Ever since I started making this blog public on my Facebook and Twitter pages, friends have been sending me links to various articles, pictures, etc. as inspiration. I have a bookmark folder full of pages, and hope to do as many of them justice as I am able.
Today, however, I found a link on a friend’s page that moved me, and I wanted to share it with you right away. The story is titled,
I highly recommend you read the article, but if you’re (word)pressed for time, I’ll give you the Coles Notes (Cliff Notes, for you non-Canadians) version here. A mother of FIVE (impressive/brave enough as is . . . ) watches her 7 year old daughter examine her body in the mirror. The girl tells her, “I’m Fat”. After twenty minutes of feminist, healthy talk, the mom is at a loss. She finally strips off her own clothes, makes her body jiggle, and makes up a rap along the lines of “We are perfect, just the way we are”. The girl ends up laughing, but the mom is left unsure if she has changed anything.
Every generation, the pressure on girls (and boys) to achieve the perfect body seems to grow and grow as the “ideal” body shrinks and shrinks. The onus isn’t just on parents anymore to raise their children to be strong, confident human beings, especially since the media is often more present in a child’s life than her mother or father. It is up to every person to make the world a more loving, accepting place.
But where do we start?
As a child of three, I stood in the mirror crying because I knew I was fat and ugly and that I hated myself. At five, I sighed during story time, because my thighs were too fat to ever be a fairy tale princess. I knew these things to be true, and nothing anyone could have said would have changed my mind. These messages don’t come from nowhere, but the answer to countering these beliefs is just as elusive as the cause.
To this day, the things I see in the mirror quite often disgust me. No matter how many people tell me differently, I don’t know how to love my body. I KNOW that the content of a person’s character is what matters. I KNOW that my body does (most of) what it’s supposed to, and it’s easier to walk and run and dance when I’m not emaciated. But these beliefs are ingrained in me. It’s all I know. I’m told that I should stand in front of a mirror and tell myself I’m beautiful until I believe it, but honey, a girl’s gotta work . . . I can’t spend all my time in a mirror.
I’ll get there someday. It’ll take a lot of work, and a lot of opening up to new ideas that make me ridiculously uncomfortable. Sometimes being kind to yourself is more painful than cruelty.
But that’s beside the point. How do we make this different for the next generation, so they don’t have to suffer the way we have? The mother in this article had the right idea.
Wherever we turn, we see women who are dissatisfied with their bodies. It doesn’t matter if they’re fat, thin, or in between, everyone wants to change something, and most people do it quite publicly.
“I can’t eat that.”
“Do you know how many calories are in that?”
“Ugh, I need to go to the gym.”
Women we emulate on tv, in movies, and in real life for their brains, kindness, achievements, etc. are on a diet. If we want to be like them, then we should diet, too, yes?
There’s a woman I admire very much. She has struggled through many unimaginable obstacles in her life. She could have let the pain overwhelm her, but instead she decided that she had more to offer the world than another suffering body. She did the work. She learned to love herself and her body, and doesn’t apologize for it. Anyone who spends any amount of time with her wants to be like her. Yes, she is gorgeous, but she is also brilliant and kind and caring and loving and the personification of “light”. She is going to change the world.
This change doesn’t start with other people, though. We can’t change other people, but imagine what we could do if, as a generation, we decided to only speak positively about ourselves, and be ok with just “being”. Our children (well, not MY children . . . that ain’t happening) would see successful women who live the proof that it’s ok to love themselves.
Women (and men) of the world, I want to issue a challenge. Let’s stop striving for perfection, and instead strive to be someone we’d like our children to emulate. I know, it’s going to take a long time and a lot of work. We’ve all harmed our bodies and souls, and learning to live another way won’t be easy. But next time you’re on the subway, look at the little child in the stroller across from you (no, not the screaming one . . . pick one you don’t want to strangle). What do you wish for that child? Now go and make that wish happen for yourself.
” . . . maybe if we are surrounded in beauty/Someday we will become what we see”
Jan. 19/12 – just found this article that echoes what I was saying . . .
Parents’ New Year’s Resolution Weight Loss Behaviors Can Contribute to Eating Disorders in Children