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On the Importance of Teaching My Daughters Body Confidence by Example
I’ve not been shy about telling people that I’ve gained weight with both of my adoptions. With the addition of each child into our family, the rhythm of life has changed, and with it comes more of a challenge to eat well and exercise, not to mention additional stress. Both of my children had rocky beginnings with us, and I accepted that weight gain was part of the bargain for me. With Zinashi’s adoption, I looked at it as temporary, and mostly it was. But Elvie brought a whole new level of busyness to our lives, and so many things I did in the past to make my clothes fit again are simply not going to work this time. Learning to accept and even celebrate my current shape and size is at the top of my priority list. Because with each pass in front of the mirror, I send my daughters a message about how they should approach their bodies. If I am not confident, it will be much harder for my daughters to learn to be confident. I want to teach them that their bodies are strong and beautiful and worthy of respect. Even though Elvie is just fourteen months old, there are several reasons I want to start teaching her body confidence now by being a good example.
First, if I am confident in my own body, I feel better. Babies pick up on those cues. Elvie knows when I am in a bad mood, and she will sometimes reflect that back to me. Being dissatisfied with my body is a really silly reason to be stressed out and snappish.
Second, it takes time to unlearn all the negative things I’ve been thinking about my body if it is not a certain shape or size and to learn instead to appreciate the body that I have. The effects of years of listening to workout instructors tell me how to get the “perfect” rear/abs/etc. will not disappear overnight. I started to change the language I used about my body when we first adopted Zinashi two and a half years ago, and now with Elvie in my life, I am finally starting to change the way I actually feel about it.
Third, even though Elvie is just fourteen months old, I know that she is already watching me and imitating me. While she might not understand right now what I am doing when I scrutinize my body in the mirror, she will start to copy my actions and eventually will understand the reasons behind them. I don’t want her to get started down that path at all!
Fourth, if I begin now to really appreciate my body as it is, it creates a habit for later. When my daughters get a bit older and start to notice others talking about their bodies, I will already be leading by example, showing them that it’s possible to respect and admire our bodies, regardless of shape and size.
Fifth, it is at the forefront of my mind that Elvie’s body will always be a little bit different than most due to factors she will be unable to control. If I send a message of disdain for my body when it is not what is considered in our culture to be ideal, I will be teaching her that the standards we should shoot for are ones that are not and will never be possible for her. It breaks my heart to think of her absorbing a message that her body might be less worthy of respect and admiration than someone else’s. We are all beautiful, and our bodies are amazing. I see this especially in Elvie’s little body, as she pushes forward to do things that no one dreamed she’d be able to do.
Being a mom of daughters has taught me a ton, but I never anticipated how much it would inspire me to change and be a more confident person. While my motivation is largely to give both of my girls the gift of growing up with confidence in their gorgeous, strong bodies, I’ll admit that I am excited to work on this for my own sake. If all three of us can hold our heads high, knowing that we have been given the gift of bodies that do fantastic things and take us fantastic places, that will be a gift to us all.