Several years ago I made a commitment that I would never criticize my appearance in front of my daughters.
I vowed to avoid any slanderous comments about bad hair days, my five foot two stature, or my weight. When my psoriasis, which normally is kept under control with medicine, flared after each pregnancy, as was apt to happen in the most unfortunate, hormone-laden timing, I never uttered that I felt ugly, although I felt it acutely.
When I eat well, which I certainly try to do, I explain how it makes me strong and healthy. When I eat poorly, which I also certainly do on occasion, I don't verbally beat myself up for it. When the girls watch me exercise in the morning (or, in Kerrington's case, climb on me while I'm stretched in a plank pose doing Jillian Michael's walking push-ups), I never discuss getting skinnier. I do, however, tell them that their mama's getting strong.
Currently, there is one woman to whom my daughters look when they perceive how a woman should feel about appearance, beauty, weight, and the intricate link with self-worth. That woman is me.
I refuse to let them down.
Whether we've been given the privilege and responsibility of raising daughters or sons, how we talk about ourselves and our appearance shapes how our children view womanhood -- whether they think it's normal or permissible to eat only salads, lament cellulite, or lust after the media's unattainable standard of perfection.
I don't want this for my daughters. Do I want them to eat well, remain fit, and stay trim? Absolutely. Who wouldn't want this for their children?
But more importantly, I want my daughters to be assured that their value never ought to be based on appearance. I don't want them to succumb to the wearisome trap of always striving, but never feeling as if they're enough. Plenty of beautiful women don't feel as if they're beautiful. Contentment is an attitude of the heart, not contingent solely on externals.
That's why I liked this article about how to talk to little girls. Do I tell my girls that they're beautiful? Absolutely. But we stress other attributes more highly.
Besides, the benefits of this practice don't end with my daughters. When I made a conscious choice to ban negative self-talk, it forced me to confront my own insecurities and re-evaluate my worth. Fearfully and wonderfully made, we are, and that's the standard to which I'll hold firm.
I'm not perfect in this. There are days when I'm utterly confounded by the fact that I'm applying both anti-aging lotion and acne cream (really now!), but at age thirty-three after having three babies within five years, I'm more secure about myself than I've ever been before.
And, I'll tell you something, that's attractive.
Humor, hope, and encouragement for moms: Then I Became a Mother. Available in Kindle and paperback editions!
"I got so caught up in it, I couldn’t put it down." Stacy Nelson, Motherhood on a Dime.
"Hilarious and spot-on!" Jennifer Mullen, Mosaic of Moms.