One of the biggest stresses for me around vacation isn’t the trip itself — it’s what I’m going to wear. Packing for our last family trip, I kept in mind two main thoughts. First, it was going to be a five-day trip with lots of sunshine and lots of walking. Second, with two kids in tow who weren’t huge fans of the whole “close-to-double-digit-mile-daily-walks” thing, comfy clothes were an absolute must. As parents, we do anything to cut down on potential whining and meltdowns.
But after I packed my girls’ suitcases and stared down at mine, this whole comfort strategy got overwhelming pretty quickly, and I started to panic a little. I don’t want to be too hot — should I go sleeveless? Or will people stare at me? High-waisted leggings and a long-line sports bra … it’ll keep me comfortable all day, but am I too fat to wear this style? And, most importantly to me in my mind, how will my daughters feel about my look? Because the last thing I’d ever want to do is ruin our vacation by embarrassing them.
But happily, this spin-out didn’t last the entire time. Even better: for me, a woman with intense body image issues, this trip actually turned out to be a surprising breath of fresh air. We saw bodies of every shape and size donning whatever fashion they enjoyed without a second thought. They didn’t give a care — and what’s better, neither did my kiddos.
You see, I came from a household where conversations around body image and weight were minefields. More often than not, the judgments tossed around about other people’s bodies were an attempt to cover up your own insecurities. Like, just because they make it in your size doesn’t mean you should wear it. Which was just another way of saying I’m envious that they have the confidence to rock that style, and I never will.
I’ve made a very conscious decision not to make comments like that in front of my daughters, or really, at all. Because truthfully, it’s absolutely nobody’s business what someone decides to wear. It’s a hard habit to break when society has totally ingrained the notion into your mind that only a person of a certain shape and size is allowed to wear whatever they want without reservation.
What I love most about this change in thinking is that not only have I given myself permission to wear whatever I want with confidence, but my daughters do the same. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever once heard them talk about their body, size, or shape in a negative way, and I couldn’t be more grateful. In reality, there is no reason that they shouldn’t be comfortable in their own skin, but it’s always been my greatest fear that they would repeat my experiences.
Can you imagine being barely out of elementary school and already thinking about how many calories you can burn during gym class? Or meticulously logging every calorie you eat because you really want to slim down (when you’re still growing into your body)? My heart breaks for a younger me. But I know better now, and I’m determined to keep pursuing my journey of body acceptance so my girls don’t struggle the way I did.
I am incredibly proud of my daughters’ acceptance of their own bodies and their non-judgment when it comes to people who are shaped differently than they are. Will there come a time when a positive body image doesn’t come as easily to them as it does right now? Probably. But I feel confident that I am laying the groundwork for body positivity by setting an example and giving them the tools to love and respect all that their bodies can do instead of just what they look like. My girls are growing up with body acceptance as the rule, not the exception. And after a tumultuous relationship with my own body that has spanned nearly my entire life, I couldn’t be happier about it.
That being said, it doesn’t mean body acceptance is an easy journey. Every day is a struggle. Sometimes I think maybe it would just be easier to go back to unhealthy habits like skipping meals and over-exercising just long enough to get my body back to a place that is easier to accept. But what would that even look like now? Back to a place where the aesthetic came from a place of hate and disgust? And what’s more, how can I justify treating my own body like this when it would absolutely break my heart to see my daughters do the same?
That’s the thing about body acceptance. It’s not always a straight line, but it is absolutely worth it. Learning to accept yourself at any size, shape, and age is truly a gift. Because while some things about your body may stay consistent, you change every day, and year over year. Making peace with the fact that changing is just what bodies do keeps your mind in a healthy space. And what better way to teach our children this lesson than by leading by example?
So cheers to living in comfortable clothes. Hurrah for refusing to miss a beat because of the maniacal inner dialogue. Most importantly, celebrate every moment you experience with your littles, regardless of what you’re wearing. Believe it or not, they won’t remember what you looked like at that exact moment in time. What they will remember — and cherish — are the memories you create together.