Our daily lives are impacted by body image. We choose outfits, style our hair, or do our makeup because of the way it will make us feel. I have always had a fairly negative body image. It comes and goes, but is mostly negative.
When I found out I was pregnant three years ago I remember being so careful about what I ate, exercising as much as I could, and preparing myself to teach a future daughter how to have a good self-image.
And then I had a son. Phew! That was a relief. Back to the usual routine of tears getting dressed and wishing I looked different. I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge of teaching another human being about a positive self-worth and thankfully I didn’t have to.
In those three years I have grown a lot. I rarely get sad or frustrated when determining what outfit to wear and spend less time comparing myself to others around me. But I still do it. We all still do it.
I was in the early stages of pregnancy. You know. The stage where people aren’t sure if you haven’t lost the baby weight from the first one, are having a second baby, or have indulged in the beer garden a bit too much. So began the days of yoga pants and stretchy skirts – and feeling self-conscious despite the fact I was growing a human being. My go to was a white gauze skirt that I could wear with everything. It was comfy and covered a lot of ‘flaws.’
My son paid little attention to my clothes until the day I walked out in that dressed. He made an audible squeal and exclaimed that I look just like Anna and Elsa!!!! I must be a princess!!!
I would never want my little man to think of me or any other woman as anything but beautiful. Why should I judge so harshly what he finds so lovely? I made a change that day. If he finds me beautiful, then I am beautiful.
Our daycare is always doing fun things to keep the kids engaged, including fun dress up days. One ‘Wacky Wednesday’ I helped my son find the craziest outfit we could find. He hurriedly got dressed, looked in the mirror and promptly burst into tears.
A million questions raced through my head: does he hate his outfit? Is it not what he was expecting? Is it not ‘wacky’ enough?
And then his answer came muffled through the sobs: I don’t want the other kids to laugh at me.
In that moment I felt inferior as a mother – helpless because my son didn’t want to be laughed at, angry that he might be, but mostly disappointed in myself that I never realized my boys would need just as much teaching and understanding on body image as any daughter I may have.
We hugged. And found a wacky outfit for his 6-month old brother. And we talked. We talked about confidence and that as long as he is happy with what he is wearing it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. We talked about getting laughed at, and how to ignore it if that happens (and parents – it WILL happen). We talked about choosing kind words and not laughing with our friends, because nobody wants to be laughed at.
This was a hard day on this momma. I want to protect him from the world but need him to learn. I felt powerless; and then I realized my power is teaching my children. My power is showing my boys how to overcome. My power is building self-confidence in my sons. My power is leading by example and exuding confidence so that my sons sees confidence, feel confidence, and know that it is ok to be who we are.