balance everything raising a girl. You want them to be confident and strong, but not co9nceited and arrogant. You want them to have a great body self-image without being self-conscious or 'slutty.' And you want to make sure that their outer beauty is only surpassed by their inner beauty. SO much work. Such a worthwhile endeavor.

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  5. this post hit home..not just about my own insecurities but my daughters!! My 10 year old is over 5 foot already! I am 5'3". My son (12) is already taller then me..) for my daughter she always hears how 'small ' her mom is..I am not tiny!!!! BUT, her dad and his g/f are both much bigger then I..so she hears these things! Then looks at herself...she is taller then most friends her age..one of the boys at school calls her mt' Everest! She like Taylor Swift..but her and I will be doing some SERIOUS googling of her this afternoon! thank you for this gift...

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  6. We do have a big impact on how our daughters will feel about themselves but it's not that simple either. There are SO many other things/people that factor into their self-beliefs; their fathers, their peers, media, etc. All we can do is set the best example we can and hope they gravitate toward that over anything else.

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  7. it seems to me from reading blogs and knowing some women that this lesson is one of the ones every girl needs that few get. This as well as being self reliant and not looking for someone else to take care of you, husband, friends, government etc.

    good post

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  8. I think you're doing great with your girls. One point though - I'm a single dad, and I don't dote daily on my daughter. She's extremely confident, with high self esteem. I think doting on her would have the opposite effect - she could become attached to those comments, and might only feel good if someone told her she was worthy.

    What I took from Naomi Wolf's quote is this: it's about the parent feeling good about themselves, and allowing their kids to likewise feel good about themselves. That's the approach my ex and I have taken with our kids.

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  9. I worry about this a lot since I have a poor body image and she doesn't have a daddy around, ever.
    I hope that taking her to the gym with me and to all of my soccer games that I show her that we need to be active and healthy. I am less vocal about my body image too.

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  10. I need to do this with my sons. I don't have daughters. My 10 year old often says he is fat (which he is not at all). When my ex and I separated, he (my ex) dropped a TON of weight and exercises compulsively. I fear that this is affecting my 10 year old boy.

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  11. I see my self-confidence directly reflected in my daughter--when I hold my head high and embrace my height, she stands tall to try to match me. The chemistry is a bit different with my son, but he obviously LOVES being around two confident women. We will teach him, as well.

    What a great post--and good work with your lovely ladies!
    Be well, T.

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  12. Love the post!

    I totally agree. We need to teach our children to have great self esteem, not matter what they see or hear.

    I have had horrible body image for years. I have curves, curves, and more curves. I HATED them since they showed up. That was about 10 years ago, and I've only developed a self confidence in the last 6 months.

    My biggest thing is just for my girls to grow up to be comfortable in their own school. And develope some of the bad habits I had in the past.

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  13. I'm 5' 10" and I have four daughters. I struggle with not being negative about my body in front of them. I try to keep that well hidden, so that they don't pick up my bad self "talk".

    My 12 and 10 year olds are over 5' 5" already. My ten year old being taller than her older sister who isn't short. Their father is 6' 4" tall. They will not be dainty girls - so I'm trying to help them embrace their height and learn to love standing out in a crowd.

    There is no male figure in their lives either. I'm alone raising my girls - so it's up to me to tell them as much as possible how pretty, how smart, how talented they are. I don't believe in false praise, but I do try to notice the little things and pass on sincere compliments to them.

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