MommaBare Advice: How Do I Raise Children With Healthy Body Image When I Struggle With My Own?

Credit: ThinkStock

Credit: ThinkStock

Don’t degrade, don’t judge, don’t hate, and don’t comment on the physical attributes of others.

Dear Momma Bare,

How do I raise a girl with healthy body image when I struggle with my own body image? And how do I raise a boy to love and respect all women regardless of size in a world where he is bombarded with images of what is attractive?

I am a 39 year-old mom married 11 years with a 9 year-old daughter and 5 year old-son.

I love your articles and you are amazing!!!

- Ashley

Hi Ashley!

Anyone that ends a submission with “I love your articles and you are amazing!!!” is my friend right off the bat.

What’s up, friend?

Alright, let’s get down to business. You pose the question that is on the minds of a whole bunch of people who are raising other people. With five children under my belt, I have pondered this as if it were my very existence.

Your children, first and foremost, are watching you and their father. I learned a few things from my mom, one of which was, use your body to gain attention. That’s not the message I want my kids, neither girls nor boys, to hear. My most ardent desire is to impart a love of your physical being as a vessel for the other more important things—like not being a jerk.

So what do you do? Don’t fall prey to the thinking that all is lost. The world is ugly, but it is also beautiful, and you can be the usher of both.

Here’s how.

Speak Kindly

To others, but also to yourself. I don’t mean please and thank you. I mean don’t degrade, don’t judge, don’t hate, and don’t comment on the physical attributes of others. It’s easy to say someone is beautiful/ugly/fat/skinny. To be fair, I do refer to myself as fat. But for me it’s part of my plan for world domination. No I’m just kidding. I call myself fat because I want to take away the power in the word. It’s just a word. I also call myself smart, funny, kid, compassionate, and some other things (sometimes bitchy, if you get what I’m saying). But I avoid making any blanket statements about a person's body and instead try to compliment their other attributes or actions. It’s a hard habit to break. But very worthwhile. Apply this to yourself. Stop saying, “These pants make me look fat.” “I wish I was ______.” “I hate my _______.” Stop. It’s not good for your well being and it’s also not good for them.

You are more than your reflection. So are they. Tell them.

On Media

Our kids, us, and pretty every human being that doesn’t live in a remote third world country, is breathing the images that surround them like air. So, unless you want to move off grid into an isolated mountain range, you’re seeing it. They are seeing it. They are seeing women objectified, in commercials, in magazines, in everything. Some messages are so subliminal, they are seeking up on you like a ninja waiting to pounce. You don’t even know that your brain is soaking them up. Until WHAMMO. Ninja attack.

In televisions and film women often need to be saved. The usually play a supporting role to a man. Women are almost never the superhero. Now, you can’t singlehandedly change any of that. What can you do? Talk. Talk. All the talking. Talk about what’s happening on TV. Pose alternate solutions, “What if they did this instead?” “How could this story have been told differently.” Just put it in their little brains. Plant the seed so that it can cover up all the bad stuff like poison ivy (which is really invasive, by the way).

On the subject of print media. Buy a Vogue/Cosmo/People. And then look at the whole thing. With your kids. And while you are looking play a little game I call spot the photoshop. Eyelashes? Breasts? Skin? Have their arms been thinned, waist chiseled, thighs smoothed? Magazines are full of advertisements for acne medication being hocked by a women who has literally zero pimples.

You can’t stop it, but you can explain it. You can demystify it. You can call it out for the bull that it is. Because it is bull.

Cultivate Other Attributes

I think the very best way we can undermine this bombardment is actually pretty simple: Foster everything that IS NOT beauty. Take a class. Read a book. Learn a language. Volunteer, and if you can’t find a place to volunteer, do something else that gives to your community. Play games. Talk about the news. Speak frankly about what’s happening in other places that are not America. There are countries that are wartorn, impoverished. There are actually places that don’t even have TV.  Does it seem silly to worry about something so trivial as our reflection? Yeah. I think so too.

The spirit of compassion and love is nurtured to bloom when we model it. Model it and they will too.

In love and cake,
Momma Bare

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