What I want my daughter to know about body image: she is strong and beautiful, no matter what.
Kate Winslet once said in an interview, “As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, ‘I love my body.’ Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, ‘I am so proud of my body.’ So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter], because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.”
And that quote has always stuck with me.
But I think most of us will agree, it’s not so simple to truly love your body as it is. And it is one of my biggest fears about raising a daughter—will I be able to help her navigate the rocky road of body image and self-love? Can I help her avoid some of the pain I went through?
Body Image and the Body Trap
I started gaining weight when I was a freshman, and I was already awkward without being overweight. Along came the criticism, teasing, and judgment. I still clearly remember the disapproval of a grandmother, the thoughtless comments of friends and family, and the boys who would turn their backs to me to talk with other girls.
I started dieting my senior year with my experiences ringing in my ears. What followed was ten years of dieting, eating too little, exercising too much, an eating disorder, and body dysmorphia. I was obsessed with counting calories to the point that I would allow myself half of a mini donut or make and re-make lists of places to eat when people came to visit so I wouldn’t eat too many calories that day. And then I would remake it again. Any time I didn’t exercise or ate too much, I suffered extreme self-loathing. I had trouble looking at myself in the mirror.
My Body is Strong and Beautiful
In the book Mothers, Daughters & Body Image: Learning to Love Ourselves as We Are author Hillary L. McBride writes that, in the course of her research, she found that a mother did not have to be perfect or love herself completely to help her daughter do so. She needed to be aware of her negative cycles and patterns. And in doing so, create for “her daughter a ladder out of her own struggles…” so she could climb the steps to body acceptance and love.
With that in mind, I’m not perfect. But I’ve come a long way since then. Yes, I still struggle sometimes, and I still know how many calories are in what I eat. But I also don’t (usually) let that stop me from eating. And now I have a pair of eyes watching everything I do.
So I’m going to start looking into the mirror every day and telling myself how strong and beautiful my body is. And I hope my daughter watches me and starts doing the same thing.
I know she’ll probably struggle. Most of us do at some point. But I want my struggles to be her ladder to self-acceptance so that she can have a better relationship with herself than I ever have. I hope I can help her realize and truly believe that her body is strong and beautiful.
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