Boobs. They all want them. In some way, shape or form. The girls all want to look like Victoria’s Secret models before they have breast buds. From the time girls are in strollers to hanging with chums at the mall, Victoria’s Secret and younger sister brand, Pink, dominate the visual space. (Is it not totally unnecessary to have ginormous cleavage flanking the mall walls? But the customers, in the end, are men).
When I saw the bikini tops my 15 year old bought at the mall, I was like, seriously? This is what they are selling to the tweens and teens now? Bathing tops with 1 inch thick foam inserts that are sewn in?
I told my daughter that I appreciated the mix and match bathing suits. There is some progress in fashion industry when women can actually choose bottoms and tops that fit their body type. But I didn’t appreciate the unnecessary bulk, sorry to say. I told Sophie she had to return the pink falsie bikini top.
At some point a mom has to put her foot down. We can’t let culture take over! The bathing top has been sitting in her drawer for the last few weeks. I’m sure she’s lost the receipt by now. She really didn’t put up a fuss, funny enough. It may end up at a friend’s house. Or on Facebook, worn by someone else.
Then, on a recent morning, a client came in frazzled. I assumed it was a kid issue with school being out and structure tossed out the window. I simply asked how she was doing and what was the first thing she thought of when she woke up.
“I hate my body.”
That was your very first thought when you woke up?
“Yup, I feel disgusting. In fact, I can’t stand myself right now.”
How many women wake up hating their bodies? The meanest hour of all must be the mornings, when you look in the mirror or take a shower. You are face-to-face with your body. Countless women have said similar things over the years. That internal conversation of mean fat talk. It’s even been referred to as “normative discontent.”
This self-loathing begins at an early age. And just like my daughter trying to have a body she doesn’t yet have—and may never grow into—makes me want to cry. I don’t know if she hates her body. She appears to still be idealistic and hopeful about her self, her body, her life.
Here’s the thing. We women become our own worst critics and we inadvertently teach this self-hatred to our girls, whether we say it out loud or not. We have a biological default setting to look out for the big, bad and the ugly (and often it’s the reflection in the mirror). It’s called the negativity bias and our brains are wired for it. Women are experts at social comparison. It’s innate. The problem is we negatively compare ourselves to others and have a difficult time appreciating the positive. Anything positive. Many women even give up on the very essential task of self-care. They just give up! Can’t blame them. Who can live up to the fashion covers and cultural messages about beauty and graceful aging? It’s hard to talk oneself out of self-loathing when the world shows you what you will never be.
Here’s the thing that women and moms need to embrace:
- Love and appreciate the body you have, the body you’ve grown into. Do this for yourself and do this for your daughters. Help them change mindsets early on by treating yourself with kindness and self-care.
- When you take care of your body and appreciate its amazing ability (to walk, run, play sports, dance, carry babies, and so), your children will take in this positive behavior and body image on an unconscious level.
- Teach your girls that they will likely inherit the body shapes of other females in the family tree (biological relatives). This is REALITY. So the best way to take care of what nature gave you, is to eat well, exercise, reduce stress, get sleep, and be appreciative of your own gifts.
- The most beautiful people are the ones who feel comfortable in their bodies no matter the size and shape.
I have to catch myself sometimes, though. I can be hard to walk the talk. Recently, I was musing aloud in the car. My younger daughter had her ear buds in.
I really need to find a gym. I like to get in some cardio. Yoga is great but I need to get my heart rate going more.
As if on cue, Josie, my younger daughter with the supersonic ears, proclaimed in a deadpan voice:
“When women reach midlife their metabolism changes. The nutrition and exercise that may have worked in the past won’t work now.”
I glanced at her for a long moment. Really?
“I heard that on a commercial recently.”
Well said. What diet pill were they pushing??
“I can’t remember. Some medication.”
So there you have it. The pharmaceutical companies take over from the damage the lingerie shops and fashion rags of the world have done to women’s self-confidence. Their advertising goes right to the heart to the matter – changing bodies – and spins this as a lost hope that only meds can revive.
Shoot me. (Ok, not really.) But it became a teachable moment for this mother and daughter pair about changing bodies over the lifespan—as well as a bit of media literacy on what the ads are selling. The fact of the matter? At my glorious middle age, I do need to exercise more—but for my heart health and for more energy. If I lose a pound or two, that’s a bonus.
No more talking aloud to myself. I just need to do it and let my daughters know I feel great when my body and mind are in a good place. That’s the best role model I can be.
* * *
Do you hate your body? Does your daughter?
If you are a mom in need of support and coaching, let’s talk.