Moms, this one’s for you.
How many times in a day do you put your physical appearance down in your head? C’mon. Be honest. You don’t have to tell anyone, just have an honest moment with yourself and come up with a number. Every time you pass a mirror in the mall, catch a glimpse of yourself in the rearview mirror, see yourself in a picture…count them all.
How many times do you let that voice inside your head leak out? Usually that voice is disguised as,…well, it sounds a lot like your own voice. It says things like, “Oh, I look so fat,” and “If I could only lose 10 pounds,” “Ohmigod, I look HORRIBLE!”
Now, think about how many times you’ve let that internal dialogue leak out in front of your children?
Now, I am NOT judging, because there was a time when I would self-deprecate every 10 minutes. It was a circular litany of phrases like, “I’m fat, I look old, my hair is horrible, I have too many wrinkles, look at my flabby stomach..” The list is endless. But one day I caught my oldest daughter, at the tender age of 7, looking at herself from all angles in our hallway mirror saying, “Ugh. I am so fat. Look at how big my stomach is. I really need to go on a diet.”
I was shocked. Horrified. Nauseated. And I began to realize that my leaky internal dialogue was fueling the same self-loathing and hyper-criticism in my daughter. Tears welled up in my eyes. How could I let this be the legacy I was passing on to her? I wasn’t teaching her to value her intellect or her creativity or her compassion. For all of my feminist ranting, I was reducing her to one element: her physical appearance. I was guilty of what I had condemned so many men for.
So now I am cautious my internal dialogue, and about how much of it leaks out, not only for my daughters, but for my son as well. For I do not want him to grow up thinking that a woman’s value is directly correlated to her pants size or her bust size. I choose to speak about the things I value in myself in all realms of my being: physical, intellectual, and emotional. I celebrate myself and my body. I am kind to it. And I am teaching my children to do the same.
So, next time that internal dialogue goes the direction of self-hatred, steer it another way. Are you going to have bad days? Of course. Do I fancy myself a Greek goddess meets Camille Paglia every day? Of course not. But do not give in to that little voice in your head. Find something, anything, even in your most desperate moment of self-doubt, that you love about yourself. And then be kind to yourself.