I’m Working on My Body Image Issues for My Daughter—Here’s How

I was so excited when I found out we were having a girl. As soon as they said “it’s a girl,” my mind wandered to all the big bows I’d put in her hair and cute dresses she’d wear. I know some parents like to keep their baby’s style more gender-neutral, which I totally respect, but I left that doctor’s appointment and immediately added 20 different headbands to our baby registry.

As thrilled as I was to be expecting a girl, I also started to worry about how to properly raise this little lady. I imagined she would give me some serious attitude in her teenage years (payback for my behavior, according to my own mother). But there was one thing I didn’t want to assume: she’d have body image issues. Something I, like many other women, have experienced and still sometimes struggle with.

I’d love to say the cultural norm of what is considered a healthy and beautiful body is shifting away from traditionally thin ideals, but I know as a society we’re not quite there yet. And I also know I have the ability and responsibility to shape the way my daughter sees herself as she grows up—starting with the way I see myself.

While plenty of outside influences impact how we view ourselves, I know the way I behave and how I treat myself will make a huge impact on the ideals my daughter absorbs.

 

While plenty of outside influences impact how we view ourselves, I know the way I behave and how I treat myself will make a huge impact on the ideals my daughter absorbs.

 

When I look in the mirror, I have a range of reactions to what I see. And these reactions change daily. Sometimes I think I look great and feel strong; other days I wistfully think about my pre-baby body (even though at the time I never viewed it as good enough).

I’ve come a long way with my body image issues, but it’s a continued work in progress. Here are a few things that I’m doing to better my body image and as a result will hopefully have a positive impact on my daughter.

 

I’m creating a positive inner dialogue

My goal is to focus on the positives and to train my inner dialogue. By speaking positively to myself, I’m also affecting the way I act outwardly.

Your thoughts are a catalyst for self-perpetuating cycles. What you think directly influences how you feel and how you behave,” wrote psychotherapist Amy Morin in an article for Forbes.

When I look in the mirror and think “My body isn’t good enough,” those beliefs will play out to the world and in front of my daughter. It’s about more than eliminating negative body talk out loud; it needs to be a change that comes from within.

This is a little bit of fake it till you make it. Maybe I don’t completely love what I see in the mirror, but focusing on positive thoughts will slowly over time push out the negative ones.

 

 

I’m talking to myself the way I’d talk to a friend

When I look in the mirror, I’m working to focus on why I love my body. If I get stuck, I think about how I would talk to my friend. I would praise her strength, not zero in on her stretch marks. In fact, I’m in awe of other women who confidently show off their stretch marks in bikinis. I don’t judge them, I do the opposite. I look up to these women, and though I’m not yet there with myself, I hope to gain the same confidence.

 

If I get stuck, I think about how I would talk to my friend. I would praise her strength, not zero in on her stretch marks.

 

We tend to be our harshest critics, and the things we criticize or notice in ourselves are things we’d never fault another person for. Does anyone but me know or care if I don’t get back to my pre-baby weight? Probably not. Would I fault my friend for not getting back into her pre-baby jeans? Definitely not.

If there’s a part of my body I’m not happy with, I take a moment to think about why my mind is going in that direction. I put myself in the shoes of a best friend and talk to myself the way she would talk to me. I’m also looking deeper into why I put unnecessary pressure on myself for things that aren’t actually that important.

 

 

I’m focusing on what my body can do, not how it looks

Instead of putting pressure on myself for what my body looks like, I’m focusing on what it is capable of. My body has done a lot of powerful things. It carried a baby for 10 months, it has run marathons and triathlons, and it allows me to parent and care for my child. These things are all way more impressive than fitting into my jeans from three years ago.

I hope that praising my abilities instead of my looks will rub off on my daughter and she’ll be proud of everything that she is able to accomplish instead of zeroing in on the way things look. While one part of me thinks “My daughter will probably inherit my big thighs,” instead I’m saying, “I hope my daughter inherits my powerful thighs that allowed me to run for 26.2 miles.”

I won’t claim to be perfect when it comes to body image, but I do hope that the work I’m doing on myself will make a positive impact on my daughter.

 

Read More: How Therapy Has Helped Me Become a Better Mom