Self Love Mirrored

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

There are so many lovely people in this world who do not love themselves. Why!? They were not taught how to love themselves. Between the media and even loved one’s ideas of what a person “should be” it teaches our children along with ourselves as adults not to love what/who we are.

I have a beautiful growing young daughter who mostly has me to look up to. For a while I was very focused on what I weighed and was quite vocal about it. My daughter was there with me to witness it all. I would weigh myeslf, so she wanted to. Innocent enough because she wanted to see how much she had grown, but then she wanted to do it all the time. She wanted to see the number on the scale go up and up…. We tried to tell her that she is not a number on a scale and that she just needed to eat well and stay active to be the healthiest version of herself. I was trying to make conscious food choices by keeping a food journal. Yes, it helped me lose a bit of weight but at what cost to my precious daughter.

My daughter loved to dance and was not conscious of body image, just as a seven year old should be, but that changed quickly with only one self directed comment about dancing with a bit of extra weight around the middle in front of Bug from a loved one. I tried to neutralized these acidic words as they were spoken, but in that instant they had swiftly taken root into her developing mind about her own body.  You see we had gone to a fair with belly dancers. We danced with these lovely ladies and enjoyed being free of judgement of others. We had met and adored not one but many women who had embraced their passion to dance. Their first goals were to be free. If a more fit body came from the dancing it was a bonus. My loved one saw pictures and only reflected her self conscious image onto them. Saying that “if they were going to dance like that they should cover their middle. That it wasn’t flattering and that no one wants to see that…….” Well, I could not stand by and let this injustice happen. For my daughter’s sake and for the lovely ladies we met embracing life. I let my loved one know in front of my daughter that no matter their shape they had a right to do what they loved. That they did not have the negative body image so we should not force it upon them. That they were beautiful and sweet and should not be begrudged for living! This shut my loved one down, but did little to heal the wound festering in my sweet baby’s mind. I saw the effects of this exchange within the weeks to come. My daughter spent way too much time in the bathroom with the scale and mirror. She stopped dancing and smiling. She would hold her mid section more often and not wear clothing that she loved because more of her shape could be seen in the slightly tighter child appropriate fit, and even watch what she ate on a dangerous level.

My little girl is at a stage that most children hit. That stage where they go from baby to tween. At this age more weight is put on so that height and preparation for puberty can be gained. I lovingly instructed her on this many times over. Made sure that my self image was projecting love for her to see. I made sure to dance with her and take long walks to talk.

I had always been tiny from the neck down with chubby cheeks. I had been taught through my mother’s body image and the way she had been treated to judge myself harshly. I grew up thinking that I was the fat kid because my cousin my age was so much smaller than me. I heard comments about my size from family members when I hit puberty and gained curves, what I then considered as weight and unacceptable. I wore my brother’s hand-me-down clothes so that I would not have to shop for my real size. Giving this all a bit more perspective… I was 5’4″ tall and would have worn a size 8-10, but what I wore was my brother’s cast offs he was 6’3″ at that time and slender. So rolled up jeans and extra large polo cut shirts were my thing that year. I changed a lot over the years and so did my style. I became the “chubby” head cheerleader or so I thought. I carried my body image to college and instead of gaining the freshman 15, I lost around 25 pounds because of anorexia.  I got complemented on my weight lose, even though I had none to lose because I was all muscle. I got weak and sick. My skin looked gray and I could not open glass and metal doors for myself. I didn’t have the strength anymore. All I wanted to do was sleep. I looked in the mirror and only saw what I wanted to see. I got on the scales and was pleased only to see the numbers drop. Eating once a day was good enough for me with snacks to curb my hunger pangs. This all continued until I took a good long look at my situation….I had to change! I went that day and got vitamins. I started that day eating full meals. My clothing size never changed because I wasn’t thick to begin with as I had lost weight my clothes hung on my hips instead of around my waist. I slowly began to become healthier, but old habits are hard to break. I did finally meet the love of my life and he saw what I was going through. He would remind me to eat and cook healthy meals for me. Granted we only saw each other once a week until we were married. Then he could keep a closer eye on me to help me recover.

I had to learn to love my body! No more skipping meals to lose, no more eating until I felt ill, treats are treats not meals!!!!!! I learned to dress the body that I have and to put on makeup that was flattering and not hide my face (thanks to “What Not to Wear” on TLC). Yes, I have gone up and down in weight! I had a baby!!!! My body changed and so do my clothes, but loving me is what isn’t changing anymore! I have to let my daughter see this!

I had another conversation with my daughter recently. She is almost nine now. I told her that I make an effort to show her that I am comfortable with the way my body is. Yes, healthier would be nice just to feel my best, but I do not live by the scale and she should not focus on it either. I told her about growing and changing and loving myself so that she can see that positive self image and gain from it. I want her to love herself! I want her to love her quirkiness, and geekiness, and cratiness. I want her to love the body she has because it is hers and owning it! I want her to understand that she is good enough the way she is. That what shows beauty is not only on the outside but found more deeply within. To love herself and to love others. To grow in confidence and peace. I want her to see herself as I see her….amazing and capable!

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