How Kate Winslet Taught Me I'm Not Showing My Daughters the Right Things About Body Image
Recently, I’ve started to see my daughters’ bodies changing. Not quite puberty yet, but a little rounder here, a little curvier there. Yep, it’s almost time to have “the talks” in my house.
I’ve done my best to protect their body images. I never talk about diet, although they rarely see me eat bread or pasta (seriously, goes right to my hips), try not to complain (to them) about the wrinkles and sags, and never complain when my jeans feel too tight.
Growing up, my parents were overzealous in always telling me how beautiful I was, even during my spiral-permed, over make-upped, short skirt wearing period (which seemed to last years). They always told me I looked great whether I just gained the Freshman 15 or lost a few pounds of my winter chubbiness. I was lucky. Really, really lucky.
And my husband and I have tried to do the same for our girls. We constantly talk about how beautiful they are, along with complimenting their intelligence, kindness, athleticism, and any other things we can say to empower them to believe in themselves. We truly believe that positive affirmations can make positive minds.
That’s why when I saw this quote from Kate Winslet the other day, it rocked my world.
"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."
Credit: © Pete Mariner/UPPA/ZUMAPRESS.com
Read more body quotes by Kate here.
Crap. She’s right. In doing my best to not say anything negative about my body (or anyone else’s), I realized I’ve certainly never said anything positive. What kind of mixed message is that to a girl about to grow breasts (well, maybe one of them will take after my husband’s side of the family), combat acne, face mood swings, and all those other things that come with growing up. Or a girl who is constantly shown by the media what she is “supposed” to look like.
So, I do what I always do in these types of situations. I bring it up in the van on the way to some activity.
I asked my daughters what their favorite feature was about me, and then themselves. My girls loved my hair, my smile, and one of them said every piece of me. I told them I loved my long legs, the color of my eyes, and how strong my arms have become.
We also talked about what we didn’t like about ourselves, and their answers were hilarious. It ranged from my youngest’s crooked toe to one of my twin’s mole on her ear. I carefully chose my own least favorite features to share with them, because I had to be honest. There will always be things you don’t like about yourself, but there should always be more to love.
I found it challenging to share the three things I liked about my looks, particularly since I’ve spent too much time focusing on the things that I hate about my appearance.
But it was also cathartic. I really believe that unhappiness stems from looking at things in pieces, instead of the totality of a situation. For example, I shouldn’t give up on a ten-year relationship because of one hurtful comment a friend made, or just because my kids eat poorly on vacation doesn’t mean they are unhealthy eaters. It’s about looking at the entire length of something, not just the bumps in the middle.
This is how I’m beginning to look at my appearance. In totality, when I look at myself in the mirror, it’s not so bad. I cannot get so hung up on the individual flaws, or how can I teach my daughters to love themselves? Their whole selves.
Just doing that exercise helped my whole psyche. This morning, without prompting, I told my girls I felt strong today, so I was going to do an extra hard work out, and then I was going to get my summer clothes out because I was excited to show off “my guns.” It was fun to compare our muscles and talk positively for once, as opposed to avoiding the “body” topic all together.
And my goal is to talk more about the positives about my body to my girls. I’m sure it won’t be easy, because I’ve spent a long time focusing on the things I don’t like, but I’m looking forward to focusing on some of the things I do.
Because I believe in positive affirmations, so I better start off with some about me if I’m going to get my kids to believe the ones I’m telling them.
Be kind to yourself today. You deserve it!
I am obviously not an expert in body image issues, so I would like to pass along this article from SparkPeople by Health Educator Liza Barnes. It offers some great tips to help your kids love their bodies.