The other day I read a beautiful, heartfelt post on how we should talk to our daughters about their bodies. The gist of it was to NOT talk about it. At all. It said we shouldn’t make any comment about their bodies – good or bad. That we should praise them instead for inner traits that have nothing to do with their physique. While after the first read I cheered the powerful message, some reflection later I realised I don’t fully agree with the proposition that the best way to resolve body image issues in girls is to avoid discussing their bodies altogether.
In a world where fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, peer pressure, cyber bullying, eating disorders, and Kylie Jenner lip challenges don’t exist, the above tactic would probably work really well. Maybe then we could even create a society from scratch where bodies are mere vessels for gentle souls and curious minds. But it isn’t. The reality is that even if we don’t mention a single word about their body at home, our kids/younger siblings/cousins are probably going to hear about it in their playground/school/college/THE INTERNET. On one side they are told that they should be concerned about how they look and on the other they don’t even have an avenue to talk about it because it seems unimportant to their parents/grown-ups. What do they do when they get these conflicting messages? What do they do when someone they have a crush on doesn’t find them physically attractive? Who do they talk to? Which ideas will ultimately stick with them and inform their outlook and decisions regarding their body?
I often think about how I will raise my daughters and sons (if I ever have any) and how I’ll approach this delicate topic. But how can I do anything neutrally when I myself am riddled with the after effects of years of being told that my skin/my curves/my shoulders/my height are not right/not enough/not perfect. Maybe what I should have heard more of–first as an impressionable child and later as an awkward, approval-seeking teen–was that I am more than enough, just as I am. That my body deserves my love and care in every stage of its growth, degeneration, and regrowth. This should have been the message to all of us:
Yes, there will be people who will tell you that your smile is wonky or that your hands are too big or that you have too many freckles, but they are ignorant people that aren’t worth your time or space or peace of mind. That you need to love yourself on your skinny days and your bloated days and the in-between days. Your worth does not lie in the width or your hips or the curve of your breasts, so you love them in whatever sizes they come. There might be people who are attracted to you and there might be those who are not, but the important thing is to always know that you are more than what others think of you. Remember that in bodies there is no abnormal – that upper lip peach fuzz is okay, the thigh gap is okay, no thigh gap is also okay, wrinkles are okay, grey hair is okay. In fact, these ‘imperfections’ are what being a real human is about. This life is beautiful precisely because of all the colours and shapes and sizes it contains. You are okay and loved and wanted – not because of your body, not in spite of it, but with it, as a part of what makes you YOU.
Maybe once we all learn and internalise this message above, we will be able to teach our daughters and sons a thing or two. What say you?
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