I am very stubborn. I might be one of the most stubborn people who ever lived. I don’t actually consider it a flaw; instead, I consider it an asset. It is what keeps me from being flakey. I rarely say I am going to do something and then turn around and not do it. It is what keeps me committed, consistent and reliable, and I consider none of that to be a flaw in my personality.
So, when I started my motherhood journey, I had long lists of “I will do this” and “I won’t do that,” and without sounding like I’m tooting my own horn too much, I have largely stuck to these guidelines. I said my kids would have limited screen time, and they do. I said my kids would be good eaters, and they are actually great eaters. I said my kids would sleep in their rooms, and from 6-weeks-old, they have slept soundly in their own beds. I’ve navigated parenting in such a way that I’m able to maintain and reach all of my goals and expectations, and it’s been fantastic, but after four years, I finally dropped the ball.
While I was pregnant with my daughter, I read a great blog post about never letting your kids hear you say you are disappointed in your own appearance. The writer explained that as a child, she thought her mom was gorgeous, and it wasn’t until she heard her mom degrade herself that her idea of what was and wasn’t beautiful started to develop. Understanding that my comments could affect my own child’s body image, I instantly decided that I would never let my daughter hear me speak negatively about myself, and I didn’t, until I did.
Each year on her birthday, my daughter and I take a very special pictures together. It is a highlight of the year for me, and it is a great way to document how much both of us change from year to year. It isn’t easy for me to get in front of a camera, especially for a close-up of my face, but I love that we will forever have these memories to look back on so it’s worth it. This year however, I looked at it and said, “Gosh, I’m just so ugly.” Before I even realized what I’d said, my daughter said, “You’re ugly?”
I wish I didn’t say it, but everyone knows you can’t un-ring a bell. So, what do I do from this point? I honestly don’t know. What I did in the moment was say, “Oops, Mommy didn’t mean that,” but eventually she will realize I did mean it and it is how I truly feel about myself.
I am not here to tell you how to change the way you think about yourself. I am never going to love the way I look, not my scarred body and not my face. I’ve just never been someone super-satisfied or confident in my looks. What I really want to do, though, is break the cycle.
I certainly don’t want my daughter to hear me call myself ugly and then have her turn around and hear someone say, “You look just like your mom.” What kind of message is that? So even if I don’t have a positive body image, I cannot pass that on to my daughter. I have a limited amount of time to remind her daily that she is beautiful and guard her from the stress and pressure of perfection.
And, when the day comes that her friends and peers become the number one influencer on her thoughts and feelings, all I can do is pray that I did what I could to strengthen her self-esteem. I will pray that I built her up with enough deep and meaningful praise instead of stunting her personal growth with negative comments about the person she looks up to most—me.
I won’t let her hear me call myself ugly again.