What I Want to Tell My Daughter About Her Body.
I've written about my confidence issues before, but as my daughter grows up and becomes more and more wrapped up in her appearance, I cannot help but wonder if I am making the same mistakes that my parents did with me.
As a child, I was often told that I was beautiful. I know, I know, you're probably sarcastically thinking, oh you poor thing. But honestly, looking back I think being told that I was beautiful more often than I was smart or strong or athletic created an overwhelming need in me to be perfect.
With time, I began to rely on my beauty. I began to see it as the only thing I was bringing to the table. It overcame me. The need to standout in a crowd washed over me no matter where I was. I always wanted to be the prettiest girl in the room because I knew that I was never going to be the smartest or the strongest or the sassiest. In fact, I was a little plain, a tad boring and insanely self-conscious. My face burned crimson red with embarrassment more often than not and one of my very best friends nicknamed me "lobster." I now wonder if the reason I was always blushing was because I was terrified of what I looked like as I spoke to others. Did they think I was pretty? I hoped so. If not, what else was I?
When I did not feel beautiful, I did not feel whole. When I felt too fat, I would not eat. When I forgot to put on makeup, I felt naked. And eventually it sent me into an obsession about my weight; because, I thought, who was I if I was not the pretty, skinny girl?
I've told myself so many times that I would only stress my daughter's strength and smarts and never her external beauty. I wanted to dwell on her health rather than her eating habits; and I wanted more than anything to see her eyes light up at artwork or athletics rather than makeup and clothes.
Yet, here I am, the mother of a 3 year old who sneaks into the bathroom to put on makeup and wears princess high heals around the house on a daily basis. She will throw tantrums until she gets to wear what she thinks are the pretty tights and she wants cupcake-flavored lip glass on before leaving the house. Yeah, she's 3.
Is it something that I have done or is it just naturally embedded into who she is destined to be? I think it's a little bit of both. I believe Delaney was born to be a girly-girl. She loves tutus, sparkles and blush and would rather spend the afternoon pretending to be Lady Gaga than playing baseball; it's who she is. And I love her for that.
But I believe that I am partly giving in to how society is molding our daughters. The truth is, our society values women more for than beauty and the size of their breasts than they do for the intellect or character. And here I am going along with the crowd, as I take her picture after she puts on play makeup instead of after she scores a goal in soccer, or when I say, "Delaney, you are so beautiful" after she puts on her tutu and does the most lovely ballerina twirl.
Not to mention, Delaney has heard me pick myself apart. She has seen me stare in the mirror as I glide my hand over the curves of my stomach with disgust. She has heard me complain about needing to lose weight, having nothing to wear and looking aged. Too many times I have put my own looks down while she stands in the next room listening. She is receiving all these messages and molding them into how she views herself.
It is unacceptable.
My daughter needs to be told that her body is not an ornament, but rather an instrument. Her body should not be the scale of which her worth is weighed. She does not need to strive for perfection in boob-jobs and botox. I would never want her to feel the pressure of having to be the prettiest or skinniest girl in the room; because at some point, looks fade and what is left is wisdom. I want her to be wise. I want her to strive to be the smartest, the most well-read, and the most traveled. I want her to use her body to run marathons, play sports, explore the world, and seek creative outlets.
I want her to expect more of herself than I ever did. I want her to know that her insides are so much more valuable than her outsides.
So, it is okay if my daughter pursues her love of Ballet; but I want her passion to lie in the art form rather than the buns and tutus. And when she gets off the stage after her first performance, I am going to say, "Delaney, you are so talented."