"Love is NOT a dress size." Image sourced via TA.
“Hey Mom! Mom! Hey Mom! Mom!....”
I peered over the rim of my glasses at my daughter, to see her standing in a cute floral sundress we’d purchased for her recently.
“...Do I look fat in this?”
She placed a hand on her hip, looking up at me with earnest worry on her fragile face.
I didn’t really know how to respond. I was kind of blown away, to be honest.
because an eight year old shouldn’t be worrying about being fat (She’s not, by the way. At all. Nor should she be. She’s EIGHT.)
because I had just asked my husband, Clark, this same question a few nights ago about my dress when we were getting ready to go to her recital. I’m not sure where this preoccupation with body image started, or why it is a necessary evil for us to have fulfilling lives, but it stinks. While there are studies about obesity in children and it has definitely made the news, so I'm not discounting the realities of that, my kid literally looks like a twig. I can't even begin to fathom how a kid her age has
been brainwashed into thinking she is a failure somehow, yet here I am, "failing" her for the same reason by not setting a better example.
Love is NOT a dress size.
Your value should not be based on a number or letter tag on a piece of clothing. Your value should also not be influenced by near-anorexic models or photoshopped celebrities. Your value should be based in who you are and what good you bring to the world. That’s not saying that we all don’t have days that we feel ugly or not ourselves. I’m not against wearing makeup or trying to look nice, but my eight-year-old daughter asking me this really woke me up to the example I set for her, by being just as preoccupied with image as society deems us necessary to be.
That being said, I don’t completely blame myself. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that even the magazines geared towards kids focus on many of the same issues we deal with as adults, only a bit more sugarcoated (sometimes.) We are bombarded with media since we leave the womb that compels us to buy things, to look a certain way, and to behave in “acceptable” ways. We are constantly competing with society's ideal of perfection rather than instilling in our children the realities and beauties of imperfection (as true perfection, if that makes any sense.) The constant state of dissatisfaction is alarming. Camille opened my eyes to the fact that, if I can’t be comfortable in my own skin, how can I instill a positive body image in my kids?
I have cellulite. I wear a dress size waaaay larger than I ever would have imagined wearing in my twenties. After having two kids and gaining 40+ pounds during each pregnancy, I’m nowhere near the size 0-2 I once was. I’m reaching that age where the idea of going for a run is the equivalent of doing math in junior high school (Definitely not a math whiz.) I have fat in areas I never even knew existed until I gained weight. I can’t even begin to comprehend how to look at a nosetrap, but I probably would fail that, too. These are all facts.
What is also a fact is that these facts are irrelevant.
My husband loves me at 160 lbs as much as he loved me at 120. My family and friends don’t even notice the weight like I do, or feel any differently about me because of it. My kids think I’m old so they don’t exactly care, either. Society is so imperfect that it fails to see or highlight the perfections that exist in each of us. Instead, we are under a constant barrage of what we should represent rather than what we are. And this negative self-talk is destructive, especially to kids. All sexes face this type of social discrimination on some level, and we are challenged by society to simply accept it as the right way, and the only way. I remember constantly struggling with my weight, often to the point I would starve myself to stay a particular size. I was so distraught because I always thought I was too ugly, too short, too hairy, and too different to be loved. I don’t want my kids to go through that type of self-doubt.
I won’t say that I don’t find models beautiful or wish I could pull off some of the fashions they can, but I will never be a super model. I will also never be an astrophysicist. And that isn’t by choice, but simply that I don’t have it in me to be either. But the honest to God truth?
to be fat, or skinny, or round, or flat, or tall, or short.
to have a lazy eye or bad teeth or speech impediments.
to be who you are, and
to cultivate a positive image of yourself without fearing the peer pressure of media. And the reason is this: If everything and everyone were “perfect” and met the image that society places on a golden pedestal-- how boring and monotonous would it be? Society shouldn’t be concerned with the size of your thigh gap or how much cellulite a celebrity has had photoshopped off their butt. Instead of setting an often unreachable bar, it would be great if they didn’t set one at all. If the products are worth their salt, it would be great to see if they could sell themselves. If we continue to be consistently
and seek perfection, we will never be satisfied with ourselves and the constant criticism will create a void where our self-esteem once was.
It's a very bleak reality, but a glimmer of hope is coming through a surprising form: media. It’s honestly refreshing to see so many advertisements changing their tune and displaying people with “real” figures and so many bloggers seeking social reform and bringing attention to these issues. I don’t know what the results will be of this, if any, but for my children’s sake, I hope it is far-reaching. Fat-shaming (and skinny-shaming, for that matter) is such an ignorant way to live.
We should be more accepting of others, including ourselves.
The fact that we've been conditioned to the point of being hypercritical is a problem in itself. So the only real solution is to stop, look around,
start focusing on being happy with what your mama (and daddy, and grandparents, etc) gave ya.
Starting today, I am setting a good example for my kids.
No more negative self-talk, no more frowning at mirrors, and no more whining about dress sizes. And I am definitely going to start focusing more on helping my kids build a positive self-image by explaining to them that what the media dictates is unrealistic, and at best, often undesirable. Our children deserve to keep their childhoods intact, and be able to make informed choices on how they perceive themselves and those around them. They should be focused on playing, learning, and creating-- not if they are too fat to fit into a dress.