This is likely the most raw thing I will share for quite some time. It’s something I play with talking about, but never find the courage to follow through. And while I do often share “personal” things, those things still remain quite vague for the most part. Sharing something like this requires a level of clarity that goes beyond a vaguely referenced yet highly personal concept. So what is it? I want to talk about the one thing I never want my daughter to hear. And I can’t just talk about the thing itself, I have to talk about the reasons why.
But first, let me share a little back story with you. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist. I truly hate admitting that, but I also hate lying. I have a bit of a self critic that likes to thoroughly examine my every decision, my every move, my every everything.
To be real, we’ve become great friends over the years—my self critic and me.
I have foolishly come to really trust and value the opinion of my self critic, and here I am, twenty-something years later, recovering from an unhealthy relationship with myself.
My self critic hasn’t been safe, yet I have given it access to every area of my life, allowing near torment way more times than I would ever like to admit. Whether it was my school grade as an innocent second grader, my inability to fit into a click in high school, or my decisions as a college student to totally change paths, my inner critic has always been there to graciously remind me that I am not good enough.
And that self critic inside me gets its greatest joy and pleasure from examining every single detail of the body that houses it.
I lived most of my childhood and my teenage years being entirely overweight. It wasn’t for lack of discipline or self control, but rather for lack of knowledge. I truly didn’t know any different. I thought some girls were lucky and got to be skinny, and others weren’t. I was one of the unlucky ones. I dealt with a lot of shame and embarrassment, and I was made fun of more times than I can remember. Still, in the midst of all of that, the person that was the hardest on me… was me.
Why? Because I believed that all of society valued women based on their weight and their body type. And it wasn’t movies or T.V. or billboards and posters that taught me that. It was real people in my life.
And maybe you think that means people said things directly to me, but that wasn’t how it started. This belief that society values women based on appearance and body type came not from being told that, but from listening and observing those around me. It came from paying attention to the way in which the women in my life spoke about their own bodies and the bodies of others. And each time I overheard these statements of value, I experienced a deep sadness, realizing that my own body did not measure up.
I began to realize that if those around me were constantly making judgements and speaking harsh words about others, that it was most likely that other people would make the same judgments and statements about me. So I began to judge myself. I wanted to beat others to the punch. I felt like I somehow had the upper hand if I made the judgements about myself first—because then at least somehow I was aware and that made me feel less humiliated.
And that’s how it happened. The harsh words and judgements of others filled my heart and mind and led me down a path of self destruction. It has taken me years to realize the impact those words had, but I find myself much stronger and mores self aware because of it.
And most importantly, I find myself deeply longing to protect my daughter from those things. And I know it starts with me. So the one thing I never want my daughter to hear is me, her mother, talking about others in such a way that places their value in their appearance, weight, or body type. I never want her to hear me speaking about someone else in such a way that could leave her wondering, “do people think that about me.” I never want her to hear me speak in such a way that would communicate that another person is worthless based on their appearance, or that they are less valuable because they struggle with their weight.
And above all, I never want her to hear me talk about myself in this way. The ugly (and far from honoring) thoughts that I have about myself are thoughts that I never want her to experience. I want to raise her to love her body. I want her to embrace her looks and her body type, whatever they may be. And I want her to know that her value and her worth go far beyond her beauty (as stunning as she may be).
I want her to grow up knowing and believing that it is normal to recognize a wide variety of looks as beautiful. Women deserve to be empowered in their beauty and strength at a very young age. We need to stop allowing anything different for our girls.
My sweet daughter is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, but that beauty goes far beyond her big brown eyes and perfect cheeks. She is beautiful because of who she is from the inside out, and I never want my daughter to hear anything that would give her reason to doubt that.