My earliest memory of thinking about my body size was in the forth grade on one of my first days as a student of a new school. Up until that point, it had never come up.
My friends came in all shapes and sizes and none of us thought much of it. I’m not sure if it was the age we were at, or being a stranger in a new place, but one of the girls in my new class made a comment about how heavy I was and my whole world shifted.
Looking back now, I was by no means the biggest girl in my class, far from it actually, but I was the newest and the shyest. Regardless of what was fact and what wasn’t, things were never the same again. Fast forward through more than 20 years of struggle, which included, among many other things; self-hate, depression, yo-yo diets, binge eating and starvation, until one day, when I found myself in a loving relationship and about to have a baby. Everything changed again.
I began to see more of the whole picture. I remember the way I felt while I watched close family members let their size chip away at their self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. I recalled all the time, thought and energy I had wasted on my obsessive focus on weight. I knew one thing, as I stood with my hand on my 30-some-week, pregnant belly: my children were not going to live like this. Letting the number on the scale, or what you THINK other people think about you, was never going to even be on my kids’ radar.
My husband has a normal, healthy relationship with food and his body. That is what I wanted for my children.
So, I enlisted the help of a counselor and began doing something I do best – research. I would become the role model I wanted for my children.
I did my homework and field tested many strategies. I made a plan, continually reviewed it, and made changes where needed. I started adopting healthy SUSTAINABLE habits and sticking with them. And even more importantly than fixing my physical health, I was working on getting my head right.
No more self-deprecating talk. No more obsession with eating this or not that. No more letting my appearance affect my confidence.
I wanted my children to have all of the time and energy I’ve put into one stupid goal of reaching a magic number on the scale, to be put to much better use. I wanted that for me too.
I look back on all of the things I could have done instead of making myself feel bad over the size written on the tag of my jeans. And I’ve learned that in reality, that number hasn’t even mattered to me. At my fittest and smallest, it was still “never good enough”.
Today, when I look at my 3 year old and 1 year old, I see their perfect little bodies, and their perfect sense of self-worth. I look at my body and see the woman my partner loves and the miraculous body that brought two perfect beings into this world and works hard to care for them each day.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still a work in progress, but I no longer look back at pictures of my 13 year old self and sneer in disgust. I don’t say negative things (aloud – I’m still working on my internal self-talk) about myself. I am a work in progress, but already I’ve grown so much.
If my children were to begin today, to emulate my relationship with my body, I wouldn’t be 100% satisfied (there is always room for growth), but I know that I’ve done well so far. Sometimes when I look in the mirror and smile at myself, I can almost imagine the look of surprise on my 20-something-year old face. That girl NEVER smiled in satisfaction or admiration at her reflection, but this one does. And so will my babies.
Mirror, Mirror on the wall.
Does it matter if I’m short or tall?
If I twist and turn and sneer and puff.
Am I telling my children we aren’t good enough?
Self-esteem and body image seem to go hand in hand and all too often I hear people blaming society for the unreasonable expectations that are put on children these days.
Too many princesses with hourglass figures, too many heroes that have chiseled abs and strong jaw lines. We see depictions of perfection with enhanced photos and the folks in movies that have it all. All too often the leading men and women in movies, video games and advertisements don’t really represent the majority of the population.
Where do our children get the first whispers of who fits in where and what is beautiful or acceptable? “Do as I say, not as I do” only goes so far and we really need to lead by example.
As we, at Rosy Window Productions developed “Perfectly Me” to encourage young people to notice how well their bodies worked for them and how everyone is unique and fits just right, I couldn’t help but wonder how many Moms and Dads out there are feeling that way about their own physique.
Please, learn to love yourself, just the way you are! Sure you can aspire to be all that you can be, get some regular exercise, eat properly, maybe adjust your weight a few pounds either way, but do it for health sake. Let your children see that you love your body, that you take time for self-care because you value yourself and that you appreciate the way you are. It is not selfish or egotistical to take time for yourself, children that grow up with parents who look after themselves will be more inclined to do the same.
People come in all different shapes and sizes and if you marvel at how a 200 plus pound person can model bathing suites, the answer is simple, they are not hung up on how others will look at them – great body image – excellent self-esteem.
Imagine if you were hiking on a lovely summer day, you are on a beautiful path going up a slight slope. What if you said to yourself, "wow, my legs are so tired this slope seems like it's getting steeper," and with that thought, there is a low rumble under the earth and a hill pushes up beneath your feet!
Well, now you are faced with a steeper hill, without a pause you think, "holy cow! This is turning into a mountain of a hill," and again a rumple and a shake , you are faced with a mountain. “Oh great!” you say, “every mountain path has a narrow trail, rocks and crevices, I can sure tell what I’m in for!” Sure enough, the path gets treacherous.
Thankfully, this does not happen when hiking and when we embark on a trek, we have the proper gear. Our hiking experience helps us choose safe passage, and if we are going to take a road less traveled we have google maps, or friends that will help us find our way...
This is not the case when navigating some of the “molehills” that we come across in our lives, if we do not use logical thought an automatic, negative re-frame may happen and a much more treacherous mental story is created. This can transforms that molehill into a much more difficult to navigate, mountain.
Remember, you have your gear, your past experiences can guide you and if it’s uncharted territory you do have resources and people to turn to.
Keep the molehills small and enjoy the hike!
Rosy Window Staff