Being a mother of two girls, I am very aware of how I speak about myself. My body, my appearance, my work, and my challenges. I believe that if I said "I'm fat" or "I'm ugly" or any of the more subtle versions of those phrases, I am starting a long journey for my daughters and their self confidence.
As a girl, I had a fair amount of confidence. It was coupled with shyness (yes, I was shy) and so from time to time, I felt like I didn't fit in. But it wasn't because of my appearance, it was mostly because I didn't know how to interact in some circumstances. I simply felt out of place.
I didn't question my appearance. Except for the day in grade one, standing in line for class photos, and the boy in front of me told me that my outfit was ugly. An outfit that was a hand-me-down (as all my clothes were), a little blue suit that I absolutely loved. But he was a dumb boy so I think I got over it.
In highschool, I was lucky enough to be thin and have good skin. I didn't have much for breasts, which I was constantly teased about. I went along with it. And this was how I developed my coping mechanism for any kind of criticism. I was always one step ahead of the joke and often self-depricating. But for the most part, I was busy and had a full social life. I didn't really think less of myself.
As I grew up I realized that my mom talked about being on a diet all the time. It was a sign of the times, in many ways, with Jane Fonda and the likes promoting aerobics and dieting. I just remember wanting to never say or feel that. I never wanted to regret the meal I was eating and commit to some form of punishment later.
I grew up loving food. And most importantly, I grew up loving good food. Don't get me wrong. As a teenager I loved junk food. But it was a treat. And I still went home and ate a proper dinner. We didn't drink pop. We didn't keep junk food in our house. Take out and fast food was a rare novelty.
I have so much more appreciation for my mother cooking good meals and stocking our kitchen with good food choices. She taught me to love food. But all the while, I was watching her discuss diets and needing to lose weight. I rarely saw her be confident in her appearance. I remember one time when she was. My sister's wedding. She looked beautiful and wore a stunning dress. I loved seeing her feel beautiful.
With all that is around us, and inside us, it is so easy to slip into the vocabulary of self-criticism and negativity around food. But I am all too aware of what kind of impact that would have on my daughters (and me, of course). I don't want them to think that it is okay to criticize. On the other hand, I do want them to know that it is okay to not be perfect and not feel it either.
This journey starts now. They are 2 and 4. They are becoming aware of concepts like beauty and fashion and being judged by others. I hope that I can be a role model as a real women. With strengths, fears, challenges, achievements. Showing them that they are everything just as they are. And that it is not only good enough, it's exceptional.