In case you blinked and missed it, winter is almost over. It’s practically spring which we all know is followed by the hottest months of the year.
And you know what starts coming out of the woodwork as the weather heats up? ALL things ‘fix your body for summer’.
Whether it’s a letterbox flyer from the local gym asking if your body is ‘summer ready’ or the Facebook ads promising to help you ‘lose your mummy tummy’, the message is clear; you need to be better (READ: thinner) than you are right now.
While many of us roll our eyes and silently (or not so silently) mouth words to the tune of “just eff right off,” the messages are insidious. They get inside our heads and often manifest themselves at the worst possible times, like, for example, when you’re buying a cossie.
The thing is, those messages don’t just stop with us. Recent research from the Pretty Foundation found that a staggering 50 percent of pre-school aged girls are dissatisfied with the way they look. Yep, a whole bunch of three and four-year-old girls already think there’s something wrong with the way they look.
The mum in the mirror
Where are they getting these messages? It turns out that us parents need to take a good look in the mirror. According to the foundation, parents play a significant role in shaping their daughter’s body image from an early age. What we say in front of our daughters has the power to influence their body image and it is critically important that we not only avoid negative body image comments, but that we voice positive ones in front of our daughters.
It’s one of the reasons we heart this Facebook post by mama Brittney Johnson so hard. Brittney posted about shopping for a swimsuit with her daughter in tow. Get ready for her words to hit you right in that mummy soft spot.
“We walked into Target and she helped me pick out a few swimsuits. We picked out 11. Yeah. ELEVEN. Walked into the dressing room and she sat and started unhooking the swimsuits from the hangers. And then I put on a suit, and then a second one, and a third one. I snapped pictures of them to send to my girlfriends… because girls are wired weird and that’s just what we do.” Brittney writes.
It was when Brittney looked at one of the pics she’d snapped that she saw her daughter, like really, REALLY saw her.
‘Do you think I look beautiful too?’
“I stopped for a second to see what she would say and when she turned to the mirror, she said ‘Wow I just love cheetah print! I think I look beautiful! Do you think I look beautiful too?!’,” she says.
“It hit me that she only says what she hears. What she sees. I tell her that she is beautiful every single day.”
That sums up, as parents, how we want our kids to feel about themselves. Brittney realised that in that change room, she was witnessing her words in action. She also realised that she had the power to dismantle the positivity being generated by her daughter.
“There is a split moment when I have the power to say “wow I have really gotten fat this year” OR “wow I love this coral color on me!” And those are the words burned into my daughters brain.”
The power of our words, especially about our own bodies, in front of our kids, is something we can’t underestimate. We’ll leave Brittney to have the final word:
I don’t have to be beautiful like you, because I am beautiful like me.
“When it comes to manners, be an example. When it comes to kindness, be an example. And when it comes to body image, be an example. I am not a size zero. I never will be. I have big thighs and a huge rump and for some reason the middle of my body gets more tan than the rest? But this body made a whole other body. I am strong. I am able. And I am happy,” she says.
“I don’t have to be beautiful like you, because I am beautiful like me. And as my daughter gets older, and she faces judgement and criticism, I will always remind her that the girls who look the prettiest are the ones who are happy. Because that’s ALL that matters. And I want her to look at herself every single day and say “Oh wow! I think I look beautiful!” because EVERY girl deserves to feel that.”
Want more ‘feel-good-about-your-bod’ fodder? Check out these amazing WA women and the body image movement.