As my daughters are growing and their bodies are changing, I know their opinions about themselves may easily be shaped by others’ comments. As a growing child, I did not notice or mind that my thighs were thick until other people so kindly pointed it out for me. Even trusted family members with good intentions taught me that I have “thunder thighs” at age 6. I learned from a boy in middle school that I had a “bubble butt”. Being one of the first girls in middle school to get boobs, my body somehow became open for discussion. Friends, family members and complete strangers were constantly telling me how I do or do not look. My mind was being shaped, before my body, about what was good or bad, desirable or unattractive.
The bad news.
The media gets a bad rap for pressuring females to conform to a certain size. TV is using sexy women to sell cheeseburgers during NFL commercials. Magazines in the check out line at Target are praising celebrities for losing however many lbs. Social media is full of highlight reels and filtered images. Obviously these messages are bad and they are everywhere. However, with or without these outside influences, I would argue that sometimes the worst offenders are people in our daugher’s lives, telling them about their own bodies. Others are and will tell my daughters that they should keep their bodies a certain size and shape. And I have little control.
I have a close family friend who told my oldest daughter at 7 years old that it’s “good to be small” if you’re a girl. She explained that girls should desire to stay as tiny as they can forever. My blood was boiling and I knew my innocent daughter’s mind was being shaped in that very moment. I still wish I had intervened in that conversation, but I stood dumbfounded.
The good news.
We may not be able to control the message that our daughters are being bombarded with — be small, stay tiny, skinny = good, your worth is in your size. But we can control ourselves and what we allow and don’t allow in our own homes.
Since Lucy was born 10 years ago, my weight and body image has been up and down and all around. I have gone through seasons of pure laziness, obsessive calorie-counting and everywhere in between. When Clara was in Kindergarten, she filled out one of those adorable Mother’s Day questionnaires with answers like
My mom’s favorite food is salad.
My mom’s favorite TV show is workout videos.
My mom’s favorite thing to do is go for a run.
My mom loves to take me with her to the gym.
It was just one more reminder that my young girls are paying attention. It took me right back the wake up call I received years earlier when Lucy asked me (at 3yo) if eating a banana will make her fat. It was that day that “fat” became a word we no longer use in our house. (Since then, “skinny” has also been added to the list).
Let’s stop commenting on their size
Just like we tell our sons how strong they are, let’s tell our daughters, too. Let’s comment on how their skin is glowing or how amazing their flushed cheeks look right after her swim race.
Let’s stop talking negatively about our own bodies
I could share with you my long list of grievances with my own body, but I won’t focus on them here and I especially will not utter a single word about them in front of my impressionable, growing girls. More is caught than taught. When I start talking about my imperfections or obsessively weighing myself, I know there are two sets of eyes and ears who are paying attention.
Lastly, let’s stop commenting on other women’s bodies in front of our girls.
Honestly, we should stop talking about this anyway, but especially in front of our daughters. I know it feels innocent to say to one of our friends, “Have you seen Kris lately? She looks amazing! She has lost a ton of weight!”. It sounds positive, but it portrays to our daughters that weighing less = positive attention = worthy.
What things do you allow or not allow to happen in your home? In what ways are you promoting healthy body image for your daughters? I would love to hear from you!