Sunday, July 20, 2014

I Tell My Daughter She's Beautiful And I Don't Regret It

Huffington Post published an article on How To Talk To Your Daughter About Her Body. It was obvious and I was prepared for what I was about to read: a self-righteous talk (or lecture) about how body image doesn't matter and we shouldn't let on that it might (or does), and how there's more to just one's outer beauty, that inner beauty is the only thing that really matters. I've read articles like this before and, as anticipated, the article nailed it.

Only thing is, I kind of disagree with most of what was said.
'Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself... Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to... She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.'
That's about as much as I took from the piece. The others? I'm not so sure.
'Don't talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works. Don't say anything if she's lost weight. Don't say anything if she's gained weight. If you think your daughter's body looks amazing, don't say that. Here are some things you can say instead... Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.'
Because I've read articles like this before, I used to be self-conscious and careful about making comments to my daughter about her physical attributes. But I think the girl is beautiful and can't help but tell her sometimes. And I'm not sorry I do. (Post continues below photo.)

There are flaws with avoiding any discussion of body image. By purposely not talking about body image, we deprive our girls from learning how to deal with it, perhaps, in a constructive manner. Instead, they are left on their own accord with messages (lessons) from the media and others around them to form their ideas.
'Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It's easy to hate these non-size zero body parts.'
Why is it easy? Because comments like these make it so. Case and point.
Don't you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don't go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don't say, "I'm not eating carbs right now." Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.
Agree— 'your daughter should never think that carbs are evil'... BUT the reason is because you have taught her what they are, why people think so, and why our bodies need them to function properly, such that 'evil' and 'shame' are so far removed from her association to carbs.

Don't go on a diet? Maybe. If it's a crash, extremist, or uninformed one, yes. But maybe you really do need to go on a diet— change your diet, that is, with the understanding that it's for life and you're not doing it for superficial reasons but to try to maintain the best (mental, physical, emotional) health as you can, be able to actively do things together, and be a part of their lives for as you long as you can. In that case, maybe you can actually be a role model by going on a diet in front of your daughter because you are showing her how much you value both yourself and her.
'Teach your daughter how to cook kale. Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.'
These were interesting items to mention and it's extremist notions like these that make our girls go to extreme. Teach her how to cook. Period. Teach her how to enjoy both 'healthy' and 'not-so-healthy' foods. Period. Teach her about everything in moderation. Period. Teach her how to recognize and deal with her emotions without involving food. Period. Kale and 6 sticks of butter? Not so necessary.
'Prove to your daughter that women don't need men to move their furniture.'
Why? Why do women have to prove they can lift heavy objects? There's nothing wrong or bad about asking for help or teaching our girls how to. I can't move a lot of furniture, or, I chose not to, to prevent the risk of hurting myself. That has nothing to do with body image. If anything, it shows a certain amount of self-awareness and humbleness to be able to ask for help. That's not to say women should default their thinking that men dominate in all categories but that they don't 'have to get a hernia to prove [they] need a man's help', as quoted from one commenter.

As I've mentioned, I've read many articles like these, always hoping for something different, honestly, perhaps hoping to find the 'answer'. But fact of the matter is, is that there is NO answer, no solution, no 'perfect' way to raise our girls to become women with a healthy body image and no behavior of disordered eating. Moreover, bad body image nor eating disorders don't just stem from comments about body image or food or one's ability to lift heavy objects.

Eating disorders was tagged not just once but twice for this post. If this article is really directed at or about eating disorders, then Sarah (the author) missed out on much of the discussion to help educate others on things they can do that might actually help prevent the deadly disease.

It's idealistic to think body image doesn't matter. Those who do, don't look in the mirror, don't wear makeup, and don't conform to dress code. We live in a society and culture where it does. Rather than ignore it or pretend it doesn't exist, we should be teaching and raising our girls to know how to deal with the irrational thoughts, impossible ideals, and unhealthy behaviors they are exposed to on a repeated daily basis.

I tell my daughter she's beautiful and I don't regret it. But there are about a million other things I also do to praise her, encourage her, help her, teach her, be open with her, show her her value, show her that I love her, that she's worth it, and that she's not alone.

My daughter isn't even three years old and I'm not saying I have the solution on how to raise girls or be an awesome mom, but, to be clear, if you're going to talk 'eating disorders', 'relationships', and 'body issues', IT'S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD, it's not just about body image, silence is not the answer, and it's more complicated than you might think.

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