love you for her
A few years after my parent’s split up, I was eating dinner with my father and he exclaimed, “You eat like your mother!” It turns out Mum and I like to get a small piece of each type of food and flavour in the meal and create “the perfect bite”. We don’t eat potato or peas on their own, but create a flavour sensation on our forks. Until Dad pointed it out, I never consciously knew that I ate that way OR that Mum did. Now “the perfect bite” is a thing. This is the case for a vast number of my most charming, hilarious and annoying habits. Mum.
Recently, I realised that one day I would have a little girl, daughter, niece, friend’s daughter, who looks up to me and absorbs my unconscious habits, for better or worse. This thought is both scary and empowering. The one habit I disliked the most in myself and I would never wish on anyone, is a propensity to talk negatively about my appearance. We’ve all done it. Sometimes we get into groups and pick apart our ‘worst’ physical features like it is a pastime. It’s awful.
I am lucky. My mother made a conscious effort when she was raising my brothers and I to focus on praising us for everything. Hers wasn’t a focus on how we looked, but who we were and our capacity to make an impact on the world. Sure, this does not stop you from learning that the ideal body and face is the one you see in the magazines. This doesn’t stop you from identifying the parts of your body that aren’t “perfect” by magazine standards and hating them. This doesn’t stop “fat days”. This doesn’t stop the hissy-fits in front of the mirror because, “Nothing looks good because I don’t have a waist and my stomach is a bulgy and bumpy!”
But I tell you what, it sure as hell helps.
When I have my daughter/niece/friend’s daughter playing dress-ups in my cupboard while I choose my outfit for the day, I don’t want to say, “I’m having a fat day” or “Aghh, I hate my stomach” in front of her. I don’t know about you though guys, but that had been my habit for so long, that I stopped realising when I said it. So, I made a pact with myself. I would not say negative things about my body. My stomach doesn’t look like the stomachs in those magazines, but those are more cartoon than person, anyway. I will focus on the parts that I love, or better yet on the whole person that I am. I will love my body. With this body I can write about things I am passionate about. I can tell people I love them. I can climb mountains and sit by the water and read. It is the greatest tool I have.
Now when I look into the mirror, I see things differently. I know I am doing this for my imaginary future daughter, but in the process I am helping me. When I stop telling myself what I hate in that mirror and change my focus, I see a whole that is greater than the parts. When I catch myself saying, “I’m having a fat day” and say over the top, “today is a good day”, it is a better day. I still have “those days”, but I am practising and getting better at turning those days around. Hopefully, by the time there is a little girl looking up to me, I will be a role model that she and I can be proud of.
Dedicated to my Mum.
First published on Sara’s awesome blog, here.