“You ding dong,” I said offhandedly to my mother as we walked through a store with my two-year-old daughter tagging along.
Almost immediately, my daughter started chuckling and mocking me like a little parrot. “Ding dong, ding dong. Mama say ding dong.” So… we’ve apparently reached the phase where she will hear and repeat everything I say, particularly the words I would rather she didn’t. (And she’ll rat me out as she mimics me.)
Her echos of my casual name-calling got me thinking… If she is copying things as simple as that, her little ears are picking up on everything that comes out of my mouth. But there is something she could say that would break my heart more than just a silly name or even the occasional slipped swear word. What if the next phrase she decides to repeat is,
Ugh, I hate my body.
I am neither the first nor the last woman to have the occasional struggle with body confidence. My most recent trip down that rocky road was the dreaded swimsuit hunt. (How is it that one simple article of clothing can reduce a woman to tears?)
I’ve always been on the busty end of the spectrum (thanks, Mom), I’ve never had the perfect legs, I have cellulite and stretch marks, and my stomach isn’t flat and toned. But my breasts were able to create nourishment for my daughter for thirteen months, my legs are strong and give me the ability to walk and chase my child, my stomach carried and protected my baby for nine months. Why shouldn’t I be proud of all of that?
My daughter is comfortable enough in her body to run around in unicorn undies and nothing else and not be thinking, “Do my legs look ok?” She can puff out her stomach and play belly drums and not be thinking, “Do I look chubby today?” She can sport a pair of bunny ears on a Tuesday as her accessory of choice and not be thinking, “Will people think I look weird in these?” She is completely comfortable in her own skin, and I don’t ever want to be the reason she starts to doubt herself. Girls aren’t born hating their bodies, they are taught. I want to teach her body confidence and how to love her body no matter what shape it becomes.
When she sees her mama looking in the mirror, I want her to see a woman who is admiring her tiger stripes because it means she was blessed enough to carry a baby in the first place. I want her to see me smiling at myself because I feel great in a new pair of jeans. And I want her to know that the size on those jeans doesn’t have a single impact on my self-worth. I don’t want her to see her mother hiding under a baggy cover-up at the pool because she cringes at the thought of wearing a bathing suit in public. I want her to remember that I jumped right in and made memories with her.
It’s no secret that social media, television, and magazines give us unrealistic expectations of what we should look like. Am I ever going to be impervious to this? Of course not. Will there always be a little voice in the back of my mind telling me I don’t look the way I should? Most likely.
Do I want my daughter to start mimicking the negative internal commentary that pops into my head on the daily? That would be a big ol’ resounding NO.
Do I expect her to be perfect and never doubt herself? Also no, but I am going to do my very best to help her be positive about herself and her body.
I was recently listening to an episode of The Momfidence Podcast, and the host suggested an activity for the next time you’re with your girlfriends. She said to grab a glass of wine and a pad of paper. On it, write down every quality you love about each of your girlfriends. It could be anything from their style, to their hair, to their positive outlook on life, to their work ethic, or their parenting style. At the end of the activity, you probably have long lists about each of them. The point of the exercise is to prove two things. First, the things you might dislike about yourself could be the very thing your friends admire about you. And second, if you are able to identify and say all of these kind things about them, why can’t you do the same for yourself?
Our littles are always watching, and it’s our job to provide them with the best example we can. And who knows, maybe the more I teach her the importance of body confidence, the more I will feel it myself!