The Beginning Of Body Image

Saturday, 19 October 2013

As Mothers of girls, we often fear the effect the media has or will have on our daughters sense of self worth and body image yet often through concentrating on the big bad villainous media we overlook a girls biggest influence; their Mother.  Long before they are aware of the media, the way they see the world is shaped by what they see and be it play or academia children learn through replication.

How often has your child heard you complain you're fat? How often have they sat down to eat and seen you either not eat or eat something entirely different?  How often have they heard you talk about carbs or calories? Perhaps your child sees your daily ritual of applying make-up before you leave the house?  It's so easy to bitch about celebrities we see whether they've lost weight or put on weight.:

The point is, long before they are exposed to The Media we may have already unknowingly taught them that:

* It's 'wrong' to be fat
* We should diet
* We need to be slim to be accepted
* Certain foods are forbidden
* If we're not slim we're lesser or ugly
* That we should restrict what we eat
* That we need to wear makeup to be 'pretty'
* That we only feel good when we're slim

I'm overweight, a lot.  I feel ugly inside and out most of my life.  Yet, I still ensure I don't hide reality.  The children will use the loo and chat to us whilst we're in the bath.  They know what real bodies look like.  I think it's important that we appear unashamed of our bodies.  That they see that muffin tops, toe dusting boobs, stretch marks etc are all normal.

Has your daughter ever seen you shave your legs?  Do you tell her 'It's what grown-ups do' or do you tell her that personally you don't like the hair on your legs so you choose to remove it.  One gives the message that it's expected and something grown-ups should to do, the latter suggests it's a choice and personal preference.

When I grew up it would seem my mother was permanently on a diet and rarely ever left the house without make-up on.  Even to this day The Husband is endlessly amused how she'll reapply her lipstick before she leaves the house, if she goes to the loo, on the bus etc.  She put me on my first diet at age seven.  Every time she washes her hair she'll then start the time consuming task of drying and styling it meticulously.  Even when wearing jeans she still looks coiffed.  Do you say 'I just need to put my make up on' instead of 'I'd just like to put some make-up on?' They both send out very different messages.

Putting the fact I'm a mentalist aside I'm also probably a slummy mummy.  I wash my hair and let it dry itself.  I only put make-up on if the mood strikes.  I either slum it in jeans and hoodies or else look like a psychotic clown of gothy death.  Hopefully Thing Two will learn to wear whatever she wants, whatever feels comfortable and that the only person she needs to dress for is herself.  I want her to know that she doesn't need make-up or false nails or a tan to be beautiful.  I want her to know that she is enough.  That the only thing she should be or needs to be is herself.  I want her to know the importance of healthy food and exercise yet to realise it's also fine to curl up on the sofa and eat chocolate and ice cream.  I want her to realise that a size 0 isn't 'the norm'.  I want her to learn to love all that make her so irresistibly her, like the little bump on the side of her nose or the missing top tooth that has taken 5 years to even think of reappearing.

I want her to realise that the outside is not a reflection of the inside.  An apple can look perfect yet still be rotten inside.  That there is no perfect.  That it doesn't exist, it's all subjective.

I want her to look beyond the skin of others.

I want her to accept that it's okay if somebody doesn't like her, it's not about her it's about them .

I want her to be comfortable in her own skin.

It's not just about the girls though.  Never underestimate the effect your own body image has on your son too.  You are their female role model, you are what teaches them what a woman is and in their mind how a woman should be.  How you present yourself can determine how they judge other females.  You are their point of reference.  The messages you send out about yourself can directly influence how they view females  and can form the basis of what they expect and accept as being healthy and normal.  You are their first point of reference, their default image to womanhood.


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