Raising girls with a healthy self-image

Like a gazillion other people in the world, I have low self esteem. There. I said it. It’s not just for teenage girls, apparently. I posted before about legacies, but this is a “legacy” that I do NOT wish to pass on to my children…. And I’m having to puzzle out how to avoid doing just that.

A little while ago, our gorgeous, talented, intelligent niece graduated from university. Omi and I tagged along for the day, had the nicest strawberries ever (would have been strawberries, shortbread and a cup of tea, but it was way too hot for tea, I dropped my shortbread on the ground while negotiating a narrow space with a buggy, bunch of flowers and the aforementioned food items, and the staff didn’t seem too interested in replenishing my plate), avoided getting sunburnt, and in general had a really lovely day.

Then came the pictures. I didn’t want to be in any of them. Not because I don’t love my niece to little pieces and wasn’t bursting with pride about sharing her big day with her, but the internal record player/cassette player/CD player/MP3 player/audio streaming service (take your pick) was playing the usual broken record/scratched CD/corrupt file/you get the point. I don’t have a colour in my hair and it’s really grey at the moment, I am stressed and have broken out in cold sores, I’m tired and bloated and not feeling great, I haven’t been eating properly and have put on weight, etc etc etc. I did take a selfie with her at one stage, with the intention of it being just for me, yet it ended up on Facebook (cheers, Lauren) to a chorus of mumbling and grumbling from me.

Fast forward a few days later, we decided to take the kids out for a bite to eat. Unanimous decision, we ended up in Pizza Express. Lovely meal, great company, though a little bit embarrassing when Naomi reduced a busy restaurant to complete silence by pulling her sister’s dinner onto the floor and breaking the plate in the process. The Old Progenitor whipped out his phone and took a few pics from around the table. Again, the broken record started playing in my head — don’t take a picture of me, I’m looking terrible, etc etc. He did, and he shared it, I cringed, he took it down again. He asked me if he could take another one that I’d be happier with, so I put my game face on and smiled… He posted that and it got a whole bunch of likes and positive comments. The only person seeing the cold sores and grey hairs and was me. One individual commented “Supermom” (I was wearing a Superman t-shirt) which, given how amazing that particular lady is, I took as a huge compliment. However, never letting a nice word pass without a disparaging comment to go along with it, I replied with “Super tired!”, which elicited the response “Which just goes to show how great you are at pulling it all together!”

This whole exchange got me thinking about how we are our own worst critics. The lens in which we view ourselves can be like one of those warped mirrors, giving a distorted picture of who we are. Certainly the reflection that we see does not match up with what others see in us.

When #2 was learning to talk, she came over to me one day, climbed up on my lap and said “Mama boopiloo!” She didn’t see the bags under the eyes from lack of sleep, didn’t think I was fat and needed to hide under a baggy t-shirt, she just saw her Mummy and thought her Mummy was beautiful.

A very wise friend taught me that we cannot always depend on our feelings to indicate how things really are. “Just because you feel it doesn’t make it fact” has become a well uttered phrase around here. Feelings come and go, and how I felt last week isn’t the same as how I feel today. How I felt this morning before I had coffee is certainly not how I feel now! So, at times I might feel really fat and ugly, but it doesn’t mean it’s a fact. In all honesty, I do need to lose weight in order to be fit and healthy (and I’m working on it), I owe it to my family to look after myself, but a number on a scale or a size on an item of clothing do not determine who I am or my self worth.

I guess half the battle is recognising the lies we tell ourselves and acknowledging them for what they are. It’s hard to change something if we don’t know what it is we’re trying to change. So, that’s step one. I’ll let you know if I figure out the rest.

One of my favourite pics of my aunt was a #nomakeup #nofilter not-looking-her-best picture, taken maybe a year before she died. It’s one of the few pics I have of her when she was battling cancer, and I don’t care that she wasn’t all dolled up and worried that “people will talk”. I’m too busy looking at her smile and how kind she looked, the fun we had the day it was taken and how, 12 years after her passing, these beautiful photos and beautiful memories are what we treasure.

Maybe someday after I’m gone, our girls will look at those pics from Pizza Express and think “Mama boopiloo”.

About Le@h

Mummy to 5 wee girls. They're mad, but then again, so are we.
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1 Response to Raising girls with a healthy self-image

  1. Therese McCrystal says:

    Fabulous Leah! Great writing from a great woman 🙂

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