I haven't always loved my body. But I want my daughter to.
Right off the bat, I want to make it clear I’m not talking about my son in this article. I know some moms might be very pro-nakedness when it comes to teaching their boys that female bodies are more than sex objects but I’m not one of them. I intend to teach him all kinds of respect for the womanly figure but none of those ways will involve him having a mental image of his naked mother.
Although I haven't gone out of my way to be naked around my 6-year-old daughter (and we haven't had any direct discussion about my nude body), I certainly haven't hid my body from her either. If I’m in the shower and she needs her hair washed, I'll pull her in with me. If I’m drying my hair, naked as I do, I don’t mind if she's standing next to me brushing her teeth. Why? I don't want her views on what a body is "supposed" to look like to be shaped by the one-sided view the media presents.
Because of her childlike innocence, she has no problem pointing out the rather large stretch mark on my hip or my "broken belly button," a result of two pregnancies that's caused it to lose some of its former glory. "It was you who stretched it out of shape!" I tell her. She laughs and together we talk about how our bodies change as we live. Not age, but live.
I can point to glossy touched-up magazine covers all day long and try to explain to my daughter that the images have all been photoshopped but it's not the same as actually showing her what a real body looks like. I don't ever want her to see me hiding my body from her eyes or making negative comments about my body in a way that could be perceived as shame. Because the reality is the percieved "defects" we carry around are only defects if we fail to see the beauty in them. It's critical my daughter sees that I view myself as beautiful, despite (and because of) of my imperfections. Because if she doesn't, I worry she'll seek out feelings of physical self-worth in ways that I can't even bear to think about.
Confession: I haven't always loved my body.
It wasn't something that came easily to me. I spent years in shame and disgust at the person I was and at the skin that I lived in. I was a soul broken by emotional abuse and my self-esteem was so low that I no longer protected it and I let strangers pass judgement on it. I sometimes wonder if I'd been more comfortable with who I was or if someone had bothered to teach me that beauty doesn't come from a commercially-constructed ideal of perfection how my life might've been different. I let people take advantage of me, I looked for love in all the wrong places, and I let people take pieces of me that I didn't know how to protect because I was unable to see my own worth.
Learning to love myself didn't come easy. Before I could love myself, I had to find myself. It took a lot of soul searching and only when I could see the beauty of who I was admist my perceived flaws and cracks was I able to see how beautiful the body that houses my soul is.
I want so many things for my daughter. I have so many hopes and dreams for her, but the biggest of all is that I hope she realizes that looks don't matter. What matters is everything precious underneath it. And if that epiphany sticks in her brain by way of her little six-year-old eyes watching me look at myself in the mirror as I dry my hair in the morning, broken belly button and all, then so be it.
Because a broken belly button makes me no less of a beautiful person and I want my daughter to carry that lesson around in her own heart, protected by her own beautiful body.