Hey Mom, telling your daughter she's beautiful isn't enough
I am fat. Almost always have been and, most likely, will always be to some degree or another. My mother disagrees. Of course. That's her job. However, despite her love for me, she still taught me the art of self-loathing.
My mother is beautiful. She has small, round hands and feet. Her eyes are an enviable shade of blue. And her hair! When she was younger, I ached for her Anne of Green Gables carrot hue. Now she's 60, and while her hair has darkened, it's only gray around her temples. Other moms her age are gray as can be and look every bit their age. My mother, to me, is frozen at 40 and perfect.
She would disagree. She always has. Which is why, despite her best efforts to tell me I'm gorgeous and not-her-definition-of-fat and so trendy and stylish, I will always feel less-than. I learned the art of self-hate from the greatest teacher every little girl has: My mom.
I do everything possible to make sure I'm not teaching my daughter the same accidental lessons. But it requires work. Mom and I chat a lot about being careful about how we talk about ourselves. And I try every day to compliment not only myself but also the women we come in contact with.
I want to expose my kid to a world where everything is beautiful and there is nothing but love. She'll be exposed to a world of judgment soon enough. (Middle school! Ugh!) I give praise like my grandmother handed out cookies: often... and with complete awareness of how special it is. Home will always be a place where we feel ourselves and love ourselves.
If moms want to really teach their daughters that they're beautiful, it takes a conscious effort to change ideology that has been drilled into us since birth. As a mom, I've got to go a little easier on myself... even if I can't break my Starbucks habit and never fit into my old "thin jeans" again.
1. Love yourself in front of your daughter
It's so important to watch how you talk about yourself and look at yourself in front of your children. Being an only child of two working parents, it wasn't uncommon to find myself in a dressing room with my mom because no one could watch me. I'd giggle along with her when she laughed at herself in a skirted one-piece bathing suit, claiming she looked like a dancing hippo from Fantasia. I'd watch her scowl at the dimples in her thighs and see her self-consciously pull sweaters over her soft, fluffy elbows. It didn't matter that when it was my turn to try on clothes, she told me I looked beautiful in everything. I'd already learned how to judge myself. Don't let your daughter see you frantic over increasing sizes. Make sure she sees you loving yourself and she'll learn to love herself, too.
2. Love yourself when you're alone
Mamas, if you want a surefire way to avoid letting your self-hate creep in when you're with your kid, you need to watch it when you're alone, too. So, I'm in Target and that pretty bohemian dress just isn't meant for my huge boobs and poufy stomach. It sucks. But, you know what my boobs look spectacular in? The lacy bras across the aisle or those V-neck Marvel t-shirts. Instead of getting caught up in the one thing that doesn't fit, take in a few things you know are going to look stellar on your bod. It doesn't matter that I won't buy them because I don't need another Thor shirt. It matters that my time in fitting rooms ends on a good note. Do yourself a favor and every time you think something cruel about yourself, stop and give yourself two compliments. It's hard to stop being a Debbie Downer to yourself. But if you can out number your faults with your good qualities, you're on the right track.
3. Love others
Another way I learned to judge myself was by how my mother and grandmother judged others. My mother is a kind, sweet woman, as was my Mamaw. But, Lord, they had some serious opinions on how women should dress. "She's too old for that long hair," was a classic from my grandma. My mother, however, usually fixated on skirt length, saying something like, "She needs another few inches of material to cover that butt of hers." Who is it helping when you say that stuff behind a woman's back? When we judge others, a few things happen: 1) We look like mean girls, when we most likely aren't. 2) We teach our girls to judge one another similarly. 3) We remind our daughters and ourselves that we're being judged and need to worry about what to wear. If we can all learn to stop judging each other, I think we'll all feel a lot more comfortable in our own skin. Wouldn't that be awesome?