I was looking at my daughter the other day who seems to be looking more and more like me as each day passes…and I had a sinking feeling. The feeling was wrapped together in memories and flashbacks of me being a little girl. I was only five or six and my mother enrolled me in dance class. Jazz. I was excited to attend that first day. I remember walking up the huge (probably not) staircase to the dance studio. I was wearing a black bodysuit and pink tights. I felt like a dancer! My blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail.
I don’t know whether it was right away or shortly after that I noticed the other little dancers were smaller than I was. I didn’t have twiggy legs like the other little girls. I wasn’t the biggest but I wasn’t the smallest. I noticed. I felt uncomfortable. The pit in my stomach hurt and I felt “fat”. Why would a little girl feel “fat”? I look back at the videos and pictures of my dance years (1 or 2 years only) and I wasn’t “fat”. I don’t remember anyone other than my grandfather making comments about my “healthy size” or “big legs”. I was often told that I would grow because I was short. I still am short. I never really did grow that much! Unfortunately those words had planted a seed that I struggled to get over for YEARS. I do remember my mom weighing herself and the dreaded day that I realized that I weighed more than my OWN mother! I didn’t have the capacity to realize that we are two different women. Thankfully with time we grow and learn to become comfortable with ourselves and our bodies.
When I looked at my sweet, twirling baby girl with those perfect little legs. I see my own legs. The lenses that I use to view her can now be turned back onto myself. To not accept myself would mean not accepting her. As Barbara Kantrowitz writes “mother and daughter become like mirrors for each other’s sense of self. The daughter, in particular, tries to fit into her mother’s view of her” . The danger of a mother’s self-talk is that if they are forever critiquing themselves and talking about how “fat” they are then the daughters will in turn feel “fat” (How Mothers Influence a Daughter’s Body Image – Newsweek 2009).
I hope that she doesn’t let her body or rather her mind hold her back from pursuing a passion or hobby in life. I must remain keenly aware about how others speak about my children and how I speak about myself around my children. If my daughter hears me express discontent about my legs then she will automatically feel discontent about her own. We owe it to our daughters and sons to embrace and love ourselves. By loving ourselves we can give our children cues and permission to love themselves.