Monday, June 2, 2014

Body Image

This is a post I've been mulling over for awhile, trying to find the right words. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Girls, and women, are notoriously concerned about how they look. Aren't we?

Of course, I'm guilty of this. I complain about breakouts and bad hair days and ask my husband to weigh in on my outfits to make sure they flatter my figure. I get self-conscious, I feel embarrassed about blemishes, I worry about how other people will perceive me. A lot of that is just being a normal human (or at least a normal woman) and can't really be helped too much. It's fairly innocuous and I don't think it's damaging to complain to a girlfriend about frizzy summer hair. (Although it's good to be self-aware and not get too vain about it.)

When this behavior becomes dangerous, however, is when we really start putting ourselves down, when we really start criticizing our own bodies. This has always bothered me and worried me. It upsets me to hear my friends complain about how they look if it's not something temporarily "abnormal," like a skin thing. When they complain about their legs or their stomach or their nose--it's sad and I always try to discourage it and tell them they're lovely as they are.

In this way (in endless ways, really) I'm so grateful for my mom. We learn so much about femininity and womanhood by watching our mothers, whether we are consciously doing it or absorbing it subliminally. I've seen a few things online recently that have made me think--"Wait! Stop! You're a grown woman, you're a mother. You can't be criticizing your body like that! If you're doing it, your daughters will." I feel so blessed because my mother was the absolute best example for me. She rarely wore makeup and had a very simple beauty routine, and she always looked (and looks) natural and feminine and pretty. She only just recently starting getting a bit of color in her hair and growing up, I never heard her put herself down and she never seemed to lack confidence about her appearance. She was and is happy in her skin, in her body, with what God blessed her with.

Most girls are predisposed to be critical toward the way they look. We need our mothers to be strong examples of what it means to be confident and accepting of our bodies. When we have children we need to be mothers who are that strong example.

Of course, I'm not suggesting we throw our cares to the wind and stop thinking about appearance altogether. I love feeling put together and I like my mascara and a touch of caramel in my hair every few months. The thing to remember, I think, is that these are only enhancements of our already-existing beauty. You don't "need" highlights because your natural hair color is "mousy"--if I had a nickel for each time I've heard that I would have a lot of nickels! Let's rebel against that. It's perfectly ok to get highlights, but they're just that. Highlights, refreshers, pick-me-ups. They don't make you beautiful.

(It goes without saying, I think, that staying fit is certainly important, but mostly because it's the healthy way to live and it will make you feel good and strong, not because it will make you look a certain way.)

You have only one body to take you through this life. You got it from your mom and your dad and it's brought you this far, hasn't it? Treat it well and appreciate it. It sustains you and can perform miracles and it's beautiful, believe me.


  1. Beautiful and thoughtful. You are right about learning from our mothers but we also learn a lot about acceptance from our fathers. If our father's are critical (get that hair out of your face or stand up straight, you're slouching!), I think we take that more to heart and it strongly affects how we perceive ourselves.

  2. Darbi, I agree with you! I thought about that after posting. I also think that how our fathers respond to our mothers in terms of appearance is huge. My dad always praises my mom's natural beauty and I definitely think that in turn has shaped me positively.

  3. You are indeed blessed and that is why it is sometimes hard for you to understand your friends and how they view their own bodies. Many of us did not have the role models growing up that you did. Hopefully, some of us will get over ourselves and our misperceptions. I'm glad you have a healthy sense of self.

  4. Mothers, parents in general, certainly have a huge impact on body image. My mother had this idea when I was younger, that fat-shaming me would get me to lose weight. All it really did was deeply scar me (and cause me to eat more to spite her). I outgrew the baby fat but not necessarily the insecurities… until an interesting experience this year. I actually lost weight all of a sudden when I began college (not my fault!), twenty pounds in total. I finally knew what it meant and felt to be skinny. And guess what? It totally bored me and I found skinny wayyy overrated. I wanted muscles and strength, not bones and a hollow self. I realized not only that skinny was so "not me" but also, other people didn't really care what size I was. Actually, my mother reversed her methods and began pestering me to eat more, workout less. Now I was too skinny for her! Basically, I learned you may never please anyone and that I much preferred to be whatever I am naturally. Today, I am happy to be eating with my health in mind and I run everyday, not to be skinny but to feel my lungs and legs stretch as they push new boundaries. Now if only I could get my mother to appreciate her own body.

  5. I agree! I wrote a similar post on about finding inner beauty. Beauty is something I think about a lot these days, and you're right, I always tell my daughters I feel beautiful and love the way I look (even when I don't- it's a good lie- lol) because I know my level of self-confidence will affect them later in life. Your post got me thinking. Thanks!


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