My mum was always slim, probably a size 12, when I was young, and I always thought she was, like, totally beautiful.
She was a really stylish kind of Mama (not using past tense because she’s dead, but because her style has now changed to a little more on the funky-Nana side of the spectrum).
She had short hair that was a cross between Annie Lennox and Robert Smith, and wore stylish clothes (although there is one rogue photo in the archives where she was rocking some kind of bad Laura Ashley phase – sorry Mum.) and lipstick, even to the shops. I remember watching her apply make-up in her bedroom mirror surrounded by a mist of perfumed and hair-sprayed air, and I thought she was the most glamorous creature ever.
My mum had fat days, and went on the odd diet. I remember her once throwing a Kit-Kat from her office drawer into the bin because she was on a diet.
I can remember her going to the gym and making a conscious effort to look after herself.
For all intents and purposes, my mum had a great self-image but I wonder how or if her attitude towards herself impacted my self-image in any way?
I did not have a good self-image at all for many years, but I doubt I can attribute it to a Kit-Kat getting binned, or my mum having a wardrobe crisis before going out (disclaimer : I do not remember her ever doing this, but come on, she’s a girl, right?).
I wonder what my children will remember about the way I feel about myself? They sure as hell won’t remember me looking glamorous in the mirror. These days my hair is less a style but more something that sits upon my head in a school bun, as that hides my follicular sins the best. It’s been so long since I had a colour that my roots are longer than Jen Hawkins’ legs and a slick of lip gloss is about as good as it gets in the glamour department.
I am guilty of trying on an outfit and then taking it off in disgust, after realising it no longer fits like it used to.
Now that we live in an era much more aware of eating disorders, self-image and confidence issues, I think we have a great responsibility towards our children and how they feel about themselves. Obviously, using words such as stupid or fat when talking to our children is a big no-no, but we need to also be aware of how we speak about them to others, when they’re in earshot, and of course, how we speak about ourselves.
We are our children’s most important teachers and if we use negative words all the time then we’re potentially hard-wiring little brains for a life of negative thoughts.
We would never speak about our children’s bodies the way we speak about our own –
‘Oh, your legs are dumpy’
‘Your butt is humongous’
‘Your tummy is awful!’
– so we need to be aware of the impact our words have in their little heads.
We all know this stuff when it comes to negative self esteem, but when it comes to body image, does the media not take much of it out of our hands?
Even if no one ever actually says ‘life is better if you’re thin/blond/married at 18 and divorced five days later’, with the constant bombardment of these images in the press how can it not seep into their psyche?
The answer is, it will.
It’s everywhere and inevitable.
We, as parents, need to reinforce that brains, integrity and kindness are more important than looks, and that beauty comes in many different guises.
According to the UK newspaper The Daily Mail, teenage girls are more than twice as likely to fret about their weight if their mothers do. With statistics showing that girls as young as 9 and 10 are dieting, more than ever we need to accept and love our own bodies, in order to instil confidence in our children.
I’m as guilty as the next girl of being vocal about fat days, but I think awareness of language is a good step in the right direction.
Hell, perhaps if I start using a only positive words about my body, I’ll even come to believe it!