“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Confucius
I am a mom to three boys, so you may be thinking, “Why are you writing about girls?” Glad you asked.
This has been on my heart for a long time. Though this is geared toward moms of girls, it is also for girls of moms, moms of boys, and all women.
I am the daughter of a mom of a girl. Did you catch that? That was just a more confusing way to say, “I’m a girl, and I have a mom.”
My mom had 3 boys like me (including the twin part), but first, she had me! I was the only girl among 3 brothers, which certainly helped prepare me for being a mom to all boys. It also enabled me to have a very unique, special bond with my mom as her only girl. So even though I don’t have a daughter, being a daughter I feel qualifies me to write about this topic.
My mom is gorgeous. Inside and out, beautiful. However, if you listened to the way my mom describes herself prior to viewing her with your own eye balls, you’d think she looked like Shrek. She’s aware of the inaccurate picture she paints of herself, but that doesn’t necessarily stop her from doing it.
I remember as a young girl watching my mom get ready. We’d both be looking in the same mirror, but clearly seeing two very different pictures. I saw beauty, strength, splendor. I saw her heart and her loving spirit. I saw her effort, her passion, her power. She was everything. Stunning in every way. I wanted to be her when I grew up.
But then I’d hear what she thought of herself.
“Ugh!!! I’m a buffalo! Yuck! What is this? Here comes thunder thighs! Nothing fits! What is this hair doing? This looks disgusting!!!”
Most women do this to themselves, no matter what reality and the rest of the world says about them. We crucify ourselves in front of the mirror and pick apart every detail of our flawed beauty. We try to live up to the standard of beauty society has created; a standard even super models can’t attain, and a standard that inevitably moves from society’s expectations to our own. We hate ourselves for not living up to the world’s definition of perfection, as well as our own.
“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
For years, too many to count for sure, I hated myself. I looked upon the mirror with disdain and contempt. I stood there, looking at the image staring back at me, hating it for the failure it was. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, and often wanted out of it. It wasn’t just my body I hated. It was what was inside that body. I hated the image, but more than that, I loathed what I thought the image represented.
This sentiment pre-dates me and my mom, and other women in our generations. The cycle of shame and self hatred has been going on for decades.
We allow magazine images and a glass reflection to define who we are and we call ourselves disgusting because of God given flaws. We have done it to ourselves and we have done it to each other.
Dear moms and women of the world, (myself included), what I want to say about this is simple.
Stop murdering yourself in the mirror. Stop scrutinizing details of your body that no one but you sees. Stop degrading yourself, whether in front of your children or alone. Stop hating your body for what it isn’t and demeaning yourself for what you aren’t. Stop teaching your children that this is acceptable. Stop believing your own lies and the lies of society that say, “You aren’t good enough.”
What happens when we do this is more than simply putting ourselves down. We are putting our children down too. We are telling them that they’re wrong for believing in our strength and seeing our beauty. We are perpetuating a warped view of femininity and the standard of perfection we all so badly want to fight, yet so easily succumb to. We are telling our daughters we aren’t good enough, and neither are they. We are telling our sons women don’t respect themselves, and neither should they. We are saying that God makes mistakes and we are destroying His beloved creation.
I’m not saying the weight and responsibility of all self esteem and self worth falls on a mother’s shoulders. I am not blaming my mom for my poor self image and lifelong degradation of my body.
What I am saying though, is that when I hear my mom speak so poorly of herself, something inside of me dies. When I see the disdain in her eyes when she looks at her body, a piece of my heart changes. The same pieces of me that picked up the cycle all those years ago and have since destroyed my very spirit. The same pieces that often continue to qualify me as worthy based on image rather than heart, because more than abhoring the skin covering my bones, I detest the soul beneath them.
Though I argued with my mom and told her she was wrong, just as I did to my gorgeous girlfriends and just as people have done to me when I critique myself relentlessly; the core belief is there. The core belief that we are not good enough, not whole, and disgusting speaks much louder than any argument of the opposite.
Eventually those lies become our unshakable truth and even when we know better, we can’t speak better. It bleeds into everything and effects the way we live our lives. It changes the way we communicate and interact with others, whether we realize it or not. It colors and distorts everything. Our children feel it. They see it. And soon, they take it on as their own.
We have to stop.
“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” Khalil Gibran
We have to begin to see the beauty within ourselves and believe truth; because if we don’t, how will anyone else? We have to remind our daughters that they’re beautiful because there is light and love in their soul, not because of what size pants they wear. We have to show our sons that true beauty is found inside a woman’s heart; a heart that beams through her eyes when she is confident and strong in who she is, and who’s she is.
When a woman is confident, everything about her shines. It doesn’t matter what imperfections her body possesses. A happy heart and a confident spirit bring light to dark places.
We have to stop sending the message that food is bad and so are we for enjoying it. We have to stop obsessing over every less than perfect skin flap or fat pocket. We have to stop covering our bodies and judging each other; summing each other up as no more than a bunch of parts, valued by size. We have to stop waging war with the mirror and teaching our children that their mother is “disgusting” due to a saggy stomach or plump behind. We have to release the delusion that idealized perfect beauty somehow equals goodness, realizing that we already are good and our beauty lies in our imperfections, our love, and our heart.
We have to view ourselves first through the eyes of our heavenly father, who breathed us into existence and called us perfect and lovely; and then through the eyes of our children, who look upon us with admiration and love, awe and wonder. We have to teach them that the woman they love and admire so much is worthy of that love, and so are they. We have to demonstrate that what matters is the heart, not the tag in their jeans. That exercise is for health, energy and happiness; not punishment, perfection seeking, and a never ending thorn of disappointment.
We can’t just tell our kids they are loved and cherished. We have to show them. And that starts within us.
We can’t simply accept the inner voices of shame and self hate, hoping our babies won’t notice. We can’t destroy ourselves on the inside and expect to shine light on the outside. We can’t detest our imperfections but expect our sons and daughters to celebrate theirs.
We have to stop.
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
How would you feel if your children spoke to themselves the way you speak to yourself? If we aren’t careful, eventually, they will.
Let go of your unworthiness and hold onto the truth.
“You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” Song of Solomon 4:7