Sunday, April 5, 2009

Self-Image - Beautiful Like Me!

How our self-image effects the self-image of our children.

I have started this post several times. I am just not sure what I want to write. I can honestly say that I have struggled all my life with my self-image. Today it is a much more positive image than it use to be but still some days I struggle. I have been going over and over in my head why? Was it my role models? Was it pressure from my peers? Was it self inflicted? Or was it some strange combination? Then I realized that it really depends on how you define self-image, I think that there is a whole lot that goes along with ones self-image but for today I am going to take one little piece and tell you a little story.

When I was twenty-two years old I had my first child, a beautiful baby girl and one night when she was just a few days old I was sitting nursing her and staring into her beautiful little face. I made a promise to her to be the best mom that I could be and to help her grow up to be a healthy, strong, beautiful woman. Then I began to wonder how was I going to do this? What did she need from me for this to happen? And truly what I came up with was she needed me to set a good example for her ... wow this seemed easy, right?

What I found is it was not so easy. Habits that I had from so long ago were hard to break. My deep rooted feelings for my body image was bad, bad, bad. I had always struggled with my weight and when I was pregnant had gained a lot more weight so I was not very happy with myself. I found myself frequently changing my clothes a million times before I left the house, standing in front of the mirror, turning every which way and stomping back to the closet, with tears because everything looked awful... then it happened, my daughter was probably two and we were getting ready to go somewhere and she came to the mirror dressed in a beautiful little floral dress and turned from side to side, peered up at me and said: "Mommy does this make me look fat?"

Oh my goodness, this broke my heart, I had to do something to stop this and right now so again I made a promise to be a good role model for my daughter. I needed to become comfortable with me, she needed to see that I was comfortable with me. And indeed this is what I did. There are still times when I change my clothes a million times or feel exceptionally 'fat' but I would never share this with my children. And if I do share some feelings of my body with them I also share a solution. Such as, "you know I am feeling like I need to lose a little weight, maybe I should exercise some more."

Thinking back to my childhood I did not have this. My mother too struggled with her weight and was very vocal about it. There were many diets and at times it was a real focal point for the whole family. And then there were always the fashion rules to look skinnier, I can still hear my mom say: light on top, dark on bottom, no patterns, no stripes going around, etc... these 'rules' were ingrained in my head. I know my mom was doing the best that she could but I did NOT want my daughter to have to worry about this EVER and especially not at two years old.

My daughter is now fourteen years old and is very confident and has a great self-image - she knows she is beautiful (but not in a bad way). She loves to be fashionable in her own way. I would like to think that I have something to do with it but I am not sure because my second daughter is not so confident, even though I have tried to be the same positive role model for her, she still is a little more shy, a little more unsure and a little more aware of her self-image. So I do think that there are many factors in developing a positive self-image but I do agree that YES, my self-image has a lot to do with my children's self-image.

As both of my daughters are smack dab in the prime of self-image growth and so very influential I have had to think more and more about the examples that I am setting. I also have had to look at the other role models that they may have. For our family communication is huge ... I really believe that if we just talk about all these things all the time that my children will learn what is right for them. So we talk a lot about models, movie stars, even people we might see at the store and current events around self-image. We examine it and I try to help my children to see where this thinking that we have to be skinny and look a certain way to be beautiful comes from and help them to define beauty for themselves.

I do not have all the answers but I think that it is so important to know that you are being watched ... you are a role model for someone, maybe your own children, nieces, neighbors or maybe even for a co-worker or someone who sees you at the grocery store. Lets all set a good example and help others to see the beauty that we have within ourselves and that they have within themselves.

I am beautiful like me! And you are beautiful like you!!!

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Mon said...

Thank you for your candid post Amy.

I am evry mindful already about what I project egarding my self-image. I try not to over do the mirror checking of my face in the morning, lol.

Anonymous said...

I struggle with the same things you do and like you, my daughter seems to have escaped it. She is so comfortable in her skin and I am so grateful for that. I wish I could just get to that place myself.

Tricia said...

Great post. Thanks so much for your honesty. Positive role modeling is harder than I ever thought it would be, and it amazes me how much self reflection is involved. It's challenging to look at ourselves through the eyes of someone we love and to make lifestyle changes. Good for you for identifying the areas you wanted to help your daughters with. You're doing a great job.

Wicked Step Mom said...

Great post! Thank you so much for sharing. I hope that your second daughter learns well from her wonderful mother and older sister.

smiles4u said...

This is a great post and you bring up so many good points. You are so right that we are being watched.

Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting said...

I wrote and rewrote mine yesterday and this morning, too. I've learned that so long as I'm healthy, I'm happy, which is what I'm tryin to do right now with losing weight.

Great post, Amy. It is so important we have to influence our children to do the right thing, and it's tiring, sometimes we just want to take the easy way, and not work so hard, but it's worth it. They're worth it.

Great job! :)

Lisa P said...

Boy are we ever being watched! I can imagine the "does this make me look fat" moment jammed your heart. Wow.

You mentioned your second daughter is less confident. It is interesting how children raised in the same environment can still come out differently. No matter how similar we think we've raised our kids, there is the uniqueness that is them at play at all times. How they hear/see the messages around them is different. I know they say some of us are more verbal than visual and vice versa. Perhaps your daughters simply soaked up different messages through the course of time because of the nature in which they took things in. Interesting stuff in any account.

CoffeeJitters (Judy Haley) said...

this is such an important issue - thank you for sharing