I don't think I have ever met a woman who has always loved her body. I'm not even setting the bar at "a woman who has never once had a negative thought about her body," because even the most confident among us have bad moments, days, or even months. I know many women who love their bodies conditionally; they're pleased with themselves until neither the numbers on the scale nor on the tag of their jeans conforms to their ideal. I know some women who liked their bodies well enough once upon a time, when they were younger, but loathe every age-related change they see when they look down or in the mirror. I know some women who have, through introspection and concerted effort, come to love and accept their bodies. But I can honestly say I cannot recall a single woman who has, from birth to now, consistently loved herself. That isn't stopping me from hoping that my children will defy the odds and adore and honor their bodies as much as I adore them, but I'm aware of what an unlikely goal that is to reach.
My relationship with my body is a work in progress. I am continually balancing my sincerely held belief that "all bodies are good bodies" with my insecurity, my confidence, and love of my body with my desire to change x, y, and z. But my kids don't know that, and it's important to me to stick to the positives when I am around them. I don't want them to ever hear me bemoaning my appearance or demurring compliments. Because I believe that my son and especially my daughter will benefit tremendously by having a confident mom who loves her body. (Most of the time they do, other times it's "fake it til you make it," which doesn't get enough credit as a lifestyle choice, in my humble opinion.) The effort, I think, will be well worth it for the following reasons...
They Will Learn Self-Love By Example
It's said that the way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice. I would take it a step further and say that the way we speak to ourselves is absorbed by our little sponges almost as quickly. So when you openly love and honor your own body, your kids will just assume, "Oh. This is how we talk to ourselves. We're supposed to appreciate all of this." And then they'll just do it. They won't see self-appreciation as vain, and they won't assume that it's required or even customary to stare in a mirror and discuss your so-called flaws. Modeling confidence is a great way to encourage it in our children.
They Have One Less Body Negative Voice In Their Lives
Unfortunately, there is going to be so much external pressure telling your children, especially girls, that they should be in a constant state of self-improvement when it comes to their appearance. But your one voice is louder than the rest of them. So when you express, "Damn, I look great today!" They're going to hear that and the impact will be huge.
They Learn That Appearance Is Not The Measure Of Happiness
Loving your body isn't the axis upon which your self-esteem or happiness turns. And when you're not constantly putting your body down, wishing it to be something it isn't, that becomes apparent to children. They see that loving your body is what happens when you love all of you. It's like the incomparable Carrie Fisher recently said...
For real people, the only person cooler than Princess Leia is Carrie Effin' Fisher.
Bodies are brain bags. We should be happy and proud to appreciate the muscles and fat and bones and sinews that enable our brains to read a book or dance a tango. But when you love your body, you realize that it's only a part of who you are. Your body is not an end goal. It's a cog in a much bigger machine.
They Won't Get Weird Ideas About What Bodies Are "Supposed To Look Like"
Just as we ourselves are floating, floundering, or drowning in a sea of homogenized beauty, so are our kids. Subliminally and overtly, they will be told from their earliest years that thin, young, and white are often crucial aspects (among a slew of others) of what it means to be beautiful in modern American society. So when their mother can look at her body — not airbrushed or photoshopped to conformity — and say, "I feel so pretty today! I feel energized and strong!" the children will see that beauty actually comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors.
Confident Mom = Less Stressed Mom
Because when you like your body well enough already — when you're not worried about making sure your make-up is perfect or about measuring every calorie you consume or exert, or what jean size you're wearing — you find you have taken a massive load off your shoulders. Not schlepping around all that awful baggage will give you the space and energy to pick up far more interesting things... and it will absolutely influence your interactions with your children.
If you're not there yet, that's OK, but I promise it will be the most fulfilling "weight" loss of your life.
Images: Courtesy of Jamie Kenney & Kelli Patterson Photography; Giphy(4)